Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dramatic Growth of Open Access: June 30, 2010 (brief version)

The June 30, 2010 issue of The Dramatic Growth of Open Access is now available for viewing or open data download.

Highlights this quarter:

Open access policy continues to be the headline growth story, particularly institutional OA mandates and total OA mandates, both of which have more than doubled over the past year. There are now a total of 220 mandates.

DOAJ is now over 5,000 journals - congratulations, DOAJ!! By my calculations, this means that about 20% of the world's peer-reviewed journals are now open access*. DOAJ title growth was particularly strong this quarter, 277 titles or an average of 3 titles per day (over the past year, 888 titles added, over 2 titles per day). In addition to title growth, DOAJ is showing growth in the number of titles and articles searchable at article level - the latter is now over 400,000.

BASE added about 1.5 million documents this quarter, or about half a million documents per month.

As reported by Bjork et al in PLoS One, about 1 in 5 articles published in 2009 are now freely available.

This is a brief version of DGOA so that I can get back to the LIBER 2010 Conference in beautiful Aarhus, Denmark as quickly as possible. For more, please see my Dramatic Growth of Open Access Series, where I often include links to highlights to other milestones and indicators of growth.

* Note that both traditional measures of peer-reviewed journals and OA counts are missing important data, such as numbers of journals from China. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has ideas on how to address this.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Open Access Journals Support in Canada

Preliminary results of the Open Access Journals Support in Canada research project, as presented by myself and Brian Owen on behalf of research team members including Donald Taylor, Andrew Waller, and Kumiko Vezina at the June 1, 2010 Canadian Association of Learned Journals (CALJ) Annual General Meeting, part of the Congress conference, are now available in the SFU D-Space and E-LIS.


Describes preliminary results of the pan-Canadian Open Access Journals Support in Canada survey of university libraries and presses conducted in spring 2010. The majority of respondents are involved in scholarly journal publishing, with more planning to get involved. There is strong trend towards preferential support for open access publishing. Responses to questions about support for a variety of open access models indicated that any model for OA transition would received some level of support from a majority of libraries.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

On the wide disparity in publisher cost-efficiency

Libraries and librarians are continuing to cope with the impact of the global financial crisis, and I understand that some of us are beginning to wonder why our libraries are facing deep budget cuts and staff furloughs while a few of the largest commercial publishers are boasting record profits.

Understandable, some are beginning to look for a better deal, and personally I think this is a very good thing. However, this might be a good time to highlight that there is a very wide discrepancy in the cost-effectiveness of different types of publishers. It it not fair, IMHO, to treat the mission-oriented publisher that has never charged more than they needed to survive, as if they were the same as the highly for-profit publishers. By all means, let's look for deals - but let's not forget that a 3% increase to a $100 subscription is only $3, while a 3% increase to a $1 million subscription is $30,000 - and the $3 increase might mean the difference to survival for the efficient publisher, while the for-profit would have to give up more than $30,000 to even begin to have something resembling a revenue cut of a much smaller order of magnitude than what is faced by many a library.

One extreme example from our own profession:

As of today, the subscription list price for the for-profit Library Management (Emerald) is EUR 11,819 (Ulrich's). That's $14,600 US (Bank of Canada currency conversion service, June 18, 2010). Compare this with the MAXIMUM institutional cost for ACRL's College and Research Libraries at $80 US for non-member institutions outside of the US and Canada. This is a difference of well over a hundred fold in subscription cost for these two journals, and I would argue that of the two, it is ACRL's College and Research Libraries that is the more prestigious. I do acknowledge that single subscription costs are of limited applicability in the world of bundled and largely consortial pricing. Also, this is an extreme example. Cost differentials in the range of 4 to 10-fold appear to be much more common (that is, the cost of one journal on a per-article basis can be a four to 10 times as much for another journal of similar or every higher quality. Imperfect though this example is, it is illustrative of the wide difference in costs between different publishers which does not necessarily correlate in a positive manner with quality.

The original analysis for this example is from my book, Scholarly Communication for Librarians, Chandos Publishing: Oxford, 2009. The cost differential has increased since the time the book was written; the ACRL cost is stable, while the Emerald cost has risen considerably.

[Disclosure: I am co-coordinator of the ARL and ACRL Scholarly Communication Institute webinar series, Building Strength through Collaboration, however this has nothing to do with ACRL publications or membership].

Heather Morrison, MLIS
The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics

This post was distributed to a number of listservs on Thursday, June 17, 2010

Update June 17, 2010 - this post by Bernd-Christoph Kaemper to Scholcomm and Liblicense-l is worth repeating in full:

Oh, well, Emerald again ...

