Serials crisis

The term serials crisis has become a common shorthand to describe the chronic subscription cost increases of many serial publications such as scholarly journals.[1] The prices of these institutional or library subscriptions have been rising much faster than the Consumer Price Index for several decades,[2] while the funds available to the libraries have remained static or have declined in real terms. As a result, academic and research libraries have regularly canceled serial subscriptions to accommodate price increases of the remaining current subscriptions.[3][4]

Rising subscription prices

The subscription prices of scholarly journals have been increasing at a rate faster than the inflation rate for several decades.[2] This chronic inflation is caused by several factors. Each journal title publishes unique research findings and as a result is a unique commodity that cannot be replaced in an academic library collection by another journal title, such as a less expensive journal on the same subject, as one could with commodities. The publisher thus has the ability to act as a monopolist. Scholarly journals vary greatly in quality as do the individual articles that they publish. The highest quality journals are often expected and demanded by scholars to be included in their institution's library collections, often with little regard or knowledge about the subscription costs. Traditional metrics for quality in scholarly journals include Impact Factor and Citation count as recorded by Journal Citation Reports. This leads to price inelasticity for these higher quality journals.

Publishers

Another possible set of factors in this situation includes the increasing domination of scholarly communication by a small number of commercial publishers, whose journals are far more costly than those of most academic societies.[5] However, the institutional subscription prices for journals published by some academic society publishers (see below) have also exhibited inflationary patterns similar to those seen among commercial publishers.

The earnings of the American Chemical Society (ACS), for example, is based, in large parts, on publications. In 1999, the income of the ACS was $349 million, where $250 million came from information services.[6] According to a 2004 House of Commons report (by the Science and Technology Committee),[7] the ACS is one of the driving forces of the STM (science, technology, medicine) serials crisis. According to the same report, the crisis started around 1990, when many universities and libraries complained about the dramatic inflation of STM subscription prices especially for the flagship JACS, which is exclusively sold as a bundle with all other ACS journals. The report further complains that

the no–cancellation clauses attached to their multi-year multi-journal deals with Elsevier and the American Chemical Society had led to uneven cancellation of titles to make the budget balance. The result is that the little-used Elsevier and ACS titles must remain in the portfolio while the more popular titles by other publishers are cancelled.[7]

A typical inflation rate for 2008 included an increase of the bundle price of around 40% (from 22,800 USD to 30,200 USD) with a perspective of more than a doubling (to 55,000 USD) in the next three years.

Trends in scholarly publishing

An additional problem is a dramatic increase in the volume of research literature and increasing specialization of that research, i.e. the creation of academic subfields. This includes a growth in the number of scholars and an increase in potential demand for these journals. At the same time, funds available to purchase journals are often decreasing in real terms. Libraries have seen their collection budgets decline in real terms compared to the United States Periodical Price Index. There are other library expenditures such as computers and networking equipment that have also had a negative impact on scholarly publishing. As a result of the increasing cost of journals, academic libraries have reduced their expenditures on other types of publications such as scholarly monographs.[8]

Currency

Currency exchange rates can serve to increase the volatility of subscription prices throughout the world. For example, many of the publishers of scientific journals are in Europe and do not set prices in United States dollars, so the prices of such scholarly journals in the United States vary in relation to exchange rate fluctuations.

Solutions, alternatives and developments

There is much discussion among case librarians and scholars about the crisis and how to address its consequences. Academic and research libraries are resorting to several tactics to contain costs, while maintaining access to the latest scholarly research for their users. These tactics include: increasingly borrowing journals from one another (see interlibrary loan) or purchasing single articles from commercial document suppliers instead of subscribing to whole journals. Additionally, academic and research libraries cancel subscriptions to the least used or least cost-effective journals. Another tactic has been converting from printed to electronic copies of journals, however, publishers sometimes charge more for the online edition of a journal, and price increases for online journals have followed the same inflationary pattern as have journals in paper format. Many individual libraries have joined co-operative consortia that negotiate license terms for journal subscriptions on behalf of their member institutions. Another tactic has been to encourage various methods of obtaining free access to journals.

Open access

Developed in part as a response to the serials crisis, open access models have included new models of financing scholarly journals that may serve to reduce the monopoly power of scholarly journal publishers which is considered a contributing factor to the creation of the serials crisis. These include open access journals and open access repositories.

See also

References

  1. ^ Panitch, Judith M; Michalak, Sarah (January 2005), "The Serials Crisis", Hill Scholarly Communications Convocation (white paper), UNC-Chapel.
  2. ^ a b Dingley, Brenda (2005), U.S. Periodical Prices (PDF), US: ALA.
  3. ^ White, Sonya; Creaser, Claire, Trends in Scholarly Journal Prices 2000–2006 (PDF), UK: lboro.
  4. ^ Sample, Ian (24 April 2012). "Harvard University says it can't afford journal publishers' prices". The Guardian.
  5. ^ McAfee, "Summary", Journal (PDF), Caltech.
  6. ^ "Returning Science to the Scientists" (PDF). Münchner Buchwissenschaft an der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität. 2009. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Scientific Publications: Free for all?" (PDF). House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. 2009. Retrieved June 2, 2011.
  8. ^ Sherman, Scott. "University Presses Under Fire". The Nation (26 May 2014). Retrieved 6 March 2015.

