The Economist takes note of the economics of scholarly journal publishing in a short piece, necessarily oversimplified, but catching the essentials. See “Of goats and headaches–One of the best media businesses is also one of the most resented”
Beginning immediately, Transitions, the University of Iowa’s occasional newsletter on scholarly communication issues, will appear as a blog, with postings at regular intervals as circumstances demand.
Our first posting is a link to the audio and slides of Lawence Lessig’s recent (April 18, 2011) presentation on science, copyright and open access to an audience at CERN. Lessig, Harvard professor and copyright guru, argues that the “architecture of access to scientific knowledge” is badly “messed up” and puts forth moral arguments for a move to open access publishing as the solution. Along the way he touches on YouTube mashups, copyright, politics, John Philip Sousa and much else.
Since the Federal Reseach Public Access Act has been recently come before the House of Representatives and the Senate, there has been a flurry of articles (for and against) the legistlation.
Federal Research Access Bill Making Progress in Congress, Library Journal.com, 4/22/2010
Baby steps toward legislation: the broad open access mandate known as The Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) is now before the House of Representatives as well as the Senate, following its introduction by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) last week. Both versions are substantially the same, and with the bill now before both legislative bodies, has at least the potential of becoming law.
During prepared remarks on a press conference call Wednesday morning hosted by the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, Doyle said, “I hope that we can move this bill through Congress before the end of the year.”
. . . FRPAA was re-introduced into the Senate last year. It would require every federal department and agency with an annual extramural research budget of $100 million or more to make their research available to the public within six months of publication. (A similar bill, introduced in the Senate in 2006, died in committee.)
The bill covers all unclassified research funded by agencies including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Transportation, Environmental Protection, as well as the National Science Foundation and NASA.
The bill also would ostensibly trump the current 12-month embargo specified by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) mandate—on which FRPAA is directly modeled—by rolling the embargo period back to six months.
SPARC FAQ for University Administrators and Faculty – SPARC has put together a helpful FAQ to answer the most pressing questions about FRPAA.
Provosts and Presidents of 27 Major Research Institutions Support FRPAA – In “The Open Letter to the Higher Education Community” issued by the Harvard University Provost, the provosts (including UI’s Wallace Loh) and presidents of 27 major research institutions have indicated their strong support for the Federal Research Public Access Act.
The United States Congress will have the opportunity to consider the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA). FRPAA would require Federal agencies whose extramural research budgets exceed $100 million to develop policies ensuring open, public access to the research supported by their grants or conducted by their employees. This Bill embodies core ideals shared by higher education, research institutions and their partners everywhere. The Bill builds upon the success of the first U.S. policy for public access to publicly funded research – implemented in 2008 through the National Institutes of Health – and mirrors the intent of campus-based policies for research access that are being adopted by a growing number of public and private institutions across the nation.
We believe that this legislation represents a watershed and provides an opportunity for the entire U.S. higher education and research community to draw upon their traditional partnerships and collaboratively realize the unquestionably good intentions of the Bill’s framers – broadening access to publicly funded research in order to accelerate the advancement of knowledge and maximize the related public good. By ensuring broad and diverse access to taxpayer-funded research the Bill also supports the intuitive and democratic principle that, with reasonable exceptions for issues of national security, the public ought to have access to the results of activities it funds.
The broad dissemination of the results of scholarly inquiry and discourse is essential for higher education to fulfill its long-standing commitment to the advancement and conveyance of knowledge. Indeed, it is mission critical. For the land-grant and publicly funded institutions among us, it addresses the complementary commitment to public service and public access that is included in our charters. In keeping with this mission, we agree with FRPAA’s basic premise that enabling the broadest possible access to new ideas resulting from government-funded research promotes progress, economic growth, and public welfare. Furthermore, we know that, when combined with public policy such as FRPAA proposes, the Internet and digital technology are powerful tools for removing access barriers and enabling new and creative uses of the results of research.
Letter Opposing FRPPA – The Association of American Publishers and the DC Principles Coalition released their April 29 letter to the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, opposing FRPAA.
On behalf of many publisher members of the Professional and Scholarly Publishing division of the Association of American Publishers, the DC Principles Coalition, and other leading publishers, we are writing to express our strong opposition to the Federal Research Public Access Act, H.R. 5037. This bill would require that final manuscripts of peer-reviewed, private-sector journal articles reporting on federally-funded research be made freely available on government-run websites no later than six months after publication. This unnecessary legislation would undermine copyright and adversely impact the existing peer review system that ensures the high quality of scientific and other scholarly research in the United States. In addition, it would impose costly new mandates on federal agencies.
The diverse publishers whose concerns are shared by the undersigned are responsible for coordinating the publication of thousands of journals reporting on basic research and original scholarship, disseminating collectively tens of thousands of refereed research articles by U.S.-funded researchers annually. H.R. 5037 would diminish copyright protections for these private-sector scientific journal articles. The government mandate proposed by this legislation would result in the government distribution of copyrighted journal articles without compensation. Copyright is essential to protecting these works and to preserving incentives for the private sector to continue to invest in peer review, editing, publishing, and maintaining the electronic record of vetted scientific journal articles.
A Scholarly Kitchen Blog post, by Philip Davis, states:
While much is known about how researchers make use of the scientific literature, much less is known about the consumption of scientific literature by the general public. Other than anecdotal descriptions — say, of patients bringing medical literature they found online into the doctor’s office — little is known about how the lay public uses the primary literature (e.g., scholarly journal articles) compared to public-focused websites, blogs, and discussion lists.
What is known is that Americans are going online seeking health information.
Open Access to Scientific Publications: The good, the bad, and the ugly, Communications of the ACM , by Michel Beaudouin-Lafon:
In his July 2009 Communications editor’s letter “Open, Closed, or Clopen Access?”, editor-in-chief Moshe Vardi addressed the question of open access to this magazine and to ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) publications in general. Scientific publishing, like all areas of publishing, is undergoing major changes. One reason is the advent of the Internet, which fosters new types of publishing models. Another less-known factor is the exponential increase in the number of scientific publications (see the figure here), which has turned this area into a serious business. In this column, I take a look at commercial and Open Access publishing, and at the role that professional societies such as ACM can play in this evolving world.
Excerpt from the conclusion:
Open Access is a valuable goal, but the scientific community is overly naive about the whole business of scientific publishing. Societies and nonprofit organizations need to continue to lead the way to improve the dissemination of research results, but the scientific community at large must support them against the business-centric views of commercial publishers.
Nature News, 7 May 2010, by Declan Butler:
A scientist in Switzerland is seeking to patent a system for peer reviewing and publishing scientific papers online, Nature has learned.
Henry Markram, a neuroscientist and publishing entrepreneur who works at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, last year filed internationally for a broad patent on systems for interactive online peer review and publishing open-access journals.
The application, says Markram, was filed mainly to protect a fleet of author-pays, open-access journals published by the Lausanne-based Frontiers Media, a company he created in 2008 with his wife Kamila Markram, another neuroscientist at the EPFL.
…The main innovative features of both the journals and the patent, says Markram, are real-time evaluation of papers and a high degree of automation. Software matches articles to potential reviewers, and authors and referees discuss comments and revisions in an online forum, for example.
The result is just like an Internet discussion group, with editors and authors able to follow comment threads in real time, says Robert Harvey, a molecular neuroscientist at the School of Pharmacy, University of London, who has experience of Frontiers journals as both an editor and an author.
Read about the financial results of two large commercial publishers. Even in a global financial crisis, they are doing quite well for themselves.
Elsevier (44% of adjusted operating profits)
- Revenue growth +4%, adjusted operating profit +9%, at constant currency
- Strong growth in electronic clinical reference, clinical decision support and nursing and health professional education; continued weakness in pharma promotion
- Solid science journal subscription renewals from 2008 supported 2009 revenue growth
Read more about it at “Robust Year for Reed Elsevier” (Booksellers.com)
The legal wing LