The Role of Scholarly Communication in a Democratic Society

Introdution to Special Issue of the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication by Yasmeen Shorish: “The pillars of a democratic society (equity, a free press, fair elections, engaged citizens, and the equal application of laws) are directly impacted by the availability, accessibility, and accuracy of information. Additionally, engaged, critically thinking individuals require an understanding of how knowledge is produced and shared, who has the power to make that information available, and how they—as information consumers and producers—are involved in those processes. Proposed and adopted government policies and actions that limit transparency and engagement, the increasing commodification of learning, the framing of education as a measure of return on investment (ROI) in real dollars, and the rapid transition of the research landscape to an increasingly monopolized walled garden have been in motion for some time but come into sharp focus through the lens of scholarly communication.

Scholarly communication is a broad domain that covers how information and knowledge are created and shared, what levels of access to that information are available, and how economic factors influence information communication. This system affects both the production and consumption of information and knowledge.

As such, the question of democratic or equitable processes is internal (Is the scholarly communication domain democratic and equitable?) and external (How does scholarly communication affect a democratic society?). The scholarly communication and research landscapes have never been level playing fields for all interested parties. Funding constraints, prejudices, and politics have all been factors in the amplification and suppression of people’s perspectives. In this special issue, I wanted to investigate how librarians and other information professionals are interrogating those practices and situating their scholarly communication work within the frame of an equitable and democratic society. What are the challenges and the opportunities? Where are we making progress? Where is there disenfranchisement? …(More)”.