Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More on the pricing crisis

Lindsey Franco, Smathers Libraries may cancel journal subscriptions, Alligator Online, March 6, 2006. (Thanks to Gavin Baker.) Excerpt:
While students and faculty await a reconstructed, renovated, Starbucks-filled Library West, they may get a surprise they're not quite waiting for - a cutback of $750,000 worth of academic journals and databases. Smathers Libraries, the [University of Florida] library system, plans to discontinue some academic journals and database subscriptions this summer to make up for the expected $750,000 deficit in the library's 2007 budget. The anticipated shortfall would occur because publishers plan to charge the library higher subscription costs to cover rising inflation, said John Ingram, the associate director of collections at the library....He said the library's flat budget will not be able to cover the increase, which will lead to a deficit of about $750,000. The library has until the end of July to cancel journal subscriptions, he said....He said the library plans to cut both print journals and online journals and databases, and they will be split evenly. "We are making the cuts across the board - being very evenhanded about it," Landor said....The library informed faculty of the expected changes Thursday with a flier in their mailboxes titled "Smathers Libraries Cancellation List Project," which outlined the plan for the next fiscal year. The document is available on the libraries' Web site [here].

Update. See Gavin Baker's 3/7/06 letter to the editor. Excerpt:

Monday's article on possible cuts to library collections describes a danger that many universities across the country face: the rising costs of academic journals. As president of Florida Free Culture, I can point out the role an inefficient copyright system plays in creating these artificially inflated costs. As a Student Senator-elect, I can say to my future Senate colleagues: It's time for students to make their voices heard on this important issue. There is no good reason to justify the costs of subscriptions to academic journals and repositories. The cause is copyright overprotection by universities and researchers, and the solution is open licensing. The research published in academic journals is overwhelmingly paid for by universities, grants and awards. Researchers are not usually paid for their journal publications; rather, faculty must "publish or perish," where publication in the most prestigious journals results in professional accolades and promotions. The costs of academic publishing are all in the editing, review of submissions and distribution. With online journals, distribution costs drop almost to zero. So why did Smathers Libraries spend $3.4 million on e-journal subscriptions last year? The reason is the outdated model of the academic publishing industry. The copyrights inherent in the journal articles are used as a barrier, and only those who pay the toll are allowed access to the journals' contents. This toll pays the costs of review and editing - and provides a nice bonus for the publishers. However, an alternative exists: open-access publishing. The open-access model pays for editorial costs through institutional subsidies by a journal's sponsoring university or professional society, or by charging the researcher's sponsor a fee to process the submission. Then, an open copyright license is used to ensure free, open access to the research online, via nonprofit repositories or self-archiving by the researcher, university or research sponsor. Alternatively, the journals themselves are left intact, but the cost of subscriptions to repositories is reduced. Authors still give journals an exclusive license to their work, for access to which journals charge for subscription, but the exclusive license lasts a limited time, such as six months. Six months after the original publication, the author deposits a copy of their article in an open access repository, such as the National Institutes of Health's PubMed Central. Open access not only cuts unnecessary overhead costs, but also ensures that everyone worldwide has access to the results of that research, even if their university can't afford journal subscriptions. In the case of medical research, this can literally mean the difference between life and death; doctors in poor countries may be unable to afford access to the latest findings. UF should investigate how it can promote open access to cut costs for our libraries and fulfill our commitment to the global community. I call for the creation of an ad hoc Joint Committee on Open Access, comprising members of the Student Senate, Faculty Senate and UF administration. Open access is a hot issue in academia. If UF wants to be a Top 10 public research university, here is an opportunity for us to lead.