Saturday, February 21, 2009

Elsevier plus LexisNexis earned more than $1.5 billion in PROFIT in 2008

The global market for science, technology and medicine scholarly publishing has been described as inelastic. There is perhaps no better proof than the financial reports of the scholarly publishing industry for 2008. At a time of global economic crisis, two of Reed Elsevier's divisions just reported INCREASED PROFITS.

Together, Elsevier and LexisNexis together earned over $1.5 billion US in profit in 2008, according to Elsevier's 2008 Preliminary Results, available for download from the Elsevier website. Let me emphasize - this is PROFIT, not revenue.

Libraries - negotiating tip. What does a 33% profit mean? One way of looking at this: if Elsevier decreased prices 33% for all customers around the world, they would still be doing just fine, breaking even. If Elsevier decreased prices for all customers around the world by 20%, they would still be making an extremely healthy profit of 13%. Why not demand a 20% cut, and redirect the funds to support for open access?


2008 Elsevier Revenue: 1,700 million pounds sterling (over $2.4 billion US)
Adjusted operating profit: 538 pounds sterling (over $814 billion US)
Adjusted operating margin: 33%
Elsevier revenue was up 4%, profits, 11%

2008 LexisNexis Revenue: 1,950 million pounds sterling (close to $2.8 billion US)
Adjusted operating profit: £513 (735 million US)
Adjusted operating margin: 26%
LexisNexis revenue up 13% from previous year, profits up 18%

This post is part of the Essential Efficiencies series.

Open access policy development: some thoughts on process

If your university or funding agency is one of the many working on developing on open access policy, here are some thoughts on process to complement Peter Suber's excellent synopsis of elements of good OA policy in the February 2009 SPARC Open Access Newsletter.

As tempting as it is to implement and announce that new OA policy quickly, it is more important, from my perspective, to have a strong policy, one with no loopholes, and a sound plan for implementation.

IF your organization is ready to take the leap on a strong policy, absolutely go for it! If however, there is a sentiment that OA policy needs to be approached slowly and stepwise, there are advantages to taking longer to develop a strong policy, than it is to jump in with a weak policy and revise it later.

A good interim step is to start with a declaration of support for open access, such as signing the Berlin or Budapest declarations, and an intention to develop a green OA policy. Set up an organizational task force to study OA policies and implementation procedures, oversee a consultation process, and make recommendations. Does your institution have an institutional repository, or does this need to be developed? Is the approach of relying on contents in the open access archive for tenure and promotion decisions or grant applications a good fit for your organization? If not, what other procedures will be used to ensures compliance?

This is a good way to get researchers actively involved in policy development, and provides an opportunity for education about open access and scholarly communication. It may be the best way to encourage researchers to develop OA policy themselves, as the faculty at Harvard did.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Towards the corporation of the commons

Kudos to drug giant GlaxoSmithKline, the world's second-largest pharmaceutical company, for a radical shift in strategy that is anticipated to stun the industry. The new head of GSK Andrew Witty, in an article in The Guardian:


He said that GSK will:

• Cut its prices for all drugs in the 50 least developed countries to no more than 25% of the levels in the UK and US – and less if possible – and make drugs more affordable in middle-­income countries such as Brazil and India.

• Put any chemicals or processes over which it has intellectual property rights that are relevant to finding drugs for neglected diseases into a "patent pool", so they can be explored by other researchers.

• Reinvest 20% of any profits it makes in the least developed countries in hospitals, clinics and staff.

• Invite scientists from other companies, NGOs or governments to join the hunt for tropical disease treatments at its dedicated institute at Tres Cantos, Spain.


It is the shift in view of intellectual property that is likely to be seen as most radical by other drug companies - and most transformative from the author's point of view, as an early example of what may become the corporation of the commons: leading in both innovation and responsibility. Is this approach the perfect solution? It is far too soon to tell. There is room for criticism - what impact will this have on current approaches to generic drugs in the developing world, for example. Nevertheless, it is a bold move, and a huge leap in the right direction.

Thanks to Gavin Baker on Open Access News.

This post is part of the Creative Globalization series.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

U.S. Open Access / Copyright Urgent Call to Action

U.S. Open Access / Copyright Advocates: please take action to oppose the INAPPROPRIATELY NAMED H.R. 801 – The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (Conyers bill).

In brief, this is an effort by the publishing industry to change U.S. copyright law to make it impossible for the U.S. to require open access to federally funded research. The immediate aim is to stop the U.S. National Institutes of Health from requiring public access to the research it funds. The implications of this bill are profound and far-reaching, as it basically changes copyright law and federal procurement procedures. In the rush to address the economic situation, a bill like this could easily be passed as part of an omnibus piece of legislation, without appropriate review.

REAL fair copyright advocates EVERYWHERE should take note of this attempt to change copyright law. The companies responsible for this are multinational in nature. Many are not even based in the U.S.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Open access, disciplinary and institutional archives

There are two major types of open access archives, institutional and disciplinary (or subject) archives. This post explains why disciplinary / subject archives are optimum for searching and have an advantage in the short term for growth, as well as why institutional archives are also necessary.

