On Plan S/transformative publishing, or … A disptach in the wake of the Charleston Conference

“–Depending on how much APC funding eventually shifts from libraries to the federal government, will the price mechanism for APCs adjust to accommodate the readiness of grant funding agencies to bankroll APCs?  If so, can we assume the government will have a more price-elastic posture than universities historically have had, given the latter’s tenure and promotion demand-side incentives to publish in high tier journals regardless the cost? If federal agencies are not elastically responsive to prices (i.e., if they reward publication in high priced journals without regard to prices), don’t we just perpetuate the high pricing that librarians have so long lamented, therefore shifting this malaise’s remedy to the public’s dime? Is this fair to the citizenry? How does this affect public funding for other federally funded initiatives?

–Concerns about “existential threats” now appears in discussions about scholarly publishing. Scholarly societies have them. Can societies be assured of stable revenue streams, erstwhile from library journal subscriptions, if some complex admixture of federal government grant funds and university funds fund APCs?

–There seems to be no discussion among librarians about an “existential threat” to their own profession. If funding of journals shifts from universities to federal funding agencies, doesn’t this cut out librarian involvement in selecting and funding journals? Correlatively, wouldn’t this reduce their budgets? Also, would this reduce their collection development role  to APC bean-counting, much of which will become the purview of offices of research whose involvement will merely be one of marking APCs as a line item in grant funding disbursement accounting? Would this be a good or a bad thing? 

–Where is discussion about the opportunity cost of diverting a portion of hard-to-get state-funded research dollars to funding APCs? What research, e.g. for renewal energy, or cancer or agricultural research for developing countries, now goes by the wayside?  

–Will societies and university publishers just gradually assimilate the newly emerging APC regime for their economic survival in funding membership activities, without discussions about possible threats to financial stability or discussions about the larger philosophical premises of doing so?

 

–On the philosophical issues, shouldn’t society publishers worry about governmental ideological manipulation of who within their memberships gets grant-funded APCs?  Sure, one could make that argument about federal grant funding per se. But doesn’t the latter arguably addresses an externality that (in an ideal world) concerns the common good, while APC funding is an externality that does *not* necessitate federal subsidizing–given that scholarly publishing mechanisms can and should be developed that don’t require federal subsidy?  These are points everyone should ask regardless of political affiliation.

–From what one speaker at Charleston said, the complexities of negotiating with publishers has a new overlay: tortuous internecine discussions among consortial members. If  this is true of all consortia, one has the sense that consortial leaders now have to have to engage game theoretic scenarios not only with respect to publishers, but also their individual members. Just imagine how much more complicated all this will now become with the pressures on libraries to pay for APCs. Isn’t it undesirable to introduce this added complexity, at least at this juncture? Why not just work on contracting the number of journals published, about which . . . 

–I’ve been arguing for contracting the number of journals, a la something like Bradford’s Law. A refinement on that: we need to distinguish two rationales for contracting the journal space. These are:

Rationale (1.) An argument on the principled basis that it is desirable to contract the number of journals, given that the ever-growing glut of journal articles undermines the common good of discoverability and assimilation of research findings.

Rationale (2.) An argument from economic reality: library budgets are relatively flat so we need to deconstruct Big Deals or even the number of subscribed journals regardless the journal sales model.

Shouldn’t big consortia use their negotiating power to argue that the ever-rising prices of journals (not to mention pressures for APCs merely to replicate the price dynamics of toll-access publishing) necessitates contracting the number of journals?  This point extends not just to toll-access publishing, but also gold ones? If so, pursuing rationale (1) for contracting the journal space aligns neatly with rationale (2) for doing so. I.e., rationale (2) becomes the vehicle for accomplishing rationale (1).

