RELX PLC (RELX) Q1 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

“STM delivered underlying revenue growth of 1% in the first half, with growth in electronic revenues of 4%, partly offset by a higher-than-historical rate of decline in print revenue of 17%. In primary research, both subscription renewal completion rates and new sales are in line with recent years so far this year. Growth in article submissions for both our subscription and open access journals accelerated, with a total of 1.3 million article submissions in the first half. Submissions to our subscription journals grew by over 25%, and submissions to our expanded open access publishing program, which now includes over 430 dedicated journals, almost doubled for the second year in a row. Databases and tools continue to drive growth across market segments through content development and enhanced functionality….

The growth in open access, the rapid growth is — and the growth rate we talked about in submissions too that they have doubled now in the first half again for the second year in a row. Those are submissions to our stand-alone open access journals and not counting the — what’s going on in our submission journals because when you submit, you don’t indicate your payment model. So the stand-alone open access is growing very rapidly, and that’s therefore the majority of the growth. You said in our subscription journals, which you also access sort of open access sponsored articles, as you would refer to as hybrid journals, just many, a couple of thousand, it’s a very, very small portion that are open access articles. I mean order of magnitude, we’re talking about low single-digit percent as an overall ratio, right? It’s a few percent, right? So it’s very small. It’s growing, but it’s not growing at the same rate nearly as the stand-alone open access journals….

STM and R&BA delivered underlying adjusted operating profit growth in line with or slightly ahead of the underlying revenue growth, with cost action taken in reaction to the slower revenue growth compared to the full-year last year….

Onto margins. Although STM’s underlying profit growth was in line with underlying revenue growth, margins were higher as they benefited from exchange rate movements, including on the hedge book….

We have also continued to make progress on our key strategic and operational priorities with our primary focus on the organic development of increasingly sophisticated analytics and decision tools supported by selective acquisitions….

We think of ourselves as a service provider in the STM industry, and we think of ourselves as a service provider across a wide range of product sets. As you have noticed, it seems, again, that most of the questions here seem to be about academic primary research subscriptions to the academic market, which is a bit below half of the STM division. But we really focus on all the different tools, data sets and analytics for science and research across the world….”

KFG Announces Four New Programs · KFG Notes

“KFG will use its resources intentionally and in partnership with others (you!) to ask: how do we enable just and inclusive life cycles of knowledge? How do we build trustworthy information environments to support a better-informed society? How do we meaningfully measure impact? How do we ensure universal access to knowledge? With the help of partners, we will explore the cultural and technological answers to these questions through four new programs:

Knowledge Ecosystems: We examine how knowledge ecosystems exist today, develop playbooks to improve them, and facilitate new knowledge life cycles accelerated through multi-institution collaboration.

Community Publishing: We build infrastructure to enable community-driven publishing toward more thorough, trustworthy, and inclusive models for publishing platforms and tools.

Universal Data: We research and develop tools for discovery, provenance, and interoperability of data, to ensure transparent and universal access to public knowledge.

Measuring Knowledge: We craft and deliver new analytics that aligns with the growth, learning, and empowerment afforded by modern knowledge ecosystems to redefine impact and success….”

KFG Announces Four New Programs · KFG Notes

“KFG will use its resources intentionally and in partnership with others (you!) to ask: how do we enable just and inclusive life cycles of knowledge? How do we build trustworthy information environments to support a better-informed society? How do we meaningfully measure impact? How do we ensure universal access to knowledge? With the help of partners, we will explore the cultural and technological answers to these questions through four new programs:

Knowledge Ecosystems: We examine how knowledge ecosystems exist today, develop playbooks to improve them, and facilitate new knowledge life cycles accelerated through multi-institution collaboration.

Community Publishing: We build infrastructure to enable community-driven publishing toward more thorough, trustworthy, and inclusive models for publishing platforms and tools.

Universal Data: We research and develop tools for discovery, provenance, and interoperability of data, to ensure transparent and universal access to public knowledge.

Measuring Knowledge: We craft and deliver new analytics that aligns with the growth, learning, and empowerment afforded by modern knowledge ecosystems to redefine impact and success….”

How PLOS uses Dimensions to validate next generation Open Access agreements | Dimensions

“While there are few, if any, organizations that can claim to have perfect data, the goal should undoubtedly be to strive for a level that is as good as possible. “Data underpins and supports the discussions, the agreements and of course the metrics for success following an agreement,” says Sara. She continues, “at PLOS, we combine data from our own internal sources together with external data sources like Dimensions – which give us the crucial, broader view of the market place outside of PLOS alone.”