Further reading

External links

Academic journal publishing reform

Academic journal publishing reform is the advocacy for changes in the way academic journals are created and distributed in the age of the Internet and the advent of electronic publishing. Since the rise of the Internet, people have organized campaigns to change the relationships among and between academic authors, their traditional distributors and their readership. Most of the discussion has centered on taking advantage of benefits offered by the Internet's capacity for widespread distribution of reading material.

Academic publishing

Academic publishing is the subfield of publishing which distributes academic research and scholarship. Most academic work is published in academic journal article, book or thesis form. The part of academic written output that is not formally published but merely printed up or posted on the Internet is often called "grey literature". Most scientific and scholarly journals, and many academic and scholarly books, though not all, are based on some form of peer review or editorial refereeing to qualify texts for publication. Peer review quality and selectivity standards vary greatly from journal to journal, publisher to publisher, and field to field.

Most established academic disciplines have their own journals and other outlets for publication, although many academic journals are somewhat interdisciplinary, and publish work from several distinct fields or subfields. There is also a tendency for existing journals to divide into specialized sections as the field itself becomes more specialized. Along with the variation in review and publication procedures, the kinds of publications that are accepted as contributions to knowledge or research differ greatly among fields and subfields.

Academic publishing is undergoing major changes, as it makes the transition from the print to the electronic format. Business models are different in the electronic environment. Since the early 1990s, licensing of electronic resources, particularly journals, has been very common. An important trend, particularly with respect to journals in the sciences, is open access via the Internet. In open access publishing, a journal article is made available free for all on the web by the publisher at the time of publication. Both open and closed journals are sometimes funded by the author paying an Article processing charge, thereby shifting some fees from the reader to the researcher or their funder. Many open or closed journals fund their operations without such fees. The Internet has facilitated open access self-archiving, in which authors themselves make a copy of their published articles available free for all on the web. Some important results in mathematics have been published only on arXiv.

DPubS

DPubS (Digital Publishing System), developed by Cornell University Library and Penn State University Libraries, is a free open access publication management software. DPubS arose out of Project Euclid, an electronic publishing platform for journals in mathematics and statistics. DPubS is free software released under Educational Community License.

History of open access

The idea and practise of providing free online access to journal articles began at least a decade before the term "open access" was formally coined. Computer scientists had been self-archiving in anonymous ftp archives since the 1970s and physicists had been self-archiving in arxiv since the 1990s. The Subversive Proposal to generalize the practice was posted in 1994.The term "open access" itself was first formulated in three public statements in the 2000s: the Budapest Open Access Initiative in February 2002, the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing in June 2003, and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities in October 2003, and the initial concept of open access refers to an unrestricted online access to scholarly research primarily intended for scholarly journal articles.

Library.nu

Library.nu, previously called ebooksclub.org from 2004 to 2007 and gigapedia.com from 2007 to 2010, was a popular linking website. It was accused of copyright infringement and it was shut down by court order on February 15, 2012. According to the takedown notice, it hosted some 400,000 ebooks.

NASIG

NASIG (formerly, the North American Serials Interest Group, Inc.) is an independent professional association of librarians and academic publishing professionals, working to advance and transform the management of information resources in all formats and business models, with an emphasis on scholarly communications, serials and electronic resources. Founded in 1985, NASIG is registered in the state of New York as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Open access

Open access (OA) is a mechanism by which research outputs are distributed online, free of cost or other barriers, and, in its most precise meaning, with the addition of an open license applied to promote reuse.Academic articles (as historically seen in print-based academic journals) have been the main focus of the movement. Conventional (non-open access) journals cover publishing costs through access tolls such as subscriptions, site licenses or pay-per-view charges. Open access can be applied to all forms of published research output, including peer-reviewed and non peer-reviewed academic journal articles, conference papers, theses, book chapters, and monographs.

Outline of library science

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to library science:

Library science – study of issues related to libraries and the information fields. This includes academic studies regarding how library resources are used and how people interact with library systems. The organization of knowledge for efficient retrieval of relevant information is also a major research goal of library science. Being interdisciplinary, it overlaps with computer science, various social sciences, statistics, and systems analysis. It is also called "library and information science", abbreviated "LIS".

Scholarly communication

Scholarly communication is the process by which academics, scholars, and researchers share and publish their research findings so that they are available to the wider academic community and beyond.

Scientific journal

In academic publishing, a scientific journal is a periodical publication intended to further the progress of science, usually by reporting new research.

Serial (publishing)

In publishing and library and information science, the term serial is applied to materials "in any medium issued under the same title in a succession of discrete parts, usually numbered (or dated) and appearing at regular or irregular intervals with no predetermined conclusion."

The Cost of Knowledge

The Cost of Knowledge is a protest by academics against the business practices of academic journal publisher Elsevier. Among the reasons for the protests were a call for lower prices for journals and to promote increased open access to information. The main work of the project was to ask researchers to sign a statement committing not to support Elsevier journals by publishing, performing peer review, or providing editorial services for these journals.

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