Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Elsevier 2009 $2 billion profits could fund worldwide OA at $1,383 per article

Update November 29, 2011:  Thanks to a comment on Sauropod Vertebra of the Week, I realized that my calculations were off by a bit - thanks to commenter Jeff Hecht at http://svpow.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/economics-of-open-source-publishing/According to Jeff's calculations, dividing Elsevier profit among all 1.5 million articles per year yields only $730 for OA article processing fees, not $1,383 as I had calculated. Nevertheless, this still supports my main point, that this system is not connecting with fiscal reality - the profits of one publisher could support a fully open access system, albeit at a more modest rate than my original calculation.

The original post follows:

Elsevier's Annual Report, reports "robust financial performance in unprecedented global recession", with operating profits up.

Elsevier per se and Lexis-Nexis each earned over $1 billion US IN PROFIT in 2009, for a profit rate of 35% (Elsevier) and 26% (Reed Elsevier). Together, this is MORE THAN $2 billion in profit from scholarly publishing in 2009.

If the total profit from Elsevier and Lexis-Nexis is added together and converted to U.S. dollars, the total is $2,075m. Divided by the estimated worldwide scholarly article output of 1.5 million articles per year (Björk et al, 2008), this comes out to $1,383 U.S.

In other words, the profits of this one company alone could fund a global, fully open access scholarly publishing system, at a rate of $1,383 U.S. per article.

A minority of open access journals charge article processing fees. Of those that do have such charges, some charge more than this amount; however, others charge less.

In other words, the world's scholarly journal article output could be published as fully open access with the funding that currently goes to the profits of just one company in this field.

Calculations are available here. Note currency conversion from GBP April 27, 2010


Björk, B., Roosr, A., & Lauri, M. (2008). Global annual volume of scholarly peer reviewed journal articles and the share available via different open access options. Paper presented at the ELPUB2008. Open Scholarship: Authority, Community, and Sustainability in the Age of Web 2.0 - Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Electronic Publishing Held in Toronto, Canada 25-27 June 2008. Edited by: Leslie Chan and Susanna Mornati. Retrieved from http://elpub.scix.net/cgi-bin/works/Show?178_elpub2008

Reed Elsevier 2009 Annual Report

This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access series.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wiley STM: 3rd quarter profits up 18%

From John Wiley and Sons announces Third Quarter Fiscal Year 2010 Results:

"Global STMS revenue for the third quarter of fiscal year 2010 rose 13% to $228 million"

"Direct contribution to profit for the third quarter increased 18% to $89 million"

Comment: this is a 39% profit rate, at a time when library customers are hit hard by the effects of the Global Economic Crisis. Some of the profits are coming from outsourcing from high cost regions to low-cost regions. The U.S. is losing jobs in spite of all these profits.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Informa (Taylor & Francis etc.): profits up, majority renewing at previous high rates

According to the Informa 2009 Annual Report, the Adjusted Operating Margin (profit) is up to 25.3% in 2009 from 2008's 23.9%. From Highlights, Summaries, and Outlook: "the majority of subscriptions are renewing in line with previous high rates". As Executive Director Peter Rigby puts it, "”During a period of sustained economic decline across the world, our Publishing assets have performed exceptionally well". Publishing is now responsible for 72% of that 25.3% operating profit.

When the majority of customers worldwide are reeling from severe cutbacks from the global economic crisis, this is an excellent example of an inelastic market, not at all responsive to customers.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Concordia University's open access mandate

Congratulations to Concordia!!

Concordia University recently passed an open access mandate. As pointed out in the press released, this is great timing, as next month Concordia will host the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences.

[I will be at Congress this year - co-presenting with Brian Owen at the Canadian Association of Learned Journals AGM on the Open Access Journals Support in Canada research project, and at the Canadian Communication Association meeting, launching my book Scholarly Communication for Librarians and presenting on the Open Content Alliance and the Google Books Settlement].

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

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The direct and indirect benefits of open access for the public

With the Federal Research Public Access Act under discussion in the U.S., it may be timely to review the direct and indirect benefits of open access for the public. Following is an excerpt from an article that Andrew Waller & I wrote for the Library Association of Alberta newsletter in 2004.

Benefits of Open Access

So, what benefits does Open Access bring? For the academic world, as noted, it
could help libraries better cope with subscription costs and provide more stability to budgeting, give researchers more control over their works, and also allow for wider distribution of those works, something most academics desire. What about the “general public”? There are both direct and indirect benefits for the general public.