How does Dimensions support PLOS? “PLOS relies on Dimensions for baseline data about institutions and their funding sources for agreement discussions but also for internal business analytics,” notes Sara. She adds,  Dimensions Analytics is particularly easy to use for non-analysts like myself who want to get in, get a specific question answered (like who is the most frequent funder of a  specific country or institution), and get out quickly.” PLOS understands that subject matter experts need to dedicate their time to more significant impact analysis tasks.  Accessing a database like Dimensions Analytics that already provides analytical views – layered on top of the data itself – means that many questions can be answered by the PLOS team at all levels. …”

How PLOS uses Dimensions to validate next generation Open Access agreements | Dimensions

“While there are few, if any, organizations that can claim to have perfect data, the goal should undoubtedly be to strive for a level that is as good as possible. “Data underpins and supports the discussions, the agreements and of course the metrics for success following an agreement,” says Sara. She continues, “at PLOS, we combine data from our own internal sources together with external data sources like Dimensions – which give us the crucial, broader view of the market place outside of PLOS alone.”

How does Dimensions support PLOS? “PLOS relies on Dimensions for baseline data about institutions and their funding sources for agreement discussions but also for internal business analytics,” notes Sara. She adds,  Dimensions Analytics is particularly easy to use for non-analysts like myself who want to get in, get a specific question answered (like who is the most frequent funder of a  specific country or institution), and get out quickly.” PLOS understands that subject matter experts need to dedicate their time to more significant impact analysis tasks.  Accessing a database like Dimensions Analytics that already provides analytical views – layered on top of the data itself – means that many questions can be answered by the PLOS team at all levels. …”

The datafication in transformative agreements for open access publishing | Samuel Moore

Transformative agreements are an increasingly common way for universities and consortia to shift publisher business models towards open access. They do this through a prearranged payment that allows institutions to access subscription content while allowing future research to published in an openly accessible form. These deals are a way for publishers to continue to receive subscription income and boast about their open access content, while universities value them as a cost-neutral strategy for transitioning away from subscriptions towards open access (read Lisa Hinchliffe’s primer for an excellent summary of transformative agreements).

Such agreements are being announced by universities and national negotiating bodies on a weekly basis. This week Elsevier announced a pilot agreement with the University of Florida, while Taylor & Francis promoted its new deal with a Finnish library consortium. In recent weeks we’ve also seen deals announced between Springer-Nature and the University of California, and Elsevier and a consortium of Dutch universities. It has been pretty clear for some time that transformative agreements are going to be a dominant model for the transition to open access, particularly for the larger commercial publishers who are quickly learning how to work these deals to their advantage.

There are a number of critics of transformative agreements. Many commentators argue that these deals have a tendency to benefit the publisher rather than the university, as Sicco de Knecht argues with respect to the Elsevier-Netherlands deal. Similarly, Dave Ghamandi describes these deals as a ‘con’ that does nothing to shift power away from the ‘monopolists’. I’m embedding Dave’s Twitter thread below because it is an excellent and impassioned argument about commercial ownership of scholarly communication and the way that transformative agreements merely reinforce rather than counter this problem.

Dutch Deal – Community-Owned Infrastructure

“Elsevier has negotiated a new deal with VSNU, a consortia of Dutch Universities. This new type of deal combines content with data analytics in a novel way. Signing the deal represents an insidious precedent for the academic community, and we’re following the impacts….”

Dutch open science deal primarily benefits Elsevier – ScienceGuide

“In summary, the deal boils down to Elsevier offering Dutch (corresponding) authors open access publishing options in nearly all of its scientific journals. However, a number of journals from the Cell and Lancet families have been excluded from the deal, for now. Additionally, both sides agreed to work towards the creation of infrastructure for research data and information, and to enter into ‘open science’ projects. All of this comes at a price of € 16.4 million per year.

Going by headlines in the national newspapers, one would get the impression that the Dutch are making a giant step forward on the path to open access and open science. But is this really the case? ScienceGuide asked experts and (co)negotiators and scrutinized the fine print of the contract. As it turns out, parties have agreed on very specific definitions of open access and open science, with vague articles in the agreement to underpin them. Agreements that are at odds with earlier statements on open science and on rewards and recognition….

However, due to the ‘unique’ nature of the contract, no true comparison can be made with other agreements. Not only because various Elsevier tools and platforms are also included in the contract, but especially because of the arrangements around what has become known as ‘Professional Services’. The market value of the ‘open science’ component is, after all, unknown….”