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. …”

Learned Societies, Open Access and Budgetary Cross-Subsidy | Martin Paul Eve | Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing

“There’s an article out in The Times Higher Education Science Magazine (edit 11:38am) about Learned Societies and open access. As usual, it points out the thorny problem that Learned Societies derive revenue from subscriptions that they fear will be lost under an OA model. A few points spring to mind on this. 1. There is no guarantee that moving to an OA model will cause a loss of revenue; 2. zero-embargo green OA would be compliant with Plan S and does not seem to lead to loss of revenue; 3. I have written previously on how Learned Societies could manage this transition.

What I really wanted to write on here, though, briefly, was how this is really a problem of value, transparency, and distributed financing of disciplinary activities. When people say ‘Learned Societies fund their activities through subscription revenues’ what I hear is ‘academic library budgets are used to fund disciplinary activities’ (yes, I know that there are private subscriptions, membership fees, and other revenue streams etc., but the majority of the money is, nonetheless, coming from library budgets). These are also the budgets that have lagged by several hundred percent behind the total cost of ownership of all subscription journals worldwide. The subscription model does, at least, distribute this cost among many libraries (as opposed to APC-based models, which concentrate the costs at fewer points). But the truth of the matter is that Learned Societies are funded by academic library budgets. If they rely on a subscription model, they are also reliant on excluding people who cannot pay, for the claimed good of the Society.

I happen to think that a mission of a Learned Society should include getting its research as far under the nose of any interested constituent as possible, regardless of whether that person can pay. At the end of the day, what’s the point of funding a Ph.D. studentship if, when that student graduates and likely does not get an academic job, she/he/they is/are unable to continue to read research in the field? Regardless of this, though, I think that what sits at the heart of this dilemma for Learned Societies is a crisis and anxiety of value….”

Learned Societies, Open Access and Budgetary Cross-Subsidy | Martin Paul Eve | Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing

“There’s an article out in The Times Higher Education Science Magazine (edit 11:38am) about Learned Societies and open access. As usual, it points out the thorny problem that Learned Societies derive revenue from subscriptions that they fear will be lost under an OA model. A few points spring to mind on this. 1. There is no guarantee that moving to an OA model will cause a loss of revenue; 2. zero-embargo green OA would be compliant with Plan S and does not seem to lead to loss of revenue; 3. I have written previously on how Learned Societies could manage this transition.

What I really wanted to write on here, though, briefly, was how this is really a problem of value, transparency, and distributed financing of disciplinary activities. When people say ‘Learned Societies fund their activities through subscription revenues’ what I hear is ‘academic library budgets are used to fund disciplinary activities’ (yes, I know that there are private subscriptions, membership fees, and other revenue streams etc., but the majority of the money is, nonetheless, coming from library budgets). These are also the budgets that have lagged by several hundred percent behind the total cost of ownership of all subscription journals worldwide. The subscription model does, at least, distribute this cost among many libraries (as opposed to APC-based models, which concentrate the costs at fewer points). But the truth of the matter is that Learned Societies are funded by academic library budgets. If they rely on a subscription model, they are also reliant on excluding people who cannot pay, for the claimed good of the Society.

I happen to think that a mission of a Learned Society should include getting its research as far under the nose of any interested constituent as possible, regardless of whether that person can pay. At the end of the day, what’s the point of funding a Ph.D. studentship if, when that student graduates and likely does not get an academic job, she/he/they is/are unable to continue to read research in the field? Regardless of this, though, I think that what sits at the heart of this dilemma for Learned Societies is a crisis and anxiety of value….”

The Plan – Towards a Scholarly Commons

“To do so, the project will undertake the following activities:

Write a Literature Review that situates this work within the current research on scholarly publishing.
Conduct Focus Groups that will provide insight into how libraries currently make decisions about investing in infrastructure.
Develop a Census of Infrastructure that will make visible the current set of platforms, systems, and applications that comprise the system of scholarly publishing
Create a Map of the Scholarly Publishing System that visualizes the results of the census
Write a set of Case Studies of Infrastructure Providers that provide insight into what is required for long-term sustainability for this infrastructure
Conduct a Survey of Investment in Infrastructure by colleges and universities that will document the current state of investment

Develop a Report that synthesizes the materials from our activities and provides recommendations on promising directions to sustain and grow investment in this infrastructure, and if warranted, how to sustain the specific work of this project….

The project begins in September 2018 and concludes in February 2020….”

