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Association of Research Libraries (ARL®)

  Advancing Scholarly Communication Contact:
Julia Blixrud
FAIR (Freely Accessible Institute Resources)
Developing a Scholarly Communication Program

Scan Environment

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Engaging in an organized environmental scan is a key element of the overall program development process. The scan process allows an opportunity to gather key information on the local environment and build a shared understanding of ongoing activities, past accomplishments, and potential opportunities. By its nature, a scan is outward-focused; it looks at the larger institutional setting, outside of the library.

To get started, establish your goals for the environmental scan. These might include

  • identifying supportive and/or influential individuals (e.g., "faculty champions")

  • identifying institutional entities that would be logical allies (e.g., Faculty Library Committee, Office of Research)

  • finding out what issues resonate with your campus

  • expanding subject librarians' knowledge of the departments they work with

Identify specific factors to investigate, such as

  • faculty members serving as journal editors, professional society officers, etc.

  • current activity levels for Open Access publishing, support of alternative publishing venues

  • participation in an existing institutional repository or interest in establishing one

  • previous governance attention to scholarly communication issues, regardless of result (e.g., consideration of resolution supporting OA, endorsement of author's addendum)

  • tenure & promotion code terms related to publishing

  • relevant institutional policies, such as use of grant funding for author fees

Examples of survey instruments:
ARL/ACRL Schol Comm Opportunity Assessment [PDF]
UM schol comm environmental scan pt. 1
UM schol comm environmental scan pt. 2

Establish the procedures you'll follow:

  • Determine who will gather the information; will the work be distributed among all subject librarians or centralized, or performed by an outside consultant?

  • Establish an appropriate scope for the scan (e.g., limit to information easily gathered from existing sources, or require detail that could only be discovered by interviewing faculty members).

  • Choose a data-collection tool (e.g., Zoomerang, SurveyMonkey, wiki).

  • Plan the data output format and report-generating mechanism at the time of initial design.

  • Draft the scan instrument and test-drive it, paying particular attention to whether responses should be open-ended or controlled-vocabulary.

Harvest the scan results.

  • Perform the scan. Collate and analyze the results.

    Example: Peer-reviewed journals/book series published at UMN

  • Report out, both to the library staff and to any appropriate institutional entities (e.g., the Office of Research might want to see the list of faculty editors).

    Example: UC Faculty Attitudes and Behaviors Survey

  • Use the results to inform program activities; where are the opportunities to expand awareness of the issues and/or encourage behavior change? how can you develop a joint plan of action with the allies identified?