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….”

Decrypting the Big Deal Landscape: Follow-up of the 2019 EUA Big Deals Survey Report

“As of 2017, the European University Association (EUA) assembled a unique collection of ‘Big Deals’ data on agreements between scholarly publishers and (national) consortia of libraries, universities and research organisations. This was carried out in the light of mounting higher education institution concerns about the increasingly unsustainable cost of subscriptions to scholarly publications. In 2016, EUA committed to “establishing an evidence base about current agreements and on-going negotiations with publishers in collaboration with NRCs”.1 Subsequently, data collected by EUA has served as the basis for two reports released in 2018 and 2019, respectively.2 Big Deals now receive increased attention due to their potential to ‘flip’ entire segments of the scholarly publication market from closed to open access publications. Big deals have also been widely criticised for locking-in library budgets, due to constantly increasing subscription costs. The 2019 EUA Big Deals Survey Report surveyed covered 30 European countries and found that over €1 billion is spent on electronic resources each year, including at least €726 million spent on periodicals alone. Big Deals are said to limit competition and innovation in the scholarly publishing system3 and curb universities’ and consortia’s financial freedom to pursue other priorities. However, recently, several European negotiating consortia and scholarly publishers have concluded Big Deals that allow eligible authors to publish articles in open access formats in specific journals. Known as ‘transformative agreements’, these contracts are also supported as one way to comply with future funder requirements that will apply as of 2021 under Plan S.4 In a system that is largely defined by Big Deals, this report aims to inform the transition to open access debate, by providing additional insights and indicators on these agreements’ costs, publication volumes and timelines. This has been achieved by placing EUA Big Deals data into context….

Part 1 explains the methods used to obtain the underlying data as well as limitations and responsible use of the data. Part 2 links the publication outputs of journal articles and reviews to the large five publishers’ market share. It seeks to provide a bigger picture of the relation between subscription costs and publishing output. Part 3 sets out an analysis of the price-per-article for each country and publisher, calculated on the basis of subscription prices and publication volume. It provides European negotiators with comparative Big Deals price per article data in 26 countries. Part 4 takes a closer look at the timeline of Big Deal agreements collected by the EUA Big Deals Survey. It shows that the 2018-2020 period is crucial for negotiations with scholarly publishers (in terms of market volume). Negotiations that occur during this time may also be crucial for the further development of ‘transformative’ agreements and therefore compliance with Plan S requirements. Part 5 provides a brief summary of our main findings, contextualises them with current developments and provides policy recommendations….”

Decrypting the Big Deal Landscape: Follow-up of the 2019 EUA Big Deals Survey Report | EUA

by Lennart Stoy, Rita Morais and Lidia Borrell-Damián

Based on the data collected for the 2019 Big Deals Survey Report, this publication aims to deliver additional transparency of the dynamics of the scholarly publishing market by providing insights and indicators on the costs, publication volumes and timelines of Big Deal contracts. The report is part of EUA’s support to universities and consortia striving to create a transparent and sustainable open access publishing system, in particular in the context of Plan S.

This has been achieved by placing EUA Big Deals data into context. Specifically, this report uses aggregate data obtained from the Web of Science by Clarivate Analytics provided by the German Competence Center for Bibliometrics and correlates it with EUA data on Big Deals. The report uses data from 26 countries and contracts with the publishers Elsevier, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, Wiley and American Chemical Society collected in late 2018.

University Librarian Elaine Westbrooks is on a mission to open Carolina’s research to all – The Well : The Well

“I hope our scholars realize that this is something that has to be done. This is the tipping point for us. The money is not there to support the status quo. I’ve heard from many faculty who agree that that we need to change this system that we have.

The current model is unsustainable for universities and is inconsistent with the values of a public university. We’re “of the public, for the public,” designed to serve the state and the citizens of the state. So, I feel as though we have no choice but to transform this system to critique what we’ve done. That critique is going to have some consequences, which I think are good….

We’re negotiating with Elsevier to find out what kind of license we can sign that will be affordable, sustainable, promotes open access and is transparent. Those are the four values that we have set. We’re at a tipping point where it’s just not possible to keep doing business as usual….”

What Do Statements of Support for California Tell Us About the Big Deal? – The Scholarly Kitchen

“The statements take a variety of positions, spanning from criticism of commercial publishing (especially large publishers with steep pricing and large profit margins) to advocating open access more ideologically. Here are the key characteristics we noted in our review:

Authorship: The statements are predominantly written by library leaders. There are, however, a few from senior university leaders such as Provosts or Vice Provosts of Research. 
Claim — System is Broken: The primary  argument put forth is that the current knowledge sharing system is no longer fit for purpose and that there is a need to shift to a sustainable and open publishing ecosystem.
Claim — Needed Interventions: The statements vary in the kinds of interventions that they call for. Some highlight exploring alternative models for supporting open access dissemination of content. Others make a case for transparent and affordable pricing of formal open access publishing, typically coupled with a desire to control open access article processing charges (APCs).While some suggest that the system is reaching a tipping point, regardless of which intervention(s) a statement highlights, the overall suggestion is to shift funds to support open access rather than continue expenditure on closed for-profit publishing.
Justification — Access and Impact: Some statements view scholarly communication through a lens of diversity and inclusivity and argue that scholarly publications should be accessible across all educational systems and to the public at large. Additionally, these statements mention the analysis that has shown greater use and citations of open access publications in comparison to those that are not open.