Direct benefits occur when the public reads the primary research literature. At first glance, it might not seem intuitive that the public would be interested in reading this material. Perhaps this is because there is a tendency to view “the general public” as if it were some homogenous, average group of people. In reality, “the general public” is all of us. Here in Western Canada, “the public” includes a significant percentage of the population with university degrees; graduate degrees are not uncommon. Even academic researchers are members of “the public” outside of their areas of specialty.

The most popular notion of the direct benefits to the general public, and an important one, is the ability of patients and families to directly read the literature relating to medical conditions. The need for this access is perhaps most poignantly felt when someone is diagnosed with a rare, genetic condition, one that doctors know little about, and which might well affect many members of a family.

Another example of a direct benefit is the ability of students outside the research universities to read the primary research literature. Students who begin their studies at smaller colleges or university colleges, and high school students, could have the same access to the literature as students at research universities. This, in turn, would make it easier for educators and librarians at these institutions to help these students develop information literacy skills.

There are also people who are serious hobbyists who are quite capable of following the scholarly literature, and, in some cases, these people are assisting in the advancement of scientific knowledge. One example is astronomy; apparently there are so many serious amateur astronomers in the world, that whenever a new event in the heavens occurs, it is more likely to be reported by an amateur first, rather than a professional.

Indirect benefits to the public could come through the mediation of others. In an OA world, journalists and freelance writers would have ready access to the latest in the research literature. As one example, it could be easier for a journalist to investigate an environmental problem, as well as possible solutions. It could be easier for journalists to translate the latest medical discoveries, to help “the public” understand issues like SARS and AIDS, what causes common diseases (and how they might be prevented), what kinds of treatments might someday be available when we, or our loved ones, need it, and so on.

Finally, the increased exposure to results of the research of our universities can only enhance the value of the universities themselves in the eyes of the public and politicians. Scholars giving away the fruits of their labours can only result in greater support (definitely moral and hopefully financial) for future endeavours.

From: Morrison, Heather and Waller, Andrew Open access : basics and benefits., 2004. Available through E-LIS.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The global scope of the open access movement

This post includes a few small points of clarification in response to one point made in a recent letter by publishers to JISC, as follows:

"It is misleading not to explain to UK universities that the hypothesized “savings” require the rest of the world to support open access. The rest of the world accounts for 93.4% of published articles, only 1-2% of which are ‘gold’ and only 7% of which are ‘green’ today. Until the rest of the world follows UK universities, which would likely take decades based on the current pace of change, UK universities would pay significantly more with no extra benefit". from: letter to M. Read, JISC, from G. Taylor (the Publishers Association), I. Russell (ALPSP) and M. Mabe (STM), March 15, 2010, downloadable from here.


The Houghton report does not assume that the whole world needs to move to open access; the cost savings quoted are based on a scenario of a unilateral move to OA by the UK. While this makes sense for a UK-based economic analysis (the UK Higher Education system cannot require changes elsewhere), the open access movement is actually global in scope. One way to view the UK in the global picture is to look at the Directory of Open Access Journals' statistics by country. Here we see that 406 OA journals are published in the UK, just under 10% of the total number of OA journals listed in DOAJ. The long list of countries publishing OA journals illustrates the global diversity of the movement.

Similarly, the global diversity of the open access repository (green) movement can be easily seen by a search of OpenDOAR "by country". Open access repositories are spread throughout Africa, Australia, North, South, and Central America, as well as Europe.

A global analysis of cost savings from a full switch to open access is likely to show far greater savings for the UK (and every other country) than a unilateral shift. My own macro-level estimate of library savings from a full shift to open access at top-quality PLoS rates is about 2.5 billion USD, or about 56% of current expenditures, as reported in my presentation, Freedom for Scholarship in the Internet Age. This is a conservative estimate in many respects.

This letter understates the current extent of open access. Bjork et al., based on 2006 data, reported that 4.6% of the world's scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles were published open access, with more made freely available by publishers after a delay period, resulting in over 8% of articles made freely available by publishers within a year of publication. Factoring in green self-archiving, the total of freely available fulltext after 2 years was close to 20%. Since 2006, open access has continued to grow dramatically, as I report regularly in my series, The Dramatic Growth of Open Access.