Emerald (formerly MCB) has received its fair share of criticism in the past (including some from me, back in those days of the newsletter of serials pricing issues), but I've learned since then, that Emerald is an extreme example of pricing policies that appear to address the bold and adventurous among us, those that have no fear to apply all the techniques learned on the bazaar, rather than the timid, who ask for the list price and turn pale in horror.

To put it simple and bluntly, if you actually have a few Emerald titles in your collection that you pay at list price instead of a bundle, you or your predecessors in your job probably made a terrible mistake, or your institution has/had too much money to spend. Just cancel and start anew.

For some historical reason, that eludes my comprehension (although I'd love to hear explanations), single title prices with Emerald are fantasy prices. If you actually start talking to Emerald (and they really have friendly and competent staff), you'll be surprised to learn that it can be possible to get a package of titles for less than the list price of the most expensive title(s) in it, and that you actually might be able to get a rather decent offer for your campus or consortium. (Disclosure: my perspective and experience is that of a large technical university with comparatively small business and social sciences, but I have also talked to colleagues from other universities.)

Essentially, you buy Emerald as a full text database (various sizes and collections available) and have to judge its efficiency on that basis (i.e. on an aggregated cost per use base), not any individual titles a la carte which would be terribly expensive.

With respect to transparency and investigations of publisher cost efficiency and value for money on the basis of various possible metrics: I guess this is a prime example of why Ted Bergstrom, Paul Courant and Preston McAfee were right to ask libraries and consortia to disclose the actual terms of their bundle deals (under a public-records request) rather to rely on list prices, cf. e.g. the ARL press release Elsevier Motion to Block License Release Denied in Open-Records Decision,
and Ted Bergstroms Journal Pricing page,

I'll leave it to others who are in a better position to do this to possibly comment on the actual cost efficiency of Emerald compared to other publishers in economics on an aggregate basis, but my understanding is that this was also not the focus or intention of your actual message (to look at any particular publisher). I only wanted to give a little warning that individual title list prices have very little meaning here. (And please take also the bazaar analogy above with a grain of salt. The positive message here is: the publisher might be more responsive to your needs and constraints then you would have assumed.)

I'd also question your placative and simplistic contrasting of the (efficient) "mission-oriented publisher that has never charged more than they needed to survive" with the (inefficient) "highly for-profit publishers".

That's a poetic notion not one that adequately matches today's complex business realities for scholarly publishers, both for-profit and not-for-profit.

The question of cost-efficiency is a complex one, cf. for a starter the the JISC Report

Economic Implications of Alternative Scholarly Publishing Models: Exploring the costs and benefits (Jan 2009)

and the Feedback on it provided by STM and ALPSP, as discussed under

Best regards,
Bernd-Christoph Kaemper, Stuttgart University Library


This is very helpful information, thank you Bernd-Christoph. I should clarify that I do not mean to paint Emerald as a "bad guy" at all; in fact, Emerald has a very enlightened approach to green OA self-archiving policies. Nevertheless, I think that this fantasy price model - which I suspect is not unique to Emerald - bears further investigation. I plan to mull this over a little. On the other hand, ACRL and College and Research Libraries, producing top quality scholarly publishing at rock-bottom prices and making good efforts towards open access by supporting author self-archiving, and making many articles fully open access, is, in my mind, a clear-cut good guy.

This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access series. From my perspective, a healthy open access future for scholarly communication should be built on sustainable business models.

Update July 4: for commentary on the fantasy pricing model, see Barbara Fister at Library Journal.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Open Access submission to Canada's Digital Economy Consultation

On behalf of a group of Canadian and international open access advocates, I have just contributed a submission to Canada's Digital Economy Consultation. It may be a few days before this appears on the government web site. The text of the submission can be viewed here. Update June 19: the submission is now available on the Industry Canada site.

The brief Executive Summary as posted to the government website is as follows:

We recommend that Canada develop a policy requiring open access to federally funded Canadian scholarship, i.e. research funded by the research granting councils CIHR, SSHRC, NSERC, and NRC. This policy would ensure taxpayer access to taxpayer-funded research, maximum impact of taxpayer-funded research, bring Canadian policy into line with international policy developments, and appropriately secure a place for Canada as a leader in this important area of innovation.

The policy needed is for researchers funded by federal granting agencies to be required to deposit, in their institution’s open access repository, a copy of the author’s final manuscript of all published peer-reviewed articles arising from federally funded research, immediately on acceptance for publication, with access to the deposit set as open access immediately, or after a minimum delay to accommodate publishers. The locus of deposit should be an appropriate open access repository; by default, the author’s institutional repository. Cross-deposits from institutional to central repositories (such as PubMedCentral Canada, as mandated by CIHR) can then be done automatically by software.

