Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL)
Coalition for Innovation in Scholarly Communication
Promoting understanding and ownership of the agenda for change
in scholarly communication
Updated 3 April, 2000

The research information crisis

Journal and scholarly monograph collections in Australia’s university and major reference and research libraries are under threat. The recent decline in the acquisition of research information is caused by:

Some observers and participants speak of a "crisis" in scholarly communications because information is a vital resource that underpins the intellectual and economic performance of the nation. Greater collaboration and innovation is required if Australia’s research effort is to be internationally competitive.

Australia’s research enterprise

Scholarship and research in Australia involves a complex network of local and international relationships. The product of scholarship is edited, published, distributed, purchased and made accessible to readers. The research enterprise involves a number of players including researchers, editors, publishers, distributors, librarians and consumers. The architects of public policy, government regulators and the players themselves all perform a role in determining the ‘rules’ within which the cycle operates.

With the development of digital technology and its impact on the channels of distribution and access, traditional roles are evolving. All elements of the exchange process are under challenge including the economic and intellectual property bases of the communication/transfer of content. The skills, responsibilities, executive tools and the workplaces of scholars, librarians, publishers and distributors are very different from those required only a decade ago.

Formulating a national response

Australia is not alone in facing these challenges. Other nations are formulating and implementing policies and programs to address the sustainability of their research enterprises and their international competitiveness in the global economy of knowledge.

Scholarly communication may be characterised as an issue of primary concern to academics and the university librarians who have to meet the increasing costs of journal acquisitions. Indeed universities and major research organisations such as CSIRO have identified some innovative mechanisms to address these problems. But there are important ramifications of the process of change and innovation beyond those immediately involved in the process of discovery and communication. One key goal of the Coalition is to generate an appreciation of these issues to the broadest body of stakeholders including university administrators, government policy makers and industry. The Coalition is also conducting a number of short-term studies to underpin the development of a national approach to innovation in scholarly communication.

What is the Coalition for Innovation in Scholarly Communication?

Following a very successful Workshop held in Canberra on 3 and 4 March 1999, an Advisory Committee was established to "foster widespread ownership of the agenda for change in scholarly communications through the development of a series of promotional and collaborative strategies". It has representatives from university libraries, the Academies, the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee, the Australian Research Council, the CSIRO and the Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs. The name, Coalition for Innovation in Scholarly Communication, was selected by the Advisory Committee as an appropriate identification of the broad, yet informal, group of stakeholders represented at the workshop.

All the stakeholders share a common interest in securing solutions to current and anticipated problems in accessing and distributing scholarly and research information. There is general acceptance that innovation and change is needed within Australia’s research enterprise. Changes in global communication demand that, to remain internationally competitive, Australia must adequately resource its research endeavour. The most appropriate mechanisms for providing effective ownership of and access to resources will emerge from consultation and debate among the relevant and interested parties.

Fundamental to such debate is a clear understanding of all of the issues that underlie the current state of scholarly communications and the anticipated directions of global information infrastructure development.

The Coalition’s projects

Five short-term projects have been identified which will establish a base of reliable, informative data that permits the clear identification and articulation of the dimensions of the decline in access to scholarly information. It is anticipated that these projects will be completed by March 2000 and that the information they generate will be widely circulated to encourage debate.

More information?

The Coalition organises presentations to small groups, conducts workshops and publishes and distributes information about scholarly communication issues. Please contact us if you would like to participate in these activities or have your name added to our email list.

Feedback is welcome and may be sent to:
Professor Malcolm Gillies, Chair, Coalition for Innovation in Scholarly Communication
Virginia Walsh, Project Manager, Coalition for Innovation in Scholarly Communication

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This site is written, compiled and maintained by Diane Costello, Executive Officer, CAUL.