For the searcher, the optimum will almost always be the disciplinary / subject archives. In the short term, this gives a tremendous advantage to disciplinary archives like PubMedCentral, arXiv, rePEc,and E-LIS. Researchers generally tend to search for literature primarily within their own discipline, so this approach makes sense to the researcher. arXiv is heavily used by physicists, so of course physicists want to deposit their work here, so that it will be read. It is no wonder, then, that the disciplinary archives are relatively successful. PubMedCentral is the world's largest open access archive, with over a million items.

Medical research funding agency policies require deposit in PubMedCentral. This makes sense. Literature that is deposited in PMC is more useful for searchers. This locus of deposit fits with the preference for searching medical literature. This creates incentives towards open access beyond the literature mandated for open access. We are already seeing this with hundreds of journals voluntarily contributing all contents to PMC, many for immediate open access.

Institutional archives are also necessary, for a number of reasons, two of which are listed here. First, the majority of disciplines do not have disciplinary archives, so this is necessary. More will likely be developed, but given that many institutions now have archives, future disciplinary archives may well be developed within institutional archives. Second, institutional archives will provide functions and services to institutions beyond what disciplinary archives can do, such as showcasing the work of the university, its departments and faculty to potential donors, including the public and politicians for publicly funded institution, and potential students. The more substantial the research output of a university, the more the university stands to gain from the institutional repository.

Software for open access archives is being developed to facilitate cross-deposit, so it does not disadvantage one type of archive if an open access policy requires deposit in another archive.

Terminology note: the author uses the term "open access archive" where others use "repository". In my opinion, "open access archive" clearly states the purpose of the service, i.e. providing open access and preservation, in a way that "repository" does not. It is understood that not all items in such archives will be available for open access.

Canada, let's fix the open access policy loophole BEFORE we harmonize

The FRQS open access policy relies on four principles (thanks to Jim Till, who has some interesting comments on the policy).

One of the principles is that of harmonization. Canada's research funding agencies all want their open access policies to be in harmony with each other, to avoid duplication and to facilitate compliance for researchers.

There is much to be said for harmonization - except when it involves copying a bad model for policy. Before harmonizing, Canada, let's fix the loophole.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research' Policy on Access to Research Outputs is ALMOST a model policy - the maximum 6-month embargo, beautiful language on the value of open access, support for open access publishing and open data, and a call to review the embargo with a view to shortening it.

Alas, this policy falls very, very short of a being a model, as it is known around the world as the LOOPHOLE MODEL. As stated in the CIHR policy: Publications must be freely accessible within six months of publication, where allowable and in accordance with publisher policies. Or, as a researcher at UBC recently expressed it: CIHR says you gotta make your work open access. Unless you don't.

This sentence should be changed to:

Publications must be freely accessible within six months of publication. Period. Full stop. The contract between the researcher, CIHR, and ultimately, the Canadian taxpayer, comes prior to any agreement with a publisher. The vast majority of publishers already routinely allow self-archiving of articles for open access, as can be viewed from the Sherpa RoMEO Publisher Copyright Policies and Self-Archiving page. More will allow self-archiving when it is required by a research funder. Look for the "white" publishers in Sherpa RoMEO - for publishers that normally allow no self-archiving at all - and you will see that many are compliant with research funding agencies' open access policies.

If CIHR is looking for evidence of what is needed in open access policy, the U.S. National Institutes of Health provides a great model of why NOT to bother with a weak policy; with language merely encouraging open access, rather than requiring it, in 2004 the compliance rate was a dismal rate of about 4%. This was fixed in 2008, when the policy became a requirement.

added February 10 - from Peter Suber on Open Access News

Comment.  Hear, hear.  See my original criticism of the loophole in the CIHR policy (September 2007).  Also see my subsequent criticism of OA policy loopholes, most recently in point #10 of my article in the February SOAN published last week:

...There are two basic ways for you to secure the needed permissions for OA and steer clear of copyright infringement. 

First, you could get the permissions from publishers, after authors transfer their rights.  In practice, mandates of this type require OA to a certain version on a certain timetable except when the grantee's publisher won't allow it.  The funder policy defers to publisher policies.  For example, the UK Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) requires OA "where this is permitted by publishers' licensing or copyright arrangements".  The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) requires OA "where allowable and in accordance with publisher policies".

Second, you could close this loophole and get the permissions from authors before authors transfer any rights to publishers.  Mandates of this type take advantage of the fact that funders are upstream from publishers and their funding contracts bind researchers long before those researchers sign copyright transfer agreements with publishers.  Your funding contract can require grantees to retain the right to authorize OA on your terms.  When a given publisher will not allow OA on your terms, you can require the grantee to look for another publisher.  This approach was pioneered by the Wellcome Trust in 2004 and subsequently adopted by the Arthritis Research Campaign (ARC, UK), Cancer Research UK (CR-UK), Department of Health (UK), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI, US), Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC, UK), Medical Research Council (MRC, UK), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH, US).