Please note that my focus on this one bullet point does not imply my agreement with the remainder of the letter; rather I thought it important to highlight this particular issue.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

DOAJ Media and Communication list: open data / open knowledge

This DOAJ Media and Communication list for research purposes is released as open data, or more accurately ~
This material is Open Knowledge

Friday, April 16, 2010

International Communication Association on Open Access

Update April 24: I just realized that the ICA's Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication is open access (on the Wiley site).

Quotable from Wolfgang Donsbach, Finance Committee Report, International Communication Association 2007 Annual Report (downloadable from the ICA website):

"Publications...yield a surplus of between $500,000 - $600,000 because expenses for the editors' offices stay far below the income." (The ICA journals are published by Wiley Blackwell). Note that this is just the surplus returned to ICA; the profits retained by Wiley Blackwell are another matter.

According to Donsbach, "ICA's budget requires a close look at developments in the business of academic publications." The remainder of the paragraph talks about open access and federal funding agency policies.

Comment: ICA should definitely have a close look at its budget. According to my rough calculations, if the 541 articles published in ICA's 5 journals in 2009 had all been published as OA using the average PLoS article processing fee of $1,600, the total expenditure would have been about $132,000. In other words, ICA's entire publication program could be open access at top quality for less than a quarter of the present surplus.

Members of the International Communication Association should demand change. If we are wondering why our libraries cannot afford all of the books and journals that we would like to have in our libraries - this is why.

The ICA Mission, from the ICA website, is:

The International Communication Association aims to advance the scholarly study of human communication by encouraging and facilitating excellence in academic research worldwide. The purposes of the Association are (1) to provide an international forum to enable the development, conduct, and critical evaluation of communication research; (2) to sustain a program of high quality scholarly publication and knowledge exchange; (3) to facilitate inclusiveness and debate among scholars from diverse national and cultural backgrounds and from multi-disciplinary perspectives on communication-related issues; and (4) to promote a wider public interest in, and visibility of, the theories, methods, findings and applications generated by research in communication and allied fields.

There is nothing in this mission statement about profiteering from publication - or about purchasing real estate in Washington, DC, another prominent feature in the Financial Report. Every single element of the ICA mission would be advanced by open access.

Methodological note: to calculate the PLoS average article processing fee, I counted all the articles in each of the PLoS journals for several months, multiplied by the APF for each journal, then divided by the total number of articles, earlier this year. Since the lowest-cost PLoS One is the fastest-growing of the PLoS journals, I would anticipate that the average APF will decrease over time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Another reason why the world needs librarians

There are people out there - including people with PhDs, and judges - who do not understand that internet linking is basically a form of citation. It is ridiculous to think that people should ask permission to link to someone's work on the web, or that the linker is somehow responsible to what they have linked to.

There is a huge learning curve for many people here, and isn't it grand that we have librarians like Devon Greyson on Social Justice Librarian to begin the task of overcoming the curve? This is just one small example of the tremendous need for information literacy. Librarians, I think we will have our work cut out for us, for some time to come.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

WorldCat rights and responsibilites for the OCLC Cooperative: comments

OCLC has released a next draft of their WorldCat rights and responsibilities for the OCLC Cooperative. Following are my comments.

First, kudos to OCLC for a more transparent process and providing the opportunity to comment. That said, while this draft is an improvement over the first one, it is nevertheless going in the wrong direction altogether. Library bibliographic records belong in the public domain.

Most elements of a library bibliographic record are simply facts. Since I am an author, for example, WorldCat contains my name, the title of my works, as well as publication details - the name of my publisher, date, and place of publication. OCLC does not own my name, or the titles of my works, and it is not appropriate to brand bibliographic records for my works with either OCLC or WorldCat.

WorldCat also contains subject headings for my work. This is the creative work of librarians; however, if attribution makes sense, it is the cataloguer who should sign the work, not WorldCat.

What I have described above is the relatively simple situation of straightforward library catalogue records. The situation becomes much more complex as libraries, and WorldCat, increasingly add other resources. For example, when records from the local institutional repository are added, they will often include metadata that is contributed by the author, and an abstract. Again, if attribution is important, then what should happen is that the person who contributed this work should be cited - not OCLC.

