Guidance on finding, accessing and producing your own scholarly publications.
Scholarly publishing outputs report in-depth academic research and promote further work in associated fields of interest. Scholarly works typically contain specialised vocabulary and extensive references to source materials. They are usually peer-reviewed and/or edited by academic peers, to ensure the robustness of the research methods employed and the validity of the conclusions reached.
In the fields of science and medicine, the main output from research projects is the publication of articles in peer-reviewed journals. This enables researchers to share their work with others in the field, advance knowledge and encourage future studies and collaborations.
Career advancement has often depended, at least in part, on how many papers and in which journals individuals have successfully published. Some disciplines, such as computer science, also place significant value on published conference proceedings.
Access to scholarly journals has historically been provided through institutional subscriptions and the University of Sheffield spends over £4.2 million with publishers each year on behalf of its researchers. In recent years, however, an increasing amount of content has been made available open access, either via publishers themselves or through digital repositories and preprint servers.
Other important scholarly outputs include books in the form of monographs and edited collections. These can also contribute significantly to a researcher’s career, particularly in the arts, humanities and social sciences. Books are still often published as physical items, but many are now also released as e-books and a growing number of new and established presses are exploring open access publishing.
There are many ways to discover and access scholarly works, both through the University’s subscribed content and through open access resources.
You will need to consider a number of issues when producing your own scholarly publications and you can find information and links to helpful resources below.
Copyright and licensing
In most cases, The University of Sheffield automatically waives its claim to copyright of articles and books produced by employees. This means that as the author you initially own the copyright of your work and can enter into agreements with publishers. However, publishers traditionally ask authors to sign an agreement that transfers copyright ownership of the work to the publisher.
This may mean that authors no longer have the right to share their work freely, to use their work in other publications, or to make a version available in a repository without an embargo. In some cases, it may mean that authors cannot even access their own work without an institutional subscription.
You can find more on our research and publishing pages about how copyright might impact your research and academic outputs. There is information on your copyright as an author, as well as guidance to ensure your use of copyright material is legally compliant.
Gold open access publication often allows authors to retain copyright of their work. It also uses permissive licenses such as Creative Commons, which allow others to share, reuse and build upon a work while giving appropriate credit. Research funders such as UKRI and Wellcome are increasingly asking for the work they fund to be made available using a CC BY licence. You can find more information about copyright and licensing on our dedicated copyright pages.
Peer review is the process by which scholarly works such as journal articles and conference proceedings are traditionally assessed for publication. Journals ask two or three other scholars in the field to assess your work and provide feedback.
Articles can be accepted, accepted with revisions or rejected by peer-reviewers, with the journal editor making the final decision. It is common for a manuscript to go through several rounds of revisions before final acceptance.
Peer review can be single blind (where the author does not know who the reviewers are), double blind (where neither the author nor reviewers know each other’s identities) or open (where everyone’s identities are known). Each approach has strengths and weaknesses and further forms of peer review are in the process of developing. For example, some journals are partially open, providing peer review reports after publication, while others allow anyone to provide feedback rather than just invited experts.
While the work of peer review is traditionally carried out by scholars free of charge, in service to their disciplinary communities, recent initiatives such as Publons encourage the recognition of peer review contributions.
Data access and reproducibility
In order to make research as transparent and reproducible as possible, it’s important to make the data underlying your research accessible to other researchers where possible. A vital part of this process is to include a data availability statement in publications resulting from your research.
This statement tells readers if and how data can be accessed, eg through a data repository such as ORDA, or on request from your academic department. You can find out more about managing data at the end of a research project on the Library’s Research Data Management pages.
The Contributor Roles Taxonomy (CRediT) allows different contributions to a scientific scholarly output to be formally recognised, acknowledging the limitations of traditional methods of listing authors on research publications.
CRediT comprises 14 contributor roles, including data curation, project administration, software and visualisation, as well as writing. Some academic publishers, such as PLoS, require authors to describe author contributions using CRediT and others offer authors the opportunity to do so.
Preprints and preregistration
Several disciplines have a longstanding culture of sharing preprints, ie making research articles that have not yet been peer-reviewed publicly available. The preprint server ArXiv, for example, has led to high levels of sharing in physics, maths and computer science, while BioRxiv and MedRxiv have contributed to the growth in life sciences preprints in recent years.
If you’re thinking about making a paper available through a preprint server, it’s a good idea to
- choose a server that is widely used in your subject area
- choose a server that assigns a DOI to preprints if possible
- check the server’s preservation policy
- check the preprint policy of the journal you plan to submit to. Some publishers will not consider articles that have already been made available as preprints
- put a copy of the preprint in the University’s open access repository White Rose Research Online.
Preregistration is the practice of documenting your research plan at the beginning of your study and storing that plan in a read-only public repository such as OSF Registries. This can help to improve the integrity, transparency and reproducibility of your research, as well as discouraging poor practices such as HARKing.
The University provides several useful resources to help with writing scholarly publications.
Guidance for eBook authors
Publishers often place restrictive or expensive licences on digital books which may limit access to your work. When talking to publishers, please check the model under which they will sell your work and aim for the most permissive model possible.
For example, some publishers may limit the number of readers who can access your ebook at once, or only sell it as part of an expensive ebook collection. The cost of access to ebooks is often higher than print equivalents, with prices in excess of thousands of pounds per year for some titles.
A good ebook model which is easy for your readers to access is one which charges a fair (one-off) price in comparison to the print equivalent, which doesn't place limits on the number of readers and one which allows individual titles to be purchased (rather than as part of an expensive ebook collection).
Consider publishing open access if you can. The library is happy to advise on publishers, funding and alternative routes to sharing your work.
Some further reading:
Sheffield Pressbooks Network
Pressbooks is an authoring and editing tool which enables you to write your own teaching material and publish it on the Sheffield Pressbooks Network so it is openly available to all.
You are also able to copy existing open educational resources, import them into Pressbooks and adapt them to suit your own curriculum (where licences allow).
If you are a member of staff and interested in creating your own open educational resource or in adapting an existing open book, contact email@example.com.
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