CRASE & Gleeson Library: Controversies in Academic Publishing

Controversies in Academic Publishing

Wednesday, October 30, 3:30–5 p.m.
Zief Law Library–201 Terrace Room

This discussion focused on recent changes in academic publishing and how they impact faculty. Facilitated by Scholarly Communications Librarian Charlotte Roh, this event covered the cancellation of the contract between the University of California and Elsevier, open access efforts, and the USF faculty’s open access policy. Speakers included Anneliese Taylor, Head of Scholarly Communication at the University of California, San Francisco, and Richard Schneider, member of the UC System-wide Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication of the Academic Senate.

Taylor and Schneider outlined the journal subscription ecosystem, publishing negotiations with Elsevier, and transitioning journals to open access. During the question and answer, the presenters and participants discussed the growing momentum around open access and transformative agreements.

More information about publisher negotiations can be found here.

No-Shame Revise and Resubmit Workshop

Presenters show spreadsheet

This workshop, led by Erin Grinshteyn (Assistant Professor, School of Nursing and Health Professions) and Christine Yeh (CRASE Co-Director and Professor, School of Education), helped participants develop strategies for tackling manuscript revisions by sharing project management tools for tracking manuscripts and how to manage conflicting advice. Workshop facilitators walked participants through revision letter templates and provide tips for tackling the next revision in a no-shame, supportive environment.

Participants felt that the templates and tips were very helpful and that the presenters were very knowledgeable.

Defending Free Speech in Academic Publishing through Copyright and Fair Use

In this blog, scholarly communication librarian Charlotte Roh addresses copyright in publishing contracts for a better understanding of how fair use operates to extend free speech to criticize, comment, and report as one normally would in the course of academic writing.

Photo by LeAnn Meyer of The University of Kansas Libraries

For academics who are new to negotiating book contracts, one of the boilerplate items that you’ll find in the contract, and quite frequently the author guidelines, is a request from the publisher to make sure that you have the right to use other people’s (copyrighted) material in your work when you submit your manuscript. This often includes asking for permission from other authors and sometimes paying the copyright holder.

However, in many instances, asking for permission isn’t necessary. You already have the right to use copyrighted work in your scholarship – it’s built into copyright law itself, which exists, “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and  discoveries.”[1]

This is from the preamble, and note which clause came first in the mind of our founding fathers – to promote the progress of science and useful arts in our new country. Kyle Courtney, the Copyright Advisor for Harvard University, notes that copyright law, and the fair use doctrine in particular, works together with the first amendment that “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or freedom or press” as a supplement to the Constitution, “to prevent our new government from becoming a tyranny…connected with the fundamental belief that open and informed discussion of current events promotes stability and the general security of the nation.”

I think we can all agree that the ability to report, comment, analyze, and teach is important, and depends on free speech. But it also depends on copyright law, because otherwise we would not be able to use the work of others while doing those very things. For example, Teen Vogue can screen capture and use tweets in order to report on the racism in the movie Ghost In the Shell, and I can screen capture that article from Teen Vogue in order to use it to make that educational point right here.[3]

Where is this ability to use other people’s works written in the law? Why don’t the reporters have to ask permission, or pay someone, as publishers sometimes ask authors to do? Well, it’s written into copyright law itself, and it’s called the fair use doctrine. Title 17, Section 107 of this law states:

“Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

This is the very same law that allows you to use works in the classroom. But hold up! Why are publishers then insistent on getting permissions for work, and why are you told not to make copies of textbooks for classes?

One reason is to mitigate legal risk – nobody wants to get sued, and many publishers operate out of an abundance of caution. But several publishers, such as UC Press, MIT Press, and Duke University Press, actually support fair use. It does behoove you to meet the standards, however, in which case you should go through the four factors of fair use. I often refer people to this handy checklist put out by Columbia University:

To many people, this seems like too much work. It seems easier to ask permission than to have to rationalize what is fair use or not. But proponents of fair use will point to the music industry’s sampling market as an example of “use it or lose it.” Sampling from other musicians, musical quotation if you will, used to be free. But as profit and litigation grew, the market for sampling increased, triggering the fourth factor of fair use, that the use would not cause market harm.

