Journals and platforms – a stable relationship? Neigh!

I’ve told this tail so often, it’s making me horse!

Some ejournals are published on one platform only, and all their content can be found in place.  However, some journals’ content is found across multiple platforms.  Note the routes and years covered in this example:

OJLS multiple access routes

OJLS – Oxford Journals Archive 1981-1995, HeinOnline 1981-1998, LexisLibrary 1999-present

To explain this, I’ve developed a story about racehorses and stables.  Journals are like racehorses, in that they are born in one stable (or publisher, or platform), and may be traded during their professional lives.

OJLS racehorseConsider the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies (OJLS).  This racehorse started its career at the stable called Oxford Journals.  Some time later, a new racehorse owner called HeinOnline was interested in buying OJLS, and moved OJLS into a new stable*.  After a while, LexisNexis bought OJLS from HeinOnline and the journal moved again, this time to LexisLibrary.

Archive access travelled with OJLS in the move from Oxford Journals to HeinOnline, but not  in the move between HeinOnline and LexisLibrary (hence the lack of overlap in content).  This is due to differences in the contracts agreed at each sale.

When you look at one journal over the course of its history, its content may be hosted by a number of platforms.

OJLS stablesIf you consider any individual platform at a particular point in time, it will host a variety of journals, and this will change over time as its parent publisher buys and sells content.LexisLibrary stableE-resources software acts like a kaleidoscope for viewing our ejournal collection. There will be a way to view all our platforms (equivalent to the stable in the equestrian metaphor), another to see a list of all journal titles (the racehorses), and possibly a discovery layer which allows you to search all article records regardless of journal or platform (let’s call that the horseshoe level).

Here are these views for EBSCO and Ex Libris systems:

EBSCO and ExLibris interfacesLeave me a comment to let me know of others!

See also: Journals and matryoshka (Russian) dolls

*Update: Thanks to Terry Bucknell for his comment that in the OJLS example, some content was licensed to Hein and Lexis aggregators, but the title did not change ownership; and Damyanti Patel who revised this as a tale about what local access is available from various places and why, rather than the history of the journal.

Just goes to show what I can’t see because my access is limited by paywalls!

Academia will eat itself*: the awkward love triangle of scholarly publishing

*With apologies to Pop Will Eat Itself, and thanks to my colleague Becky for the idea

The problem

There are three major stakeholder groups in scholarly publishing: publishers, academics, and libraries. The awkward love triangle arises because each of these groups needs one of the others, but this relationship is not symmetrical between any two parties. This reminded me of the German chemist Kekulé, who had a dream about a snake eating its own tail, which inspired him to propose a cyclic (ring) structure for benzene. Because of the asymmetrical love triangle, it’s difficult to reach agreement through negotiation, as none of the three stakeholder groups can bargain fairly with each other.  One party needs something from another, but it’s always the other who holds all the cards.


Publishers need academics, as without their research output, there would be no market for scholarly publications. Librarians need publishers, as this is the only way they can purchase access to academic materials for library collections (both print and online). Academics need to read, and to get their research published (both to advance their field and because of the prestige, specifically that which comes from publishing in journals with high impact factors).  They expect books to be on the shelves/articles to be available online, and are not usually interested in the financial/collection managements aspects of how they came to be there. Researchers need librarians to manage the library collection; and make it discoverable (cataloguing and metadata) and accessible (arrangement in physical buildings, technology behind online access, inter-library loan agreements).  However, as the balance of library collections shifts towards digital and away from physical media, this role is becoming less visible. Publishers argue that despite declining print publications and associated overheads, the cost of e-resources publication justifies their continued high prices and indeed annual price rises, in a time of budget cuts for many library services.  These cuts often mean that not only can we not afford any new subscriptions, but we often have to cut some existing titles just to be able to maintain core subscriptions, which are growing more expensive every year.  For acquisition teams purchasing materials in currencies other than British pounds sterling, this problem is exacerbated by fluctuating exchange rates.  And don’t get me started on VAT…

Where is the added value in academic publishing?

However, the key ingredient that makes scholarly publishing valuable is the peer review process.  The details and timeline vary between disciplines, but this is an outline of how the process work. Academics sit on editorial boards and review papers submitted for publication in a journal.  During this process, errors will be identified and suggestions made for clarification or extension of the work, so that by the time an academic article has been published, it will have undergone a rigorous review process. It is important to note that the publishers do not usually pay peer reviewers for their work.  So the core principle which makes this type of publishing “scholarly” is in fact not part of the financial mechanism.  And yet, where are all the profits going?

