Utility, Morality, Strategy, and Scholarly Communication – The Scholarly Kitchen

“Here’s what has raised these questions for me again recently: our library regularly gets invited to contribute financially to programs that will make content freely available to the world. Sometimes (for example, with programs such as Knowledge Unlatched or SCOAP3) we’ve been asked to contribute to a program that will directly underwrite making current or future publications available on an open access (OA) basis; other times (for example, with consortial transformative agreements) we’ve been invited to pay more for a journal package in order to allow our institutional authors to publish in those journals on an OA basis. In the former case, we’re being asked to make a financial sacrifice for the good of the wider world; the latter case is similar, though arguably in that case our increased outlay would create a direct benefit to our institutional authors as well (to the degree that they do, in fact, want to make their work OA; in reality, of course, some care about that more than others do).

The argument in favor of these arrangements is usually based on a clearly (if implicitly) utilitarian position: creating utility for the whole world is morally superior to creating utility primarily for members of the immediate campus community.

What I think is interesting, though, is that you can also imagine utilitarian arguments against arrangements like these.

For example, from a utilitarian perspective you could argue that using a relatively large amount of campus money to make a relatively small amount of university-produced content OA will not necessarily create more global utility than using that money for another purpose. After all, the money could also be used to support scholarships for students from underrepresented groups, or to bolster the programs of our crisis center. Can we be confident that these uses would do less good in the world than would be done by making some of the articles of some of our authors freely available? …”

Journal subscription expenditure in the UK 2010-2019 | Zenodo

“This dataset contains payments made by UK higher education institutions for access to academic journals from ten publishers from 2010-2019. The data was obtained by sending Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to institutions through the website What Do They Know. The requests, and all original source data, can be found at https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/user/stuart_lawson/requests.

The total expenditure with these ten publishers from 2010-2019 was over £982 million. This includes some gaps in the data, so the true figure is almost certainly greater than £1 billion.

The data was originally produced in three stages:

– Data for 2010-14 was published at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1186832

– Data for 2015-16 was published at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.4542433

– Data for 2017-19 was published at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3828461

These three datasets contain direct links to the original FOI requests. The present dataset is a combination of these three datasets and contains no additional data….”

Transformative agreements in the time of COVID-19 | Martin Paul Eve | Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing

“Transformative agreements for OA are all the rage at the moment. Plan S compliance beckons and early movers can make it sound as though they are really doing what’s needed.

Yet we’re at a very difficult time with the global pandemic of COVID-19. Library budgets are likely to contract as institutions come under financial strain. (Also, interestingly, it’s not necessarily the universities that you would think who are in desperate trouble in the UK. It’s not those who mostly recruit home students, but rather those larger institutions who have become dependent on vast international student fee revenue who are set for the dire pain pocket.) So what does a transformative agreement actually look like on the ground?

I was shocked to hear this week that a major publisher’s transformative agreement proposal was optioned as follows:

Normal subscription rate: last year’s rate + 3%
Transformative agreement rate: last year’s rate + 10%

Wait, what? +10%. How can this logic possibly pan out? Surely, if other groups are buying in to this transformative agreement, option 1 should at the very least be last year’s rate – 7% if there is a transformation here? Perhaps that comes in future years? The +10% includes a publication clause, but this is on top of the existing subscription rate. Many universities, mine included, have already had to cut their internal APC funds, so this just means a continued increased burden on the information resources budget….”

Calculating how much your University spends on Open Access, and what to do about it

“Librarians are working hard to understand how much money their university is spending on open access article processing fees (APCs), and how much of what they subscribe to is available as OA. This information is useful when making subscription decisions, considering Read and Publish agreements, rethinking library open access budgets, and designing Institution-wide OA policies.

This session will talk concretely about how to calculate the impact of Open Access on *your* university. It will provide an overview on how to estimate the amount of money spent across a university on Open Access fees: we will discuss underlying concepts behind calculating OA article-processing fee (APC) spend and give an overview of useful data sources, including:
– FlourishOA
– Microsoft Academic Graph
– PLOS API
– Unpaywall Journals

We will also talk about Open Access on the subscription side, including how much of what you subscribe to is available as open access and how you can use that in your subscription decisions and negotiations.

The presenters are the cofounders of Our Research, the nonprofit company behind Unpaywall, the primary source of Open Access data worldwide.”

