Unsustainable scholarship: How private companies control research in higher education – The Daily Tar Heel

“Research at UNC is financed by taxpayers and other grants. Neither the author nor peer reviewers are paid if their original research is accepted by a scholarly journal for publication.

Private publishing companies then package journals together in clumps, and sell university libraries access to them. The publishing companies charge each university differently, depending on its subscription history and school size, and have each school sign nondisclosure agreements, keeping universities from discovering costs paid by peers. 

Once the content is back in the hands of universities, it’s put behind a paywall, where only university affiliates can access the information.

In this model, taxpayers fund research, and then must pay again to access it. 

Nerea Llamas is the associate University librarian for collections, strategies and services, and her job is to strategize the acquisition and dissemination of academia in the digital age. 

She said this process can be unhealthy. 

“The effect is that not only are we paying multiple times, but we are cutting off access to other people who can’t afford to pay for that,” she said. “That could be other institutions in the U.S., but then also other institutions internationally.”

Llamas said the publishing companies advertise their packaged, multi-journal deals as the best cost available. But over time, the companies can raise the price by introducing new costs and subscriptions, like how cable companies can charge customers for unwanted perks, she said. 

Political science professor Timothy Ryan has published many scholarly articles, and said he sympathizes with the Libraries’ concern. 

“Publishers — and Elsevier is the clearest example of this — make a boatload by selling academics’ material back to us, at a steep premium,” he said. “It’s not at all clear what value they add.”

Elsevier is the world’s largest commercial publisher of scholarly journals, with close to $4 billion in 2018 revenue and profit margins consistently above 30 percent. …”

Sustaining Values and Scholarship: A Statement by the Provosts of the Big Ten Academic Alliance

“The current system of academic publishing is complex and has evolved unlike traditional markets. In its current state, academic publishing behaves as a price-inelastic market, with little relationship between demand and price. Cost increases for publications have been unrelenting with highs of 10- 12% annual inflation in the 1990s and now a more “modest” rate of 5-6% that still outpaces the CPI. Publisher mergers and acquisition of non-profit society publications by commercial entities, along with “big deal” aggregations for publisher databases, have contributed to an unsustainable model. Today, five commercial publishers control a majority market share of academic journals, the venues in which a large proportion of our scientific and other discoveries are documented and shared. The majority of published research is locked behind paywalls and accessible only to a shrinking number of institutions whose libraries can afford the subscription or license.

In 2006, we shared an open letter in support of taxpayer access to federally-funded research. In 2012, we repeated our advocacy for open access in the face of potentially restrictive legislation to curtail that openness. Since then, our institutions have further invested in systems, repositories, and local policies to support open access to the works of our faculty. And we have encouraged our libraries and faculty to work together to assess the value of purchased or licensed content and the appropriate terms governing its use. With Big Ten libraries’ expenditures on journals exceeding $190 million, we recognize that our institutions are privileged in the level of access we provide our campuses, yet the status quo is not sustainable….

Demand for open access continues and has been furthered by the rise of open access publications, federal and institutional open repositories, and an insistence by public funders that research results must be widely available—that equity be fostered. While no current model offers a fully tested framework to recognize the intellectual and financial resources our universities contribute to publishing, it is incumbent on our institutions to advance more sustainable modes of funding publishing. …”

The open access wars: How to free science from academic paywalls – Vox

“This is a story about more than subscription fees. It’s about how a private industry has come to dominate the institutions of science, and how librarians, academics, and even pirates are trying to regain control.

The University of California is not the only institution fighting back. “There are thousands of Davids in this story,” says University of California Davis librarian MacKenzie Smith, who, like so many other librarians around the world, has been pushing for more open access to science. “But only a few big Goliaths.”

Will the Davids prevail?…”

University of Iowa drops hundreds of journal subscriptions

At the University of Iowa Libraries, publisher price increases have become too much to bear.

The libraries announced late last year that they needed to trim $600,000 from their budget, calling on faculty members to help them decide which subscriptions should stay and which should go. The cancellations are just one of a number of difficult budget decisions the university has made following back-to-back state funding cuts.