Access to knowledge

In order to protect their revenues, academic publishers host their content on platforms which are protected by a paywall, so you can only (legally) access the content if you are an authorised user – usually a current student or staff member at a university with a current subscription to the content you’re trying to access. Access to scholarly content is very difficult for those without a university affiliation, and is becoming harder as more content is available online rather than in print at university libraries, because the licencing restrictions for e-resources are generally less favourable to walk-in users than the rules for the same content in print format.  For example: switching from print books to ebooks limits access to content for walk-in users, who would otherwise have been entitled to come in and consult the print copy. What about access for researchers whose university library has a subscription to a particular platform, but not the specific content they wish to read?  Niche subjects are particularly vulnerable as pressures on budgets oblige libraries to focus on core, high-use subscriptions. Some researchers do not have university affiliations; for example, they may work on projects funded by charities or funding councils; and many will not have access to digital or print collections except as a walk-in user. Not everyone who is capable of making a valid contribution to our sum of knowledge is working as an academic, losing us the scholarly potential of all those who are in other forms of employment, or unemployed, or retired, or studying outside the HE system (e.g. at school, or independently). Questions:

  • As a society, what value do we place on universal access to knowledge, and how much money should we make available to pay for it?
  • Should the results of publicly-funded research should be freely available for all to read?
  • Does the current purchasing system in which scholarly articles can only be bought from one publisher amount to a monopoly on legal access to that knowledge?
  • What is an appropriate pricing strategy for access to knowledge (especially that which was not created or moderated by the seller)?
  • How will digital media affect our laws about copyright and copying?  These laws were originally developed for print media and are increasingly at odds with behaviour in a digital environment (e.g. format shifting).

Value and price

Despite the best efforts of a presenter at the UKSG conference last month, I am not convinced that publishers and librarians share the same values. For example, consider our beliefs about what happens to the value of knowledge once it is shared: for many information professionals, sharing knowledge increases its value; whereas to publishers, if this happens without money changing hands, it represents a lost revenue stream. Does knowledge depreciate?  This matters when it comes to the issue of embargoes in the Green OA model.  For example, a 12-month embargo on articles in literature or history will be much less of an obstacle in that field than the same embargo in medicine or financial mathematics.  The stats on article downloads show that the half-life of papers in the sciences is much shorter than in the humanities.

Open Access?

The problem with Open Access is that neither the gold nor the green options challenge the underlying publishers’ pricing model.  The Gold OA model, an article processing charge (APC) is payable when an article is submitted for publication, effectively shifting the cost from pay-to-access to pay-to-publish. We are currently living in the second information revolution – like the printing press before it, the availability of information via the internet is having wide-ranging effects on the way we live.  In both cases, the sudden change in how much it cost to make information available held great promise for a more democratic and inclusive culture, as well as a scramble for political and financial control of the new medium. The additional layer of social media, which allows us to connect with each other in a way that overcomes barriers of geography, time zones, and social hierarchy; allows us a second chance at a period of Enlightenment.  Perhaps our Twitter connections and special interest groups on LinkedIn are a modern version of the 18th-century coffeehouses where people met to discuss new ideas

Possible solutions

  • Organise a No Access Day to raise awareness of subscription resources and their costs (like a boycott)

However, this is rather negative and seems rather too much like going on strike. I think it’s key to get academics involved, as they are the only stakeholders who can put pressure on the publishers.  How about:

  • Encourage academics get involved in boycotts e.g. signing up to The Cost of Knowledge, a site where academics publicly sign up to a boycott of Elsevier
  • Encourage academics to make different choices about where they publish e.g. switching to true* open access journals such as Public Library of Science (PLOS)

*By “true” open access journals, I mean those of not-for-profit publishers rather than those from commercial publishers whose open access is funded by APCs.

  • Educate academics about how publishing with the Big Publishers often involves signing away their intellectual property rights – if this makes them angry, perhaps they will mobilise and act with us?
  • Appeal to academics’ sense of the value of universal education and the reduction of cost barriers to education for everyone

What do you think?  Could this be an opportunity for a wholesale review of the economics of scholarly publishing?

JISC Collections Roadshow

My summary of yesterday’s JISC Collections Roadshow in Edinburgh/Musselburgh

Report on JISC Collections satisfaction survey (Vicky Legge)

  • High priority from respondents that licences should be 100% compliant with the NESLi2 model licence
  • Open Access main priority is gaining discounts on APCs

I can’t help wondering about value of satisfaction survey about a product you’re virtually obliged to use… it’s not like there’s much choice!