Calculating how much your University spends on Open Access, and what to do about it

“Librarians are working hard to understand how much money their university is spending on open access article processing fees (APCs), and how much of what they subscribe to is available as OA. This information is useful when making subscription decisions, considering Read and Publish agreements, rethinking library open access budgets, and designing Institution-wide OA policies.

This session will talk concretely about how to calculate the impact of Open Access on *your* university. It will provide an overview on how to estimate the amount of money spent across a university on Open Access fees: we will discuss underlying concepts behind calculating OA article-processing fee (APC) spend and give an overview of useful data sources, including:
– FlourishOA
– Microsoft Academic Graph
– PLOS API
– Unpaywall Journals

We will also talk about Open Access on the subscription side, including how much of what you subscribe to is available as open access and how you can use that in your subscription decisions and negotiations.

The presenters are the cofounders of Our Research, the nonprofit company behind Unpaywall, the primary source of Open Access data worldwide.”

Library Spending and the Serials Crisis – Delta Think

“We can see that median spending on journals (“serials”) continues to increase in real terms (regardless of the inflation index used), while overall library spend are now declining. This suggests that budgets, too, are in real terms decline….

Although spending on serials is growing faster than inflation, the data suggest that this headline masks a complex story.

Serials spending as stated (the pink line) is the fastest growing of the indicators and appears to be outpacing growth in scholarly output and GERD3.
However, when adjusted for inflation (the bottom two blue lines), serials spending is the slowest growing of our measures.
The inflation measures average around 2% – 3% per year, compared to headline price increases exceeding 5% experienced by many libraries.
The numbers of articles in the indexed literature (in orange) roughly tracks inflation-adjusted GERD (in yellow), as we explored last month. Both are growing at 2-3 times the rate of spending on serials.
The unit of purchase for subscriptions is typically the journal (whether bundled or not); the number of indexed journals (not shown) is growing at a similar rate to CPI-adjusted serials spend.
Since 2013, real-terms growth in serials spending has slowed – the HEPI-adjusted amount is flat-lining – while publishing output has continued largely unchecked….

Serials spending is growing, and is taking an increasing share of library budgets (from around 25% share in 1998 to just under 40% share in 2019 in our data). In this sense, there is a “serials crisis.” Trends such as falling costs per download and rising usage add further tension….

Over the last twenty years, university budgets have almost doubled in real terms, while the proportion spent on libraries has almost halved….”

Costs Outstrip Library Budgets | Periodicals Price Survey 2020 | Library Journal

“Higher education continues to grapple with an uncertain future of flat or declining student enrollment and mounting financial pressures. Library budgets are for the most part flat or diminishing leaving libraries to yet again battle the terrible twins of cost inflation and revenue stagnation. Many libraries are cutting continuing expenditures by cancelling or breaking up journal packages and buying only those titles for which use or demand justifies the price. Others are aggressively renegotiating contracts with publishers to reduce ongoing costs.

Still others are turning to Open Access (OA) to freely distribute research outputs to all. But while it shifts the cost from readers’ institutions to researchers’, OA is not free. Of the multiple OA models that have taken root, none offer a solution for content costs that outpace library budget increases….”

Academic Libraries at a Pivotal Moment – The Scholarly Kitchen

“For the first time, we asked library directors how likely they are to cancel one or more major journal packages in the next licensing cycle. Half of library directors say that they will likely cancel a major journal package in the next five years….

A relatively small share of libraries plan on pivoting to transformative agreements to bundle publishing and subscription costs; only about 20 percent strongly agree it is a high priority to bundle open access publish fees with subscription costs….”

UK universities ‘paid big publishers £1 billion’ in past decade | Times Higher Education (THE)

“UK negotiators have vowed to strike “cost-effective and sustainable” deals with big publishers, as figures reveal that subscriptions to academic journals and other publishing charges are likely to have cost UK universities more than £1 billion over the past decade.

Data obtained using Freedom of Information requests show that UK universities paid some £950.6 million to the world’s 10 biggest publishing houses between 2010 and 2019. For the sector as a whole, however, the overall bill is likely to have topped £1 billion as one in five universities, including several Russell Group institutions, failed to provide cost information.

More than 90 per cent of this outlay was spent with five companies: Elsevier, Wiley, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis and Sage, with Elsevier claiming £394 million over the 10-year period, roughly 41 per cent of monies received by big publishers….”