H.H. Barschall

In retirement, Barschall took up the cause of the high cost of scientific journals and the detriment to scientists. His research sparked an international legal battle and he was sued by German, Swiss and French publishing houses.

His studies of journal pricing were generally supported by the courts and made him a hero to a generation of research librarians. In 1990, The Association of Research Libraries gave him a special citation for this efforts. See http://barschall.stanford.edu/ for related information….”

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?…”

The gold rush: Why open access will boost publisher profits | Impact of Social Sciences

“An important justification for transitioning from a subscription based journal publishing system to an open access journal publishing system, has been that whereas printing and distributing physical copies of journals is an expensive process, the cost of digital publication and dissemination are marginal. In this post Shaun Khoo argues that whilst a shift to gold (pay to publish) open access would deliver wider access to research, the lack of price sensitivity amongst academics presents a risk that they will be locked into a new escalating  pay to publish system that could potentially be more costly to researchers than the previous subscription model….”

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.” …”

Journal transparency rules to help scholars pick where to publish | Times Higher Education (THE)

“New requirements for journals to be more transparent about their editorial processes could help researchers to make more informed decisions about where to submit their work, as the European-led Plan S initiative moves into its next phase.

Freshly revised requirements for the open access mandate – which is now due to come into force in January 2021, a year later than originally planned – outline a series of mandatory conditions that journals and other platforms must adhere to if academics financed by participating funders are to publish in them.

This states that a journal must provide on its website “a detailed description of its editorial policies and decision-making processes”, with a “solid system” in place for peer review that must adhere to guidelines produced by the Committee on Publication Ethics. “In addition, at least basic statistics must be published annually, covering in particular the number of submissions, the number of reviews requested, the number of reviews received, the approval rate, and the average time between submission and publication,” the guidance says. 

David Sweeney, executive chair of Research England and co-chair of the Plan S implementation task force, described greater transparency in journals’ editorial and publishing practices as the logical “next step in the puzzle” of creating a “fairer, more open publishing landscape”. …

Journals will also be required to price the services they provide, such as reviewing and copy-editing, since funders will find themselves supporting the article processing charges associated with many forms of open access publishing….”

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.” …”

Open access and subscription based journals have similar problems in terms of quantity and relaying science to the public | The BMJ

In the Head to Head debate on whether to publish in an open access journal, Ashton and Beattie report that PLOS One accepts 70% of submissions.1 That might have been true in 2013, but a more recent and perhaps more accurate figure would be that as of 2017 PLOS One accepts about 50% of submissions, which is an equivalent rate to that of BMJ Open.2 I also question whether acceptance rate is a meaningful statistic when research is moving towards a publish first, curate later model.3 Simply not publishing, or batting manuscripts around various journals until one finally accepts it after a lengthy delay, constitutes a form of research waste and is something that ought to be avoided.4

The argument that certain forms of open access encourage higher quantity is also true of subscription based publishing. Predominantly subscription based publishers routinely market their subscriptions to library consortiums on the basis of price per article, the lower the better value. As the price of subscriptions that libraries can afford remains flat, subscription based publishers have an incentive to make their services look better by publishing more to reduce the apparent price per article that a subscription gets you. The publishers then further obfuscate this by bundling together journals full of chaff articles with journals full of higher quality material. But under so called diamond or platinum open access publishing models, in which neither authors nor readers pay to support the publication process, there is no such dangerous incentive to erode professional standards….”

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. …”

2019 Big Deals Survey Report: An Updated Mapping of Major Scholarly Publishing Contracts in Europe

“The Second EUA Big Deals Survey Report is an updated mapping of major scholarly publishing contracts in Europe.

Conducted in 2017-2018, the report gathers data from 31 consortia covering an unprecedented 167 contracts with five major publishers: Elsevier, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, Wiley and American Chemical Society. Readers will discover that the total costs reported by the participating consortia exceed one billion euros for periodicals, databases, e-books and other resources – mainly to the benefit of large, commercial scholarly publishers.

The report provides an overview of Big Deal negotiations across Europe, focusing on topics such as the organisation of negotiations, provisions on Open Access and transparency of contracts and costs. It also offers information on the consortia and focuses specifically on periodical Big Deal contracts with the five large publishers selected for this survey. Finally, the report addresses the costs of Big Deal contracts, offering conclusions and policy recommendations on the negotiation of contracts….”