In 2008, CIHR adopted a Policy on Access to Research Outputs, which is in many ways an exemplary policy, although there is a loophole to be addressed, as it allows for opt-out based on publisher copyright policies. This is neither justified nor necessary. While the contributions of professional publishers are very valuable, the published article reflects the contributions of many parties, including the Canadian taxpayer, the authors, their institutions, the voluntary peer reviewers, and often human subjects as well. No one contributor to the process should have exclusive rights to the final report; an open access requirement is reasonable and fair to all.

In addition, researchers should be encouraged to do the same with their research data (while ensuring that confidentiality / anonymity of research subjects is maintained), as well as with other works, such as monographs and creative works, wherever possible.

The simple no-cost step of requiring open access deposit would have tremendous impact in advancing the effectiveness and dissemination of Canadian research.

Update June 16: if you would like to add your (or your organization's) name, please let me know at hgmorris at sfu dot ca, and I will submit a revised version on July 9.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Anti-OA spin on Inside Higher Ed

Update June 15, 2010: Oxford University Press has issued a revised press release, which clarifies that the spin is indeed coming from OUP.


Through the Oxford Open initiative, launched in July 2005, Oxford University Press (OUP) has experimented with open access models and has been carefully monitoring and sharing results. Today, six Oxford journals are fully open access and over 90 are hybrid open access, where authors of accepted papers are given the option of paying an open access publication charge to make their paper freely available online immediately.

In 2009 the average uptake of the open access option for participating journals fell to 5.9%, compared with 6.7% in 2008. This reduction was due to a lower uptake amongst 11 new titles joining Oxford Open in 2009. On a like-for-like basis, the average uptake in 2009 for journals which entered the scheme prior to 2008 was stable (6.7%, compared with 6.8% in 2008).


From 2005 to 2010, based on this information, OUP has transitioned from a fully subscription model to a point where 6 OUP journals are fully open access, and 90 are hybrid open access. The Oxford Open option greatly understates open access, as it does not take into account author self-archiving, as explained in detail by Stevan Harnad at Open Access Archivangelism. From this press release, it appears that journals that have been participating for some time have a stable participation rate. OUP could be reporting open access success, but has chosen to focus on the negative.

In addition to what is obviously some success in moving towards OA at OUP, supplemented by author self-archiving, another factor to take into account is that authors desiring full open access might be choosing different journals. OUP charges article processing fees, while the vast majority of OA journals do not use this business model. Of the journals that do charge APFs, OUP may not be competitive on a cost per quality basis. Then, too, libraries that are supporting OA via APFs are often refusing to support hybrid journals.

I am not sure why OUP has chosen to focus on the negative. Their academic library customers are eager for change, and it appears that OUP is in a great position to take advantage of this desire. Why not market OUP as an alternative OA solution?

Here is Quick Take from today's Inside Higher Ed, repeated in full for purposes of scholarly critique:

Academics remain reluctant to allow their journal articles to be deposited in open-access repositories, according to the Oxford University Press. The press announced Thursday that the percentage of Oxford Press articles authorized for re-publication in its open-access repository decreased overall from 6.7 to 5.9 percent between 2008 and 2009. Officials attributed the decrease to a relatively low rate of opt-ins from 11 new journals to which the option was extended in 2009; putting those new titles aside, the proportion of authors allowing their work to be made freely available stayed roughly the same. Still, the stagnation of that rate indicates that researchers are still wary of endorsing an open-access model, Oxford officials said in a release. Humanities scholars were the least willing to participate in Oxford Open, the press's open-access initiative, opting in at a rate of 2.5 percent. Life sciences scholars were the most generous with their work, with 11.4 percent allowing their papers to be freely accessible.


Why the spin? According to this information, OUP has a stable rate of participation in Oxford Open for journals that have been participating for a while, and a lower rate of participation for journals that have just joined the program - hardly surprising, as the journals that were most keen to participate were likely part of the original group. Why add the numbers and spin this as if it were decreasing participation? If a statement like this were made in an article submitted to a journal for peer review, any journal worth its salt would refuse to publish the article unless the statement were revised. Note that I cannot find any such press release on the Oxford University Press site. My comment on the Inside Higher Ed site requests the original release to which this Quick Take is referring.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The latest open access controversy: are we in the age of open access, or just on the verge?

Debate in scholarship is a healthy sign - and this new debate amongst open access advocates, as recently emerged in the national meeting of Canada's Federation of Social Sciences and Humanities, is most welcome! It seems that there is a divergence of opinion amongst open access advocates, as to whether we are already in the age of open access, or just on the verge. I must admit to being on the fence on this debate myself; while the momentum of the OA movement does seem to be unstoppable at the moment, it is, from my perspective, prudent for OA activists to continue full steam - not to mention fun to be at the crest of such a successful movement!

Other aspects of recent debates are also very welcome; the days of questioning whether or not OA is a good thing are long past, with the current focus being very appropriately best practices for OA implementation.