“The progress of scientific and technological knowledge is a cumulative process, one that depends in the long?run on the rapid and widespread disclosure of new findings, so that they may be rapidly discarded if unreliable, or confirmed and brought into fruitful conjunction with other bodies of reliable knowledge. “Open science” institutions provide an alternative to the intellectual property approach to dealing with difficult problems in the allocation of resources for the production and distribution of information. As a mode of generating reliable knowledge, “open science” depends upon a specific non-market reward system to solve a number of resource allocation problems that have their origins in the particular characteristics of information as an economic good. There are features of the collegiate reputational reward system — conventionally associated with open science practice in the academy and public research institutes – that create conflicts been the ostensible norms of ‘cooperation’ and the incentives for non-cooperative, rivalrous behavior on the part of individuals and research units who race to establish “priority.” These sources of inefficiency notwithstanding, open science is properly regarded as uniquely well suited to the goal of maximising the rate of growth of the stock of reliable knowledge.
High access charges imposed by holders of monopoly rights in intellectual property have overall consequences for the conduct of science that are particularly damaging to programs of exploratory research which are recognized to be vital for the long-term progress of knowledge-driven economies….”
Over the last few decades, there has been ongoing debate and distress regarding the effects of the journal subscription paywall and the very real barriers to knowledge access that it creates. As major academic publishers invest and redirect their business strategies to open access and alternative paying structures, it may seem as if the access to knowledge battle is starting to be won. However, as big publishers move towards openness they have also been redirecting their business strategies towards the acquisition of scholarly infrastructure, the tools and services that underpin the scholarly research life cycle, many of which are geared towards data analytics. We argue that moves toward increased control over openness and data analytics by big publishers are simultaneous processes of profit maximization. Could it be that our attention on the paywall has ditracted us from paying attention to the strategic takeover of infrastructure by the publishers? These processes should be examined closely as they are actively entrenching the publisher’s’ power and control which could be posing great threats to the exclusion of already marginalized researchers and institutions.
Taylor & Francis Group, a leading publisher of specialist academic books and journals and part of Informa PLC, has acquired the Open Access (OA) publisher, Dove Medical Press. This acquisition signals Taylor & Francis Group’s ongoing commitment to developing both its Medical Journal and OA programs.
“Like many others in the scholarly community, we were very disappointed to learn about the recent acquisition by Elsevier of bepress, the provider of the popular Digital Commons repository platform.1The acquisition is especially troubling for the hundreds of institutions that use Digital Commons to support their open access repositories. These institutions now find their repository services owned and managed by Elsevier, a company well known for its obstruction of open access and repositories.2
While we were disappointed, we were not surprised. Elsevier’s interest in bepress and Digital Commons is reflective of the company’s long term strategy to stake an ownership claim in all the functions vital to the research cycle—from data gathering and annotation, to sharing and publication, to analytics and evaluation. Prior high-profile acquisitions (including SSRN and Mendeley) have made this strategy crystal clear. While this might be a smart business move on the part of a commercial company, it presents significant challenges and risks to the academic and research community.
The dangers inherent in the increasing control of crucial research communication functions in the hands of a small number of commercial players are well-known and well-documented.3 The dysfunction in the academic journal market serves as a case in point. This consolidated control has led to unaffordable costs, limited utility of research articles, the proliferation of western publishing biases, and a system in which publisher lock-in through big deal licenses is the norm. This situation is damaging for the research enterprise, individual researchers, and for society. Further consolidation of the market across functions and platforms—including key elements like research information systems and open access repositories—will exacerbate this already unhealthy situation.”
“Elsevier, the global information analytics business specializing in science and health, today acquired bepress, a Berkeley, California-based business that helps academic libraries showcase and share their institutions’ research for maximum impact. Founded by three University of California, Berkeley professors in 1999, bepress allows institutions to collect, organize, preserve and disseminate their intellectual output, including preprints, working papers, journals or specific articles, dissertations, theses, conference proceedings and a wide variety of other data.”
“Today, Elsevier announces its acquisition of bepress. In a move entirely consistent with its strategy to pivot beyond content licensing to preprints, analytics, workflow, and decision-support, Elsevier is now a major if not the foremost single player in the institutional repository landscape. If successful, and there are some risks, this acquisition will position Elsevier as an increasingly dominant player in preprints, continuing its march to adopt and coopt open access….”
“Scientists are well aware that they seem to be getting a bad deal. The publishing business is ‘perverse and needless’, the Berkeley biologist Michael Eisen wrote in a 2003 article for the Guardian, declaring that it ‘should be a public scandal’. Adrian Sutton, a physicist at Imperial College, told me that scientists ‘are all slaves to publishers. What other industry receives its raw materials from its customers, gets those same customers to carry out the quality control of those materials, and then sells the same materials back to the customers at a vastly inflated price?’ (A representative of RELX Group, the official name of Elsevier since 2015, told me that it and other publishers ‘serve the research community by doing things that they need that they either cannot, or do not do on their own, and charge a fair price for that service’.)”
“Recently, along with my partner David Lamb at STM Advisers, I participated in a Webinar sponsored by NISO. The topic was consolidation in the world of academic and library publishing. We covered some of the basic elements of consolidation (why it happens, trends, and who drives it) and provided a primer on mergers and acquisitions. It is our view that the pace of new deals is picking up for a number of reasons, some having to do with the macroeconomic environment (the Trump administration seems unlikely to pursue antitrust cases), the sheer amount of cash in investors’ hands waiting to be put to work, and the maturity of academic publishing, which makes established companies seek to combine in order to enlarge their market share and increase their clout in the marketplace….”
“A year ago, we wrote about how TPP’s requirement for “data exclusivity” risked undermining one of science’s fundamental principles: that facts cannot be owned. Data exclusivity is just the latest attempt by Big Pharma to extend its monopoly over drugs, whether using patents or other means. To a certain extent, you might expect that: after all, companies are designed to maximize profits, and if it means more people suffer or die along the way, well, that’s regrettable but sort of beside the point. However, it’s surprising to see a group of medical researchers writing in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) calling for just the same kind of data exclusivity. The post is in response to an earlier NEJM article by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), entitled “Sharing Clinical Trial Data”….”
“From Elsevier and Springer to EBSCO and ProQuest, these publishers and content providers are reducing their reliance on their content businesses as engines of growth. While these businesses remain strong, they are pursuing one of two newer directions for greater growth….The “big deal” model of licensed content products has proved enormously profitable for the commercial scientific publishers and deeply problematic for academic libraries. The open access movement has sought to rebalance these dynamics, and political and organizational developments could yet unleash changes that would profoundly and negatively impact their business. Certainly, looking at other information businesses, such as journalism, there is reason for caution. To date, however, if publishers have not actually co-opted open access they have certainly found ways to coexist with “gold” or hybrid models in conjunction with their licensed content products. Overall, the academic content product businesses have continued to thrive in recent years.
Nevertheless, in assessing the risks, major academic publishers and content platforms have recognized that their businesses are mature and have taken a number of steps to diversify…”