The Plan – Towards a Scholarly Commons

“To do so, the project will undertake the following activities:

Write a Literature Review that situates this work within the current research on scholarly publishing.
Conduct Focus Groups that will provide insight into how libraries currently make decisions about investing in infrastructure.
Develop a Census of Infrastructure that will make visible the current set of platforms, systems, and applications that comprise the system of scholarly publishing
Create a Map of the Scholarly Publishing System that visualizes the results of the census
Write a set of Case Studies of Infrastructure Providers that provide insight into what is required for long-term sustainability for this infrastructure
Conduct a Survey of Investment in Infrastructure by colleges and universities that will document the current state of investment

Develop a Report that synthesizes the materials from our activities and provides recommendations on promising directions to sustain and grow investment in this infrastructure, and if warranted, how to sustain the specific work of this project….

The project begins in September 2018 and concludes in February 2020….”

To Measure is to Know: Open Access at Your Institution

“How much is your institution spending on APC fees? 

How does your institution’s Open Access footprint compare to your peers?

In this session, learn how you can use data from the Web of Science to calculate your institution’s spend on Open Access, and to benchmark your institution’s participation in OA publishing against activity at peer institutions. 

We’ll also discuss recent market developments, including how Plan S, a multi-national initiative aimed at making an increasing share of research findings available in OA publications, may impact faculty at U.S. institutions….”

OA in the Open White Paper Surfaces Challenges, Opportunities, Next Steps for Open Access Collecting – Association of Research Libraries

“A new white paper from the Supporting OA Collections in the Open project documents a series of conversations with librarians with expertise in collections, acquisitions, scholarly communication, and administration, from diverse institutions, regarding their experiences and attitudes towards financially supporting open access (OA) content. The project was led by librarians at James Madison University (JMU), in partnership with the Association of Research Libraries (ARL).

Funded by a grant from the US Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), OA in the Open convened a series of national forums where community members discussed their needs, values, and priorities in relation to open access collection development. The forums clarified areas of opportunity and friction, and led to productive discourse and identification of common themes about collective funding of public-goods content.

Through moderation that leveraged the insights and interactions of focus group participants, the project team developed a white paper that articulates the challenges, opportunities, and potential mechanisms for building an OA collection development system and culture and that motivates the community toward collective action….”

OA in the Open: Community Needs and Perspectives

Abstract:  The National Forum described here was proposed as a first step in surfacing community requirements and principles toward a collective open access (OA) collection development system. The Forum asked participants to envision a collective funding environment for libraries to contribute provisioning or sustaining funds to OA content providers. A critical component of this project was to bring together groups of interested and invested individuals with different priorities and perspectives and begin to build a community of engagement and dialogue. By analyzing focus group feedback and leveraging the insights and interactions of participants, this paper presents the challenges, opportunities, and potential next steps for building an OA collection development model and culture based on a community of collective action.

1st Basel Sustainable Publishing Forum – Dialog with Learned Societies: Sustainable Solutions for Successful Transition to Open Access

“Plan S is an initiative for Open Access publishing that was launched in September 2018. The plan is supported by an international consortium of research funders, named cOAlition S. Plan S requires that, as of 2021, all scientific publications resulting from public funding is published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms. While the principles and implementation guidelines have been clearly stated and updated recently, many concerns were raised, especially concerning the stability of the evaluation system and the stability of the research ecosystem.

At the center of these concerns are learned societies which often strongly rely on publishing revenues to ensure the viability of all the activities done for their scientific communities. This dialog day aims to bring together representatives of learned societies to hear from them and understand the challenges that they are facing to transition/flip their journals to Open Access….”

Pubfair – A Framework for Sustainable, Distributed, Open Science Publishing Services

“This white paper provides the rationale and describes the high level architecture for an innovative publishing framework that positions publishing functionalities on top of the content managed by a distributed network of repositories. The framework is inspired by the vision and use cases outlined in the COAR Next Generation Repositories work, first published in November 2017 and further articulated in a funding proposal developed by a number of European partners.

By publishing this on Comments Press, we are seeking community feedback about the Pubfair framework in order to refine the functionalities and architecture, as well as to gauge community interest….

The idea of Pubfair is not to create another new system that competes with many others, but rather to leverage, improve and add value to existing institutional and funder investments in research infrastructures (in particular open repositories and open journal platforms). Pubfair positions repositories (and the content managed by repositories) as the foundation for a distributed, globally networked infrastructure for scholarly communication. It moves our thinking beyond the artificial distinction between green and gold open access by combining the strengths of open repositories with easy-to-use review and publishing tools for a multitude of research outputs….”