ARL has been a leader in advocating the development of innovative systems that offer barrier-free access to research and educational resources. Libraries, research institutions, scholarly societies, commercial publishers, and others are experimenting with a variety of models to provide digital, online, unfettered access to scholarly information.
What are new models of scholarly communication? They can be dissemination systems, publications, or publishing practices. Perhaps the one common factor is that they are Internet-mediated. Entirely new dissemination processes—for instance, mediated by digital repositories—are emerging. Libraries and others in higher education are taking on a larger role in the dissemination of research.
Dissemination in multiple forms is becoming the norm for traditional publications. Not only are electronic versions of many print publications now a norm, authors' manuscripts or supporting documentation can be made available through disciplinary or institutional repositories. With digital technologies enabling broader access to research findings, many research funders are encouraging authors to deposit some copy of their work into a public archive.
Publication forms usually are "new" because they offer a new genre (or form of presentation), business model, new way for authors and readers to communicate, approach to peer review, or some combination of these. New models may also combine forms of content that could not be usefully published together in print form. Research articles can be integrated with primary source material on a single site, commentary can be integrated into a monograph, learning objects, working papers, and a blog may be available from a single site.
New models are not hypothetical or looming on the horizon; already, more than a decade into the Internet Age, researchers and scholars have profoundly reshaped their communication practices. These are the beginning of what will be a long process of reexamining and transforming those practices. As a second generation of Web technologies emerges, many research institutions are investing in a new set of activities based on a richer understanding of how much is involved in change and how much change is involved.