The first method removes all the teeth from the mandate and puts publisher interests ahead of funder interests.... The second method mandates OA to all the funder's research, not just a subset of it, and replaces contingent publisher permission with assured author permission....

Recommendation:  If you're serious about wanting OA for the research you fund, close the loophole and adopt the second strategy....

This post is part of the Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement series.

Towards PubMedCentral Canada: update

From the National Research Council (NRC) - CISTI Partnership Development Office.

PubMed Central Canada – NRC-CISTI and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) are working together on plans for PMC Canada — a national digital repository of peer-reviewed health science research resulting from CIHR funding. NRC-CISTI and CIHR have approached the US National Library Medicine to co-sponsor the service, as a mirror site to PubMed Central. CIHR will provide the funding and NRC-CISTI will contribute its technological expertise to build and host the infrastructure and manage and develop the e-repository.

Update: CISTI-CIHR partnership agreement signed (September 2008) – Over the summer, NRC-CISTI and CIHR completed the first step in the creation of PMC Canada – an agreement to partner on creating the e-repository. With CIHR funding now in place, the partners are currently working on the next step, obtaining agreement from the US National Library of Medicine for PMC Canada to 'officially' become part of the broader PubMed Central International (PMCI) network. Once this three-way agreement is in place, the development phase of PMC Canada can begin.

Comment: PubMedCentral International is a great example of win-win-win for everyone. U.S. citizens benefit from a mirror site of the original PMC that helps to ensure preservation and public access, as well as the metadata and documents from Canadian health research that will eventually be deposited first into PMC. For Canada, PMC-Canada means a local open access archive for depositing and archiving results of research funded here, added security for preservation and public access, and a portal to medical literature that can be customized to meet Canadian needs, such as bilingualism. So far, there is only one PMC site operational outside of the U.S, UK-PMC.

Thanks to Jim Till.

This post is part of the Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement series.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

FRSQ Policy regarding open access to published research outputs

Québec's Fonds de la Recherche en Santé has released their Policy regarding open access to published research outputs.

From the Preamble:

The Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ) is mandated to promote and fund research, researcher training, and knowledge dissemination. As a manager of public funds, it is firmly committed to ensuring that the full potential of research outputs is used and that the return on research investments is optimized so that society as a whole can reap the benefits thereof. In adopting this Policy, the FRSQ, reaffirming the independence of researchers and repeating its acknowledgement of their crucial role in developing research, intends to establish measures that will structure and support researchers' initiatives to disseminate research outputs and thereby foster open access to them when possible.

Comment: this is a policy with a focus on education, and clear strength in indicating the preference for open access. The wording of this policy suggests further support for open access will follow.

Thanks to Stevan Harnad on the American Scientist Open Access Forum.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Government Transparency via Open Data and Open Source

Government Transparency via Open Data and Open Source by Jennifer Bell, Executive Director of,Open Source Business Resource, February 2009, fits in the Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement series.


Industry analyst Gartner describes web services based on open government data as having a "greater potential effect on the ability to transform government than anything else in the Web 2.0 world". In his technology platform, Barack Obama has made groundbreaking promises related to increasing government accountability by: i) publishing data in open formats; and ii) using online tools to involve citizens in government decision making. These transformative ideas have not yet spread to politics in Canada.

As citizens, we trust that money is being wisely spent on the systems that run our country. We trust that the people governing us have the skills, time, and information they need to make the best decisions. We trust that bureaucracies are well-designed and that the people in them are motivated to make those bureaucracies better. Unfortunately, it's hard to trust what you can't see. By publishing information in open, machine-readable formats, governments can take a powerful step towards building public trust. By sharing information, governments can start to channel the expertise of the citizenry outside of the civil service to build more effective and inclusive ways of running the country.

The non-profit is working to make online tools for civic participation based on open government data a reality in Canada. This article describes why open government data is not only a requirement for greater government transparency, but also a valuable investment in our country's infrastructure.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Irving K. Barber Learning Centre supports Open Access Resources

Spotted at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre website, UBC Library:

Did you know that UBC Library supports Open Access resources?


Open Access Resources @ Irving K. Barber Learning Centre


The goal of digital outreach at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre is to go beyond the walls of campus by providing a flexible and technologically advanced facility that keeps pace with the evolution in information resources and education in the 21st century and beyond. Through the latest technologies in Web 2.0 and social software, the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre offers innovative means and strategies in reaching the farthest corners of the local and global community.

The Irving K. Barber Learning Centre and UBC Library present open access resources as part of our mandate to serve not only as a focal point of education for students and teachers at UBC but also to support lifelong learning by people throughout B.C. and the world. These resources enable everyone in the public to work effectively together in continuing to build a better British Columbia through the sharing of knowledge and information services provided by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre and UBC Library.

Followed by a selected list of OA resources. Thanks to Simon Neame and Allan Cho.

This post is part of the Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement series.