Attacking publishers will not make open access any more sustainable | Graham Taylor | Science | 2012-05-26


“... To be clear from the outset, we fully support expanding public access to publicly funded research. One only has to look at what has happened over the past year, especially since the publication of the government's Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth and the convening of theFinch Group to recommend strategy for extending access to global research for UK researchers. This is a process in which publishers have engaged fully and are making great strides to promote enduring, financially sustainable, open access models.We also made a significant announcement on 2 May – on the day that the universities and science minister, David Willetts, came to speak at the Publishers Association AGM – that publishers are exploring fee-waived walk-in access via the public library network. As the minister pointed out, this proposed PA initiative would be a very useful way to extend public access to research outputs currently only available through subscription.  These are not merely words: a working group of journal publishers and public librarians is taking this work forward on behalf of the PA. A preliminary technical report should be available by mid-June with the objective of enabling access by the end of the year. This facility is already available through university libraries, although whether these libraries choose to allow walk-in access is a matter for them.  Much of the focus of this debate has been on the value of peer review and the role that scholars and researchers play in this process. By implication publishers are perceived as contributing very little, other than simply assembling articles into journals and pushing them onto cash-strapped libraries to make a gargantuan profit. That is a gross distortion of reality.  And at a time when we are looking for an export-led recovery, UK-based scholarly publishers account for over £1bn in export sales.  Perhaps most important of all, from an access point of view, is the amount publishers have invested in platforms that support researchers in numerous ways. These include investments in article enhancement, visualisation, social networking, and mobile technology; valuable tools such as searchable image databases, navigation, alerts and citation notifications, and reference analysis. Publishers are also working on text-mining tools; linking to the datasets behind journal articles; and research performance measurement tools such as SciVal.  But it seems to be much easier to belittle the role of publishers than to have a serious look at what is being provided.  The debate about the cost of journals is made difficult by the fact that there are wide variations across the industry, and of course competition issues debar any collaboration. However, in 2010 – the last year for which Society of College, National and University Libraries data are available – UK universities had access to 2.42m journal subscriptions, an increase of 93% over 2006. The price paid for these subscriptions, £134m, increased by only 31% over the same period, so the price paid per journal accessed actually fell by 32%.  In 2010, universities spent 0.54% of their total institutional expenditure on subscriptions to journals and 20% of their library budget, which in turn was 2.7% of total institutional expenditure. Journal collections or ‘big deals’, though often criticised, have contributed significantly to this reduction in unit costs by enabling the most popular material to be sold at a lower price with an added extra slice of research material on top. And of course libraries can choose either to subscribe to these broad collections (against substantial discounts) or to purchase individual titles... Unfortunately, publishers seem to be part of a broader backlash against perceived corporate greed and abrogation of social responsibility. But publishers are entitled and need to make a profit. Profits derive from efficiency, profits fund investment and drive innovation, and profits are taxed – which provides the public money to fund research. Scholarly publishers support 10,000 jobs in the UK and we are significant net revenue earners for the UK. The members of the Publishers Association pay more in taxes to the UK exchequer t


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Tags: oa.business_models oa.publishers oa.policies oa.mining oa.comment oa.government oa.universities oa.societies oa.peer_review oa.metrics oa.impact oa.quality oa.social_media oa.sustainability oa.prices oa.hybrid oa.profits oa.budgets oa.publishers_association oa.colleges oa.finch_report oa.librarires oa.repositories oa.hei oa.journals oa.economics_of

Date tagged:

05/26/2012, 14:06

Date published:

05/26/2012, 10:06