March 14, 2001

Gina Psaki, Chair, University Library Committee

Crisis in commercial scholarly publishing and serials costs

The University Library Committee has identified the crisis in commercial scholarly publishing as a top priority for consideration in AY 2000-2001. We've put a memo on the Senate web site which describes this crisis, lays out some possible local and national approaches to it, and requests that the UO Senate address and either endorse or modify the recommendations we make, below.

The problem is huge and complex, and extensive research and discussion have already been dedicated to it by the research library community and university faculties. Initiatives such as Open Archives, SPARC and Create Change are aimed at reconfiguring the way scholarly research is disseminated and acknowledged. An appendix to this memo contains links to URLs and bibliography containing documentation and further information on this pressing issue.

I. Background

During the past decade, due largely to the commercialization of scholarly publishing, journal subscription costs have increased at an average of 9-11% per year. The UO faculty has been forced to identify journal titles to cancel, with the result that we have cut 14% of our titles ($850,000 or 2400 titles since 1992). This amount represents two-and-a-half times the average of research libraries nationwide, showing that the crisis is acute at the UO and must be addressed now.

In addition, according to Acting University Librarian Deb Carver, "the new funding model does not dedicate an increase to cover the costs of inflation in books and journals;" calculating an 8.5% annual increase in journals costs, "another cancellation project of approximately $400,000 will be necessary in 2003/2004" even assuming an annual 4-5% increase in our budget.

So far we've reacted by simply cutting journal titles across all disciplines. We can't keep doing this, and it hasn't helped so far. First, the commercial publishers show no signs of moderating their journal price increases, and the result of continuing to cut some serials in order to continue purchasing others whose prices are predicted to increase by 8 ­ 8 *% per year, would be to concentrate the library acquisitions budget in fewer and fewer journals. Second, in some cases the cancellation of titles seems to have accelerated the price increases. Finally, the journals most drastically affected are in the sciences ($1.7 million of our annual $3 million annual serials budget), yet all the disciplines have seen their journal titles cut (the arts and humanities account for c. $280,000 of that $3 million).

The reason that commercial publishers have increased subscription prices so dramatically is simple: they can. Certain journals have been considered so essential ­ for keeping up with the field, for tenure and promotion credentials, etc. ­ that the publishers have felt confident that no matter what their cost, research libraries would be forced to buy them. Academic institutions subsidize research, and then must purchase the very same research at absurdly inflated prices. We have to address this problem not only at the point of purchase, but also at the point of generation, of this research.

The research library and academic community are beginning to respond to this dynamic with a variety of approaches aimed at reforming the entire system of scholarly publishing. Many of these approaches are listed and endorsed below. The UO should be considering formal adoption of the Tempe principles (see II.D for URL) which endorse alternatives to the current scenario of scholarly publishing.

II. Recommendations

In consultation with the library administrators and subject specialists, and library representatives from several UO departments, the ULC makes the following recommendations to the university community:

III. Request to the UO Senate

The ULC invites the UO Senate to consult the extensive documentation on this urgent problem, to discuss the ULC recommendations at its earliest convenience, and to either endorse or modify the recommendations for referral to the university administration.

2000-2001 ULC members: Gina Psaki (Chair), Romance Languages; Zena Ariola, CIS; Rebecca Dorsey, Geological Sciences; Martha Bayless, English; Esther Jacobson-Tepfer, Art History; Daniel Pope, History; Richard Sundt, Art History; Michael Raymer, Physics; Paul Dassonville, Psychology; Marc Vanscheeuwijck, Music History; Jennifer Greenough, student representative; Eric Bailey, student representative; Deborah Carver (ex officio), Library; Sheila Gray (Support Staff), Library


ULC Minutes 2000-2001 ULC Minutes 2000-2001 These minutes will link you to many of the following URLs and sources:
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