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….”

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….”

Survey of Academic Library Leadership: Plans for Academic & Scholarly Journals

“The report looks closely at how academic libraries manage and possibly alter their academic journal purchasing and collection practices in the near future.   The study gives detailed data on how much libraries have been spending on academic journals, and what percentage of their subscription base is accounted for by print alone, print/electronic, or electronic alone subscriptions, with detailed statistical breakdowns for each type of subscription.  The report also presents exhaustive information on the role of so called “Big Deals” in journals purchasing.  Survey participants also rate their satisfaction with their ability to assess journal usage on campus and, in open ended questions, discuss what they have done and plan to do in their journals purchasing regime.

Just a few of this report’s many findings are that:

For private colleges and universities approximately 20.47 % of all spending on academic journals is for print alone subscriptions.

Mean spending for academic journals by the libraries in the sample was $917,961 for the 2019-20 academic year.
For BA-granting institutions so called “Big Deals” through which colleges subscribe to a broad range of journals from a particular publisher at a reduced price, accounted for 48% of total expenditures on journals.
Only 14.29% of research university directors or deans sampled felt “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their capacity to assess journals usage by their library patron populations….”

“Role of Librarian in Promoting Open Access Study of Indian Librarians Community” by vrushali Dandawate

Abstract:  From long time open access has become important for libraries and information centres. Due to shrinking budget of libraries and continuous growth in open access journals and other information resources libraries are adopting and promoting open access. Many Libraries are moving from closed access to open access of resources. Every year nearly 10000 plus open access journals are coming in market so here librarians has to help their patrons to identify the correct journals for publish the research work and make funds available for APC charges for such journals. Librarians are supporting Open Access publishing and also playing an important role in promoting OA. But understanding importance of open access by user community is depend upon how actively that institute librarian promote OA. This paper deals about awareness of open Access among Indian Librarians Community  the main aim of this study to get idea about Librarians view about open Access and various open access resources.  Data is collected through online survey method from various Librarians group.


Do Download Reports Reliably Measure Journal Usage? Trusting the Fox to Count Your Hens? | Wood-Doughty | College & Research Libraries

Abstract:  Download rates of academic journals have joined citation counts as commonly used indicators of the value of journal subscriptions. While citations reflect worldwide influence, the value of a journal subscription to a single library is more reliably measured by the rate at which it is downloaded by local users. If reported download rates accurately measure local usage, there is a strong case for using them to compare the cost-effectiveness of journal subscriptions. We examine data for nearly 8,000 journals downloaded at the ten universities in the University of California system during a period of six years. We find that controlling for number of articles, publisher, and year of download, the ratio of downloads to citations differs substantially among academic disciplines. After adding academic disciplines to the control variables, there remain substantial “publisher effects”, with some publishers reporting significantly more downloads than would be predicted by the characteristics of their journals. These cross-publisher differences suggest that the currently available download statistics, which are supplied by publishers, are not sufficiently reliable to allow libraries to make subscription decisions based on price and reported downloads, at least without making an adjustment for publisher effects in download reports.


Calculating cost-effectiveness for subscription choices

“Negotiations between Elsevier and the University of California system over open access and pricing seem to have reached a stalemate, and the UC no longer has the Elsevier Big Deal.   Currently,  no UC campus  subscribes to any Elsevier journals. If the UC chooses not to reenter the Big Deal, the UC campus libraries will probably find it worthwhile to subscribe to some Elsevier journals.  Which ones should they choose?      


A UCSB student, Zhiyao Ma, and I are developing a little tool that we hope will  help UC librarians in  making cost-effective selections of Elsevier journals for subscription.  The UC has   download statistics for each Elsevier journal at each  of its campuses.  Elsevier posts a la carte subscription prices for each of its journals.  Our tool allows one to select a cost per download threshold and obtain a list of journals that meet this criterion, along with their total cost.  It also allows for  separate thresholds to be used for different disciplines.  You can check out the current version at


Since this project is still under way, we would be interested in any suggestions from librarians about how to make this tool more broadly useful.  Extending this tool to make comparisons among journals from  multiple publishers is an obvious step. However, we are dubious about the value of download statistics for cross-publisher comparisons.  There is evidence that download counts substantially overstate usage, because of repeated downloads of the same article by the same users, and that the amount of double-counting varies systematically by publisher.  This is discussed in  a couple of papers of which I am a coauthor.


“Looking under the Counter for Overcounted Downloads” (with Kristin Antelman and Richard Uhrig)




“Do Download counts reliably measure journal usage: Trusting the fox to count your hens”. (with Alex Wood-Doughty and Doug Steigerwald)


Instead of using download data, we could construct a similar calculator using price per recent citation as a measure of cost-effectiveness.  We have found that the ratio of downloads to citations differ significantly between disciplines.    So it is probably appropriate for cost per citation thresholds to  differ among disciplines….”

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….”