What is the scholarly communication crisis? It is the loss of access to the scholarly research literature, as the rising cost of journal subscriptions far out-strip institutional library budgets. Each year libraries can afford to subscribe to fewer and fewer journals. Over the last 15 years, the price of research journals has risen over 200% (compare with the Consumer Price Index, up 57% over this same period). Consequently, academic libraries are subscribing to fewer and fewer titles - and slashing book buying as well (see ARL's The Impact of Serial Costs on Library Collections - http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/costimpact.pdf).
Inflation is due to a number of factors; most prominently, commercial publishers controlling an increasing percentage of titles, at the expense of scholarly societies and university presses. Profit margins for commercial publishers typically are at least 20% - with the profits coming from university libraries. Mergers and acquisitions exacerbate the trend.
The current system of scholarly publishing is unsustainable. Unable to keep up with the annual price increases, libraries have no choice but to cancel some subscriptions and reduce book purchases as well.
Efforts are underway to reverse the trend, and there are ways that Ole Miss faculty and librarians can help. Follow the links below to get background information, see what faculty and researchers can do to help, discover what librarians are doing and can do, and explore alternative publishing initiatives that continue to gain impetus.
Origins of the Crisis in Scholarly Communication - concise outline, from Iowa State University.
Actions Faculty Can Take
As an Author, Reviewer or Editor:
- Influence the decisions of the editorial boards of which you are a member.
- As a journal editor, take an interest in the business aspects of your journal; if warranted, consider moving your journal to a non-commercial publisher or creating an alternative journal. Understand the larger view: all scholars, in all fields of scholarship, are in this together.
- As an author, alter your own practice when you negotiate with publishers. Modify, if appropriate, any contract you sign with a commercial publisher to ensure your right to use your work, including posting on a public archive. See our page on Authors’ Rights for more information
- Examine the pricing, copyright, and licensing agreements of any commercially published journal you contribute to as an author, reviewer, or editor. The choices you make about where to publish, and about service as a reviewer or member of an editorial board will make a difference if you explain why you are accepting or declining. Influence your colleagues to do the same. Ask your librarian for help in finding this information.
- Learn about alternatives to commercial publication for both individual articles and journals as a whole.
As a Society Member:
- Encourage your associations to explore alternatives to contracting or selling publications to commercial publishers.
- Encourage your associations to maintain reasonable prices for their published products and to establish access terms that are friendly to faculty, libraries and other users.
- Encourage your associations and societies to consider creating enhanced competitors to expensive commercial publications.
- Actively support your society's electronic publishing program by submitting papers, reviewing, and serving on editorial boards.
- Intentionally influence the decisions of your scholarly association boards. Speak your mind and encourage your colleagues to do the same.
As as Member of the Campus Community:
- Encourage discussion of scholarly communication issues and proposals for change in your departments and schools.
- Attend campus events and learn more. Talk with your colleagues here on campus and elsewhere.
- Investigate your campus intellectual property policies and participate actively in their development.
As a Faculty Member:
- Become a savvy consumer. Consider price, value, and local use when you advise the library on journal purchases and cancellations.
- Support efforts within your field and within the broader scholarly community to win back control of scholarly communication.
- Support the library's cancellation of expensive low-use titles and encourage colleagues to do the same. In general, support your library's efforts to take cost into consideration in making decisions about journal subscriptions.
- Support your library's participation in projects that seek to transform scholarly publishing in accord with academic values, such as SPARC.
- Invite library participation in faculty departmental meetings and graduate seminars to discuss scholarly communication issues.
- Include electronic publications that meet standards of quality in promotion and tenure discussions and decisions.
- Include librarians when you meet with a publisher's representative.
Adapted from the University of Connecticut Libraries.