In a letter to the campus in October, John Culshaw, Jack B. King University Librarian, and Sue Curry, the university’s interim executive vice president and provost, wrote that scholarly publishers’ price increases are “simply not sustainable.” …”

Questions raised over the true burden of the ‘big deal’

“Louisiana State University recently said that it could no longer afford its $2 million annualcomprehensive journal subscription deal with publisher Elsevier. By unbundling its “big deal” and subscribing to only the most essential journals, the institution’s administrators hope to save the library $1 million a year. LSU is far from the first institution to complain that publishers’ subscription costs are too high. The University of California system, Temple UniversityWest Virginia University, the University of Oklahoma and Florida State University all announced this year that they are dropping big deal contracts with various publishers, including Elsevier, Wiley and Springer Nature.

But one skeptic is challenging the conventional wisdom about high subscription rates and raising doubts about big deals not being good deals.

Kent Anderson, CEO of publishing and data analytics company RedLink, has argued that the subscription model is actually “pretty efficient” for institutions….”

The rise in open-access publishing has decreased the value of subscription deals as more content is available for free, said Roger Schonfeld, director of the libraries, scholarly communication and museums program at Ithaka S+R.

Schonfeld says the main reason the value of the big deal is in decline is because of something he calls “leakage,” the availability of journal content through channels not controlled by publishers.

Piracy site Sci-Hub is one service through which content is “leaking,” he said. But there are other sources of content leaks that are not illicit. Institutional repositories, for example, are an accepted part of the scholarly publishing ecosystem.

“The big deal as a bundled subscription model is definitely under threat,” said Schonfeld. “Most of all from the fact that the libraries are less interested in just subscriptions — they want read-and-publish or publish-and-read agreements that capture the full stack of publishing services.” …”

LSU ends Elsevier bundled journal subscription

Louisiana State University will terminate its “big deal” with publisher Elsevier at the end of this year, joining the growing list of U.S. institutions that have recently decided not to renew their bundled journal subscription deals with the publisher.

LSU is just the latest of several U.S. institutions, including the University of California system, Temple University and Florida State University, to announce its intentions to end its business relationship with Elsevier in the last two years….

LSU’s Faculty Senate approved a resolution recommending the cancellation of the subscription package in April. …”

Elsevier changes: Message from the provost | LSU Libraries

For decades, LSU has subscribed to a package of some 1,800 electronic journal titles from Elsevier publishing. Dramatic increases to subscription costs in recent years have become unsustainable, and a renewal in 2020 would come with a price tag of at least $2 million annually. The university administration, LSU Libraries, and the Faculty Senate have been grappling with the high cost of Elsevier’s journals, as have many other universities nationwide.

During the Faculty Senate’s final meeting of the spring semester, senators approved a resolution recommending the cancellation of the subscription package of Elsevier journals. Going forward, the Libraries will subscribe to Elsevier journals on a title-by-title basis, retaining the most highly used journals by the LSU community. The resolution further called for the creation of expedited document delivery to provide fast, unmediated access to articles in journals not on subscription.

The LSU administration supports this course of action. Once the current contract with Elsevier expires at the end of 2019, LSU will break away from the package agreement, and expects to spend $1 million on Elsevier titles, subscribing to fewer journals and providing access to all previously available material through alternate sources….”

Deal or No Deal | Periodicals Price Survey 2019

“Pressure increases on publishers to move more quickly to open access, but this leaves many questions unanswered

For the past decade, libraries have battled declining university budgets and increasing serials expenditures. With each Big Deal package renewal or cancellation, librarians and publishers have asked themselves: Did I make the best deal? Did I make the right deal? Recent developments in open access (OA) promise to bring major reform to academic publishing and, with that, new challenges and opportunities to the way that librarians and publishers choose to deal….”

Resource Management in a Time of Fiscal Scarcity: Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Assessment for Journal Package Cancellations: The Serials Librarian: Vol 0, No 0

Abstract:  As a result of continual resource inflation and a decreasing budget, Kansas State University Libraries were required to conduct a large-scale electronic journal cancellation project. The current organizational model does not require librarian subject specialists to perform comprehensive collection development duties; therefore, content development librarians developed a methodology of collecting quantitative and qualitative statistics to collaboratively evaluate journals. This article will demonstrate the methodology of assessment, and serve as a working model for libraries operating under circumstances of labor shortages, budget cuts, and leadership restructuring.

After the Elsevier ‘Tipping Point,’ Research Libraries Consider Their Options – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Research librarians are giving notice: The pressures that led the University of California system to cut the cord with Elsevier aren’t foreign to their campuses….

2016 survey by the Association of College and Research Libraries showed that 60 percent of libraries had reported flat budgets for the previous five years, and 19 percent had seen decreased funding….”