What does this have to do with academics? What proponents of fair use do not want to see happen is something similar in the academic market, where you would have to license and pay for every quotation and excerpt.[4] In fact, scholars, lawyers, and librarians now celebrate Fair Use Week in order to raise awareness so that we don’t lose the right to challenge, criticize, correct, parody, and speak out. I think this is particularly important in this era of alternative facts and fake news, when so much of the research that we depend on seems to be in jeopardy.[5] So use your fair use rights! They’re important to academic freedom of speech.

About the Author:

Charlotte Roh is the Scholarly Communications Librarian at the University of San Francisco Gleeson Library and has over a decade of experience in academic publishing and libraries at the University of Massachusetts, Oxford University Press, and Taylor and Francis. Her most recent publication, “Agents of Diversity and Social Justice: Librarians and Scholarly Communication” won the 2017 LPC Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Library Publishing.

If you’d like to learn more or have any questions about copyright, fair use, or academic publishing, please contact Charlotte Roh at the Gleeson Library croh2(at) See also the CRASE blog on Negotiating Book Contracts.

[1] Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. §§ Preamble (2012)

[2] Courtney, Kyle. “Fair Use Fights Fascism: Some Fair Use Week Thoughts on the 1st Amendment & Fair Use” (February 2017)

[3] Elizabeth, De. “Ghost in the Shell’s Early Review Point Out Whitewashing” (March 2017) Teen Vogue.

[4] Particularly if you don’t have to! Federal publications are free to the public, and some things might be out of copyright, but unscrupulous bodies will still charge for them. Here’s a recent example, from a photographer who donated her work to the public but found that the Getty was charging for her photos:

[5] Schlanger, Zoë. “Rogue Scientists Race to Save Climate Data from Trump” WIRED (January 2017)

CRASE Negotiating Book Contracts

During the CRASE Negotiating Book Contracts Panel, Monisha Bajaj from the Department of International and Multicultural Education, Keally McBride from the Department of Politics, Dean Rader from the Department of English, and Manuel Vargas from the Department of Philosophy and School of Law shared their experiences developing book proposals, negotiating contracts, and working with different publishers and editors. Collectively, their experience includes academic publications, poetry, edited collections, and textbooks.

negotiating book contracts

When beginning the book proposal process, all panelists emphasized the importance of considering why you want to write a book in the first place. Are you writing the book for tenure or promotion? Are you trying to raise your reputation as a scholar? The prestige of the publication press is important if you are writing for scholarly prestige. As you develop your proposal, be honest and realistic about the audience for the book, and target publishers who have previous experience with your research or topic area. Attending conferences will allow you to  know the press, field, and market, and to find editors. Another strategy shared by our panelists was to look at the acknowledgement section of books you enjoy where you may find names of people who are reputable in the publishing business.  Something to keep in mind is that the timeline for publication with a university press can be significantly longer. One panelist had a book that took 14-18 months and another took approximately 3 years. If you have a shorter timeline, other possible venues for publication include a commercial press or a book series, which can be good for networking and visibility.

As you develop your proposal, consider your audience. The editor who might initially review the proposal might not be a scholar, but for a scholarly book, the proposal will be sent to external reviewers. Your proposal should be targeted to the people who are reading the proposals, and the panelists discussed being courteous and cautious if sending simultaneous proposals because sometimes reviewers work with a few presses and might notice if they see your proposal multiple times.

When a press is interested, there are several elements up for negotiation in your contract including artwork customization, author discounts, number of free copies, timeframe for publication in paperback, copyediting costs, and copyright reversal. One panelists suggested asking the price of your book in your contract. Deciding what to negotiate is usually personal and depends on the book. For example, if accessibility for your students or field practitioners is important to you, having your book in paperback might be something to consider. During negotiations, you can be better positioned for negotiating if you have another publisher interested in your project, but you need to be mindful what you are using your leverage for.

Once your book is published, stay in communication with your press to help with advertising and marketing your book. While the marketing plan will be different for every project, there are things you can do to sell your work, which includes letting your publisher know if you attend conferences so they can make sure to stock your book and coordinate signings. Also, inform your publisher if you are on a panel or if you have articles published. If you publish a textbook, you can pitch your book to professors and department chairs.

At the University of San Francisco, scholarly communications librarian Charlotte Roh provides one-on-one consultations on book contracts and is a resource on scholarly publications. If you would like to see an example of a book proposal, please contact