In addition to rhetorical positioning, some statements imply a promise of action: 

Future Negotiations: Some refer to either ongoing or upcoming negotiations with prominent publishers; however, they stop short of making any projections about desired outcomes or “lines in the sand” that would cause cancellation.
Raising Campus Awareness: Some say that the California cancellation has been an opportunity to start campus conversations about the Big Deal and its implications. These conversations seek to raise awareness of the challenges library budgets face and also to explain the specifics of the UC’s cancellation of Elsevier contract. There are several general statements about the intentions to work with the campus academic communities to continue to advance our advocacy and support for open access.
Promotion of Services: Some are leveraging their support statements to promote their institutional repositories, open access policies and mandates, APC support funds, and related service consultancies for copyright, publisher agreements, and public policy compliance….”

What Do Statements of Support for California Tell Us About the Big Deal? – The Scholarly Kitchen

“The statements take a variety of positions, spanning from criticism of commercial publishing (especially large publishers with steep pricing and large profit margins) to advocating open access more ideologically. Here are the key characteristics we noted in our review:

Authorship: The statements are predominantly written by library leaders. There are, however, a few from senior university leaders such as Provosts or Vice Provosts of Research. 
Claim — System is Broken: The primary  argument put forth is that the current knowledge sharing system is no longer fit for purpose and that there is a need to shift to a sustainable and open publishing ecosystem.
Claim — Needed Interventions: The statements vary in the kinds of interventions that they call for. Some highlight exploring alternative models for supporting open access dissemination of content. Others make a case for transparent and affordable pricing of formal open access publishing, typically coupled with a desire to control open access article processing charges (APCs).While some suggest that the system is reaching a tipping point, regardless of which intervention(s) a statement highlights, the overall suggestion is to shift funds to support open access rather than continue expenditure on closed for-profit publishing.
Justification — Access and Impact: Some statements view scholarly communication through a lens of diversity and inclusivity and argue that scholarly publications should be accessible across all educational systems and to the public at large. Additionally, these statements mention the analysis that has shown greater use and citations of open access publications in comparison to those that are not open.

In addition to rhetorical positioning, some statements imply a promise of action: 

Future Negotiations: Some refer to either ongoing or upcoming negotiations with prominent publishers; however, they stop short of making any projections about desired outcomes or “lines in the sand” that would cause cancellation.
Raising Campus Awareness: Some say that the California cancellation has been an opportunity to start campus conversations about the Big Deal and its implications. These conversations seek to raise awareness of the challenges library budgets face and also to explain the specifics of the UC’s cancellation of Elsevier contract. There are several general statements about the intentions to work with the campus academic communities to continue to advance our advocacy and support for open access.
Promotion of Services: Some are leveraging their support statements to promote their institutional repositories, open access policies and mandates, APC support funds, and related service consultancies for copyright, publisher agreements, and public policy compliance….”

Will Libraries Help Publishers Prop Up the Value of the Big Deal? – The Scholarly Kitchen

“This is a disruptive moment for journal licensing. The value of the big deal has declined. When the value of a product declines, one expected outcome is for customers to drive down its price in the market. But something slightly different is instead taking place. Several major university negotiating groups, including those for Germany and the University of California, have cancelled deals with Elsevier, the result of failed negotiations. Some consortia have entered into “transformative” agreements with Wiley, Springer Nature, and others, including Elsevier. In this moment of disruption, I wish to focus on one growing if counterintuitive element of the library negotiating playbook: helping publishers prop up the value of their big deal bundles….”

Will Libraries Help Publishers Prop Up the Value of the Big Deal? – The Scholarly Kitchen

“This is a disruptive moment for journal licensing. The value of the big deal has declined. When the value of a product declines, one expected outcome is for customers to drive down its price in the market. But something slightly different is instead taking place. Several major university negotiating groups, including those for Germany and the University of California, have cancelled deals with Elsevier, the result of failed negotiations. Some consortia have entered into “transformative” agreements with Wiley, Springer Nature, and others, including Elsevier. In this moment of disruption, I wish to focus on one growing if counterintuitive element of the library negotiating playbook: helping publishers prop up the value of their big deal bundles….”

Pursuing a new kind of “big deal” with publishers

“Making the transition from paying to read to paying to publish academic research won’t be easy for universities or publishers. But it is possible, attendees at an open-access-publishing event were told Thursday.

The University of California, which canceled its “big deal” with publisher Elsevier earlier this year after negotiations to establish a new agreement broke down, hosted a public forum discussing how libraries, publishers and funders can support a system where all research articles are made free to read at the time of publication….”

No Big Deal: An Assessment of Academic Library Staffing, Structure, and Communication Strategies in Support of Open Access

“You are invited to participate in a research study identifying academic library trends with respect to staffing, organizational structure, and communication strategies related to sustainable academic journal pricing and open access initiatives.  Our research will attempt to answer the following question: In the aftermath of the recently publicized breakups between academic libraries and academic journal publishers over renewal of “big deal” journal contracts, are academic libraries consciously planning for, or already making the pivot, to supporting open access initiatives as an alternative to traditional scholarly publishing practices?  

The survey [https://kstate.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_23oiytTadbsQC57] will remain open until Wednesday September 25  and we welcome responses from academic libraries of any size or focus. …”