Freeing the Textbook: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2018

Key findings from the report include: • Faculty awareness of OER has increased every year, with 46 percent of faculty now aware of open educational resources, up from 34 percent three years ago. • For the first time, more faculty express a preference for digital material over print in the classroom. 61 percent of all faculty, 71 percent of those teaching large enrollment introductory courses, and 73 percent of department chairpersons, “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” that “the cost of course materials is a serious problem for my students.” • Department chairpersons overwhelmingly believe that making textbooks less expensive for students would be the most important improvement to course materials. • Less than one-in-five faculty members are aware of any departmental-, institution-, or system-level initiative to deal with the cost of course materials. • Faculty are acting independently to control costs by supporting used textbooks and rental programs, placing copies on reserve, and selecting materials based on cost. • Overall faculty satisfaction with required textbooks is high, with over 80 percent either “Extremely Satisfied” or “Moderately Satisfied.” That said, faculty express considerable resentment about price, unnecessary frequent updates, and other issues with commercial textbooks. • Faculty often make changes to their textbooks, presenting material in a different order (70 percent), skipping sections (68 percent), replacing content with their own (45 percent), replacing with content from others (41 percent), correcting errors (21 percent), or revising textbook material (20 percent)….”

Freeing the Textbook: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2018

Key findings from the report include: • Faculty awareness of OER has increased every year, with 46 percent of faculty now aware of open educational resources, up from 34 percent three years ago. • For the first time, more faculty express a preference for digital material over print in the classroom. 61 percent of all faculty, 71 percent of those teaching large enrollment introductory courses, and 73 percent of department chairpersons, “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” that “the cost of course materials is a serious problem for my students.” • Department chairpersons overwhelmingly believe that making textbooks less expensive for students would be the most important improvement to course materials. • Less than one-in-five faculty members are aware of any departmental-, institution-, or system-level initiative to deal with the cost of course materials. • Faculty are acting independently to control costs by supporting used textbooks and rental programs, placing copies on reserve, and selecting materials based on cost. • Overall faculty satisfaction with required textbooks is high, with over 80 percent either “Extremely Satisfied” or “Moderately Satisfied.” That said, faculty express considerable resentment about price, unnecessary frequent updates, and other issues with commercial textbooks. • Faculty often make changes to their textbooks, presenting material in a different order (70 percent), skipping sections (68 percent), replacing content with their own (45 percent), replacing with content from others (41 percent), correcting errors (21 percent), or revising textbook material (20 percent)….”

Recommendations for transparent communication of Open Access prices and services – Information Power

“An independent report published today by Information Power aims to improve the transparency of Open Access (OA) prices and services. The report is the outcome of a project funded by Wellcome and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on behalf of cOAlition S to inform the development of Plan S. During the project funders, libraries, publishers, and universities worked together to inform the development of a framework intended to provide information about OA services and prices in a transparent, practical, and insightful way.

Imperative need for customer-centric approach

The framework provides opportunities for publishers to build better awareness of and appreciation by customers of the value of their services, and to demonstrate publisher commitment to open business models and business cultures.

And a collaborative, pragmatic approach

cOAlition S aims to help make the nature and prices of OA publishing services more transparent, and to enable conversations and comparisons that will build confidence amongst customers that prices are fair and reasonable. Addressing cOAlition S, the report emphasises that the introduction of a new reporting requirement needs to be organised with clear implementation guidelines, and a proper plan for testing, development, release, review, and refinement. It also recommends an iterative approach to implementation, with a pilot as the next step.

cOAlition S has accepted the recommendation that such a framework needs to be piloted before implementation and agreed a project extension to pilot and refine the framework during the first quarter of 2020. Participants include Annual Reviews, Brill, The Company of Biologists, EMBO Press, European Respiratory Society, Hindawi, PLOS, and SpringerNature. Other publishers are welcome and are invited to express interest in joining the pilot via info@informationpower.co.uk.

Robert Kiley, Head of Open Research at Wellcome and interim cOAlition S coordinator, said “On behalf of cOAlition S we are delighted to see all stakeholders engage in the development of this transparency pricing framework and support the idea of road-testing it through a pilot.  Based on the outcome of this pilot, cOAlition S will decide how to use this framework, or a refinement of it, together with other models for inclusion in the requirement for those journals where Plan S requirements apply.”

The project is guided by a steering group which provides expert advice and support….”

OA price and service transparency project

“This independent report is published by Information Power. It reports on a project funded by Wellcome and UKRI on behalf of cOAlition S to engage with stakeholders to develop a framework for the transparent communication of Open Access (OA) prices and services. cOAlition S aims to help make the nature and prices of OA publishing services more transparent, and to enable conversations and comparisons that will build confidence amongst customers that prices are fair and reasonable.