–I’ve also argued that consortia with journal negotiating power should educate their faculty about the need to contract the journal space. A refinement to that, too: the discussions should focus on rationale (1) above, rather than (2), which concer

Decrypting the Big Deal Landscape: Follow-up of the 2019 EUA Big Deals Survey Report

“As of 2017, the European University Association (EUA) assembled a unique collection of ‘Big Deals’ data on agreements between scholarly publishers and (national) consortia of libraries, universities and research organisations. This was carried out in the light of mounting higher education institution concerns about the increasingly unsustainable cost of subscriptions to scholarly publications. In 2016, EUA committed to “establishing an evidence base about current agreements and on-going negotiations with publishers in collaboration with NRCs”.1 Subsequently, data collected by EUA has served as the basis for two reports released in 2018 and 2019, respectively.2 Big Deals now receive increased attention due to their potential to ‘flip’ entire segments of the scholarly publication market from closed to open access publications. Big deals have also been widely criticised for locking-in library budgets, due to constantly increasing subscription costs. The 2019 EUA Big Deals Survey Report surveyed covered 30 European countries and found that over €1 billion is spent on electronic resources each year, including at least €726 million spent on periodicals alone. Big Deals are said to limit competition and innovation in the scholarly publishing system3 and curb universities’ and consortia’s financial freedom to pursue other priorities. However, recently, several European negotiating consortia and scholarly publishers have concluded Big Deals that allow eligible authors to publish articles in open access formats in specific journals. Known as ‘transformative agreements’, these contracts are also supported as one way to comply with future funder requirements that will apply as of 2021 under Plan S.4 In a system that is largely defined by Big Deals, this report aims to inform the transition to open access debate, by providing additional insights and indicators on these agreements’ costs, publication volumes and timelines. This has been achieved by placing EUA Big Deals data into context….

Part 1 explains the methods used to obtain the underlying data as well as limitations and responsible use of the data. Part 2 links the publication outputs of journal articles and reviews to the large five publishers’ market share. It seeks to provide a bigger picture of the relation between subscription costs and publishing output. Part 3 sets out an analysis of the price-per-article for each country and publisher, calculated on the basis of subscription prices and publication volume. It provides European negotiators with comparative Big Deals price per article data in 26 countries. Part 4 takes a closer look at the timeline of Big Deal agreements collected by the EUA Big Deals Survey. It shows that the 2018-2020 period is crucial for negotiations with scholarly publishers (in terms of market volume). Negotiations that occur during this time may also be crucial for the further development of ‘transformative’ agreements and therefore compliance with Plan S requirements. Part 5 provides a brief summary of our main findings, contextualises them with current developments and provides policy recommendations….”

Unpaywall Journals | Unpaywall

“Unpaywall Journals is a data dashboard that combines journal-level citations, downloads, Open Access statistics and more, to help librarians confidently manage their serials collections….

Pull together comprehensive data on open access, read and publish models, and real cost-per-use data in the context of your own serials collection.

Include Open Access

Get journal-level open access details from Unpaywall, the industry leaders in Open Access data.

Connect with APC spending

Automatically determine how much money your institution pays in open access publishing fees to understand your entire spend to publishers.

Anticipate disruptions

Learn how upcoming industry changes such as Plan S, read and publish agreements, and new document delivery pathways will affect your access choices….

Identify cost saving opportunities that work for your institution, given your unique assumptions, usage patterns, and priorities.

Stop paying for free content

Calculate OA-adjusted cost-per-use, excluding OA content when assessing subscription value, and exclude backfile access as well where relevant.

Look ahead five years

Base your decisions on projections of future usage and availability, rather than how things have been. Configure every aspect of the model, to reflect your personal assumptions and risk tolerance–from ILL costs, to the effects of Plan S.

Customize for your institution’s values

Balance your serials budget with your institutions’s needs, weighing citations, authorships, and speed of access as best fits your community….”

University Librarian Elaine Westbrooks is on a mission to open Carolina’s research to all – The Well : The Well

“I hope our scholars realize that this is something that has to be done. This is the tipping point for us. The money is not there to support the status quo. I’ve heard from many faculty who agree that that we need to change this system that we have.

The current model is unsustainable for universities and is inconsistent with the values of a public university. We’re “of the public, for the public,” designed to serve the state and the citizens of the state. So, I feel as though we have no choice but to transform this system to critique what we’ve done. That critique is going to have some consequences, which I think are good….

We’re negotiating with Elsevier to find out what kind of license we can sign that will be affordable, sustainable, promotes open access and is transparent. Those are the four values that we have set. We’re at a tipping point where it’s just not possible to keep doing business as usual….”

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.” …”