Frequently asked questions

What is “sustainable scholarship”?

Sustainable scholarship refers to the practice of addressing the unsustainable marketplace for scholarly resources (principally, journal articles) and promoting a more affordable, transparent, and open system of knowledge dissemination. It involves making scholarly research and publications more accessible to a broader audience while ensuring the long-term viability and equitable distribution of scholarly content. 

What are our goals?

To continue providing members of the UVA research and teaching community with the high quality resources they need while using data, cross-library collaboration, and community engagement to identify opportunities to make scholarship more sustainable for UVA and the world. At the UVA Library, the focus of our Sustainable Scholarship work is reducing our spend on “Big Deal” journal bundles and looking for opportunities to support a more diverse ecosystem of publishing and scholarly resource sharing.

What makes some journal products “unsustainable”? Why act now?

Economic realities are making change necessary at exactly the moment when technological and political opportunities are making change possible. As we entered the 2020s, the biggest journal vendors were consuming nearly half of our collections budget at UVA, up from 25% just 10 years before. This inevitably forces reduced investments elsewhere in our collection, and continued growth at this rate would have required our budget to double over the next decade. Had we continued in that mode, we couldn’t have afforded to serve emerging needs connected to new faculty, new research centers, and other initiatives. As new technology enables more equitable, efficient modes of scholarly production and sharing, and new policies are encouraging more and more researchers to adopt these more equitable practices, we have the opportunity to recalibrate our investments without compromising on the research mission.

Are you going to cancel [my favorite journal]?

We use data on many aspects of usage as well as consultations with impacted researchers to determine the most efficient way to provide access to any particular resource. In cases where subscription doesn’t make sense, we will work to ensure that researchers have access to the resources they need through other channels, including interlibrary loan.

How do I access content from a journal we no longer subscribe to?

Subscription is just one way to lawfully access journal content. Other ways include finding open access versions, requesting copies through interlibrary loan, and purchasing copies directly from the publisher. The Library enables all of these, and technology has made using these alternatives increasingly efficient.

The Libkey Nomad Browser Extension is an example of an invaluable tool which locates Library-subscribed or open access full-text articles when you view an article webpage. However, if we don’t have immediate access to the article, it prepares a detailed ILL request for you to submit, which allows you to receive the article quickly. And it does all of this without needing you to use the VPN when you are off-Grounds.

Who else is involved?

Research libraries at six Virginia institutions are working together on this issue, with support from VIVA, the Virginia statewide library consortium. Other libraries who have challenged big vendors include the University of California system, MIT, Harvard University, Florida State University, Louisiana State University, UNC Chapel Hill, and many others in the US, plus the national library consortia in Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. 

What can I do to help?

Just knowing we have your support for our effort is very important to the Library. We will seek researchers’ input on the journals they value most as we develop strategies for changing some of our journal deals. Some researchers have signaled their support for reform by joining or organizing protest activities, including boycotts, editorial board resignations, and “flipping” journals to non-profit platforms. If you have an opportunity to influence promotion and tenure standards, systemic reform of academic publishing will ultimately require decoupling research evaluation from journal prestige, following principles like those in the SF DORA, the Leiden Manifesto, and COARA. Find out more ways to take action.