Ultimately, it seeks a frame work which enables publishers to communicate the price of services in a way that is transparent, practical to implement, and insightful. During the project we

consulted widely with stakeholders to gain an understanding of

concerns and needs and worked to gain the voluntary engagement and support of publishers. It was clear from the outset that mobilising this engagement and support would be crucial to success.

It was also clear that this would be a challenge. While funders, libraries, and library consortia were broadly supportive of the

work, many publishers – both mixed model and OA-only – expressed significant concerns about:

• being told what to price, how to price, or how to communicate about price ;

• greater transparency with competitors giving rise to anti-trust issues, or conflict with fiduciary duties to charity/shareholders;

• any focus on costs, because publisher prices reflect the market and the value provided and not only costs;

• usefulness, as publishers record price and service information in

different ways and costs and practices vary enormously between houses, subject areas, and titles;

• a range of negative outcomes including the imposition of price caps, downward pressure on prices, or funders and libraries ruling out of scope services that are valued by researchers or societies or that are important for business continuity and innovation….

In this report we present a draft framework and we propose ways in which it could be implemented. It consists of 24 pieces of metadata about platforms or titles providing OA publishing services. The

metadata are clustered into three sections: the first for high-level information about the title itself, the second for a range of metrics that together convey a sense of the nature and quality of the title,

and the third to indicate the percentage of the total price apportioned to publishing services….”

Eight publishers to volunteer pricing info in pilot study | Science | AAAS

“To help transition toward transparent open access (OA), eight journal publishers, including SpringerNature, PLOS, and Annual Reviews, will share anonymized pricing information with a limited group. This is part of a test of a transparency template proposed today in a report commissioned by cOAlition S, a group of funders leading a push for immediate OA to science publications. If the pilot is successful, funders may ask that publishers use a similar template to share data more widely.

The template aims not to influence pricing, but to give funders and libraries information to decide what to pay for, says Alicia Wise, director of the consulting company Information Power who co-authored a report presenting the template. “I would hope that by providing these data we can build trust and a better atmosphere,” she says.

Many discussions about publishing prices and services have been “emotive rather than constructive,” says Bernd Pulverer, head of scientific publications at EMBO Press, which will take part in the pilot with four of its five journals. Sharing information could encourage more “pragmatic” discussions, he says. “It is legitimate for the research community, funders, and taxpayers to be able to understand how taxpayer-supported research is being published,” he adds….”

Open Matters: A Brief Intro | New England Board of Higher Education

“In late September 2019, I joined NEBHE as its Open Education Fellow to help build upon the grassroots efforts that have been underway for years in the Northeast aiming to lessen the burden that textbook costs place on higher education students and their families. Like so many of my colleagues doing this work day in and day out, I’m passionate about breaking down this very real barrier to student learning and success. Many people still have only a vague sense of “Open Education,” so I’d like to share some thoughts on what it is and why it matters.

I recently attended my third Open Education Global Conference in November 2019 at Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy. As always, I returned home from the conference, feeling inspired after engaging with colleagues from around the globe who are doing amazing things to make education more equitable and attainable for students.

The final conference keynote delivered by Cheryl-Ann Hodgkinson-Williams of the University of Cape Town in South Africa defined “open education” as an umbrella term that encompasses the products, practices and communities associated with this work. The common term that represents the products of Open Education is OER (Open Educational Resources)….”

Opinion | How Professors Help Rip Off Students – The New York Times

“…For professors the path of least resistance is just to keep assigning the same book, in its latest edition. When prices were reasonable, that was a fine practice, but it is increasingly indefensible. There is sometimes substantial variation among textbook prices, and also books with stronger rental and used markets. In addition, important progress has been made by groups trying to create high quality alternatives. The Rice University-based nonprofit OpenSTAX has spent years developing high-quality, peer-reviewed textbooks that are free or cheap for more than 20 of the most popular college subjects. M.I.T. has an impressive collection of free online textbooks, and there are others. The publisher Cengage has been experimenting with a Netflix-style subscription model. At a minimum, instructors should at least take a look at what’s out there….”

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  https://yaoma.shinyapps.io/Elsevier-Project/

 

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)

https://escholarship.org/uc/item/0vf2k2p0

 

and

 

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

https://crl.acrl.org/index.php/crl/article/view/17824/19653

 

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….”

‘‘Well-Informed, Scientific, & Efficient (WISE) Government Act of 2019

“To secure Federal access to scientific literature and other subscription services by requiring Federal agencies and legislative branch research arms to make recommendations on increasing agency library access to serials, and for other purposes….”

Section 2(a): “The head of an agency may not enter into any contract for a journal subscription that prohibits disclosure of the cost of the subscription to another agency or the Library of Congress….”

Section 2(c)(1): Agencies must report on the subscriptions they bought and the prices they paid.