Update on upcoming renewals (Richard Savory)

  • “We have no control whatsoever about how much they increase the access fee…”
  • “Keeping price increases as low as possible” but this still means we’re having to make cuts as our budgets shrink…
  • Possible movement between JISC bands to reflect budget situation? Not going to help if we all shift down one
  • Seeking clarity over post-cancellation access – perpetual access to previously paid-for content
  • Negotiations are seeking to ensure that licences take APCs paid into account to avoid double-dipping
  • Usage trends: usage is up 2012 vs 2011 on the whole. Exceptions: IoP (-1%), Project MUSE (-0.14%). Maybe to do with Arxiv/Open Access?
  • Nature Publishing Group goes from strength to strength re: usage, making it hard to keep price increases down
  • ACS usage flat; RSC up on last year
  • Small publishers update: 21 new offers this year; new deals for BMC, ICE, NRC, RSM, Zeta Books; several more under consideration for 2014

JISC bands (Carolyn Alderson)

  • JISC bands changing from A-E to 1-6 to introduce slight increase for band 1 & decrease for band 6 (and some of 5) – spread costs a bit more
  • One band E institution is changing to band 5, with 28.72% increase
  • Several mentions of increasing charges tied to increasing usage… but increased usage doesn’t change the publishers’ overheads, so why charge more?

Update from Thomson Reuters

  • “It’s the year of the WoK renewal!”
  • He is going to try to explain the difference between WoK and WoS (good luck with that) [@richperkinslib: My attempt at a stir-fry in a wos was a miserable failure]
  • “It’s more difficult for you to manage than it is for us to administer” and an acknowledgement of difficulties accommodating walk-in users!
  • New search architecture for WoK
  • Transforming WoS into WoK: expansion of citations, extension of regional content, a new design philosophy

Pondering: publishers – which of you would like to be first to be well-known for a good reason rather than a bad one?

  • WoS (product) = past, WoK (platform) = future. So that’s that, then.  New pricing model will be more like a Big Deal bundle
  • Medline… available through variety of vendors. But if the product isn’t the same, why keep same name? Very hard for users to grasp difference
  • Thomson Reuters are looking to introduce a common metadata standard across repositories
  • “We need to break free from the shackles of…” Sadly the rep paused to think and then steered sentence in new direction
  • Someone asks about how to reconcile availability of more info with shrinking budgets…
  • … Rep: “these are the cards we’ve been dealt… we just have to work with it”

Seems like the elephant in the room is The Cost Of Your Subs Is Just Too High

  • JISC employee suggests that new bands may help – no they won’t, all they do is redistribute costs, not challenge prices!
  • From ‏@moananddrone (MT): Indeed. This is why Gold OA with corporate publishers is a fallacy as their APCs are defined by brand, not measured by cost.

Demo of Knowledge Base+

I wrote about KB+ in my Highlights from UKSG post.

@orangeaurochs I’m going to write a murder mystery which is solved using the knowledge that no two lists of ebooks are ever identical.

– seems especially appropriate during presentation about combining and managing data sources in KB+!

JUSP (Vicky Legge)

  • JUSP [the Journal Usage Statistics Portal] provides a single point of access to ejournal usage data – can use federated login
  • 152 UK HE and research council libraries in JUSP, and over 50 publishers. Can use it for SCONUL returns
  • JUSP can help you identify usage of core titles in a deal, and compare with unsubscribed titles in the deal
  • JUSP is a free service!

Janet update (Robert Prabucki)

  • Janet is the UK’s National Research & Education Network (NREN) – private network provider
  • Janet is not-for-profit, and is part of the new company called “JISC Collections & Janet”
  • Janet national backbone and regional hubs being upgraded – Janet6 will be switched on this month

JISC eCollections update (Richard Savory)

  • JISC MediaHub has improved advanced search, new MyMediaHub section, new collections including and Courtald

And a bit of chat about licences…

Decision tool for determining if partner college students count as HE authorised users… Survey results re: decision tool suggest that it didn’t help to clarify the situation about whether partner college students counted

Le sigh. RT @daveyp: @laurajwilkinson Think we were once told by a vendor “just don’t ask” when we asked about partner colleges 😀

I asked a question about whether JISC Collections have the appetite for renegotiating some of the T&Cs of the licences.  The wording of parts of the NESLi2 licences is out of step with the variety of modes of study that are available at many UK HE institutions, and above all, the wording has evolved from the regulations for print materials, which don’t translate well into a digital environment.

One of the JISC Collections employees said that various documents were available to help with clarifying what you can and can’t do (e.g. exactly who our authorised users are) but I explained that this creates uncertainty and that senior library staff may not be willing to take a risk on interpretation – it is better for the original rules to be straightforward.

My suggested rewriting of the Ts&Cs:

I license this resource for educational, non-commercial use only; and I trust my professional library colleagues to do what is necessary to enable such use to any and all users who wish it.  Love, [publisher] xx