For example, at times I have, as an E-LIS editor, served as an editor for an entire conference, adding in all of the metadata, and not infrequently reading the works and writing abstracts when these were not supplied. I have also occasionally translated abstracts into english from other languages. This is substantive work - much more substantive work than the automated technical gathering of metadata involved in WorldCat. If it makes no sense to attribute my contributions (and I agree that it does not), then how could it make sense to credit WorldCat for relatively trivial sharing of my work?

This is a very important point. Libraries and library associations are very appropriately involved as experts in evolving public policy consultations. We need to be able to effectively advocate for the concept that those who gather and redistribute content gain no intellectual property rights, moral or otherwise, in the process. This is a part of the key battles taking place right now for public space in the realm of knowledge; what is potentially at stake is the whole of the public domain in electronic form. We should take care that do not ourselves develop policies that could be used as examples, to work against the interests of libraries and the public.

Finally, this policy appears to me to suggest that WorldCat is a global resource. From where I sit, a few minutes north of the border, it is not. OCLC is largely a U.S. organization, albeit with important partnerships outside the U.S. Have a look at the Record Use Policy Council membership to see what I mean. Of the 12 members on the Council, 10 are based in the U.S.A. This would be a representative international council only if about 90% of the world's population was based in the U.S.

In many parts of the world, libraries are few and far between, and they have little money. (This is true of many parts of the U.S., too). A library with little money could go a long way with free access to bibliographic materials for freely accessible materials. Many of the records in WorldCat were created by national libraries or public universities, with a mandate to serve the public good. It is a disservice to unnecessarily restrict these records. When the material is freely available, it is a disservice to the authors and those who make the works freely available to restrict access to the bibliographic records.

I question this statement: "As a union of union catalogs, WorldCat enables routing of requests on behalf of not just OCLC member libraries, but any organizations (e.g., Google) or end users who want to interact with participating WorldCat libraries." What does this mean? Can I, as a member of the public, or of any organization Google a book held by an OCLC library and have it sent directly to me? I suspect this is not what is meant, but that is how this statement reads to me.

In summary: my recommendation to the OCLC Record Use Policy Council is to scrap this draft policy, and start fresh with a vision of what a worldwide library catalogue should look like in a world with an internet that is as open as it possibly can be. From my perspective, this means library records that are freely and openly available for use and re-use, as part of a robust and growing public domain. If this is inconsistent with OCLC's current business model - then it is timely for OCLC for rethink their business model.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Ithaka Faculty Survey 2009: can a mail-based survey capture faculty leadership in adopting new models of scholarly communication?

Ithaka has just released their Faculty Survey 2009. In brief, results suggest that faculty are ready for the shift from print to electronic for journals for new issues, but are concerned about preservation. Results also indicate a growing appreciation for the library's role as buyer and archiving, with a decreasing appreciation of the library's role as gatekeeper. Teaching and research support are valued, particularly for faculty who are "more of a teacher".

Following is a brief methodological critique. In summary, a mail-based survey like this likely understates faculty comfort with, and interest in, new online communication channels; usage of repositories is likely under-reported, based on answers to another question from this survey; and the 2006 survey data, which might yield the answer to the problem with the repositories question, is unfortunately locked up. Hopefully, the 2009 dataset will be released as open data.


This is a mail-based survey, with a response rate of 8.6%. There are several indications of low findings on areas relating to new technologies, most significantly including limited use of new online communication channels, and a conclusion that faculty are not likely to lead in transformation of scholarly communication. It would be interesting to see whether the same results would have been found with a web-based survey. That is to say, faculty whose primary means of communication is new online channels might be less likely to return a mail-based survey.

Some of the findings with respect to usage of open access archives (which the report refers to as institutional and disciplinary repositories) are inconsistent. For example, only about 10% of faculty in any discipline report making use of such repositories. However, over 30% of faculty in physics, math, and economics, report that they continue to use preprints and working papers, even after the published version is available. Since these preprints and working papers are in the repositories, it is clear that usage of repositories is underreported.

It would be very helpful to be able to view the actual question. However, while Ithaka has deposited the data from the 2006 survey, it is not freely accessible. Perhaps the 2009 data will be made openly accessible?

Ithaka study citation: Schonfeld, R. C., & Housewright, R. (2010). Faculty survey 2009: Key strategic insights for libraries, publishers, and societiesIthaka. Retrieved April 7, 2010, from http://www.ithaka.org/ithaka-s-r/research/faculty-surveys-2000-2009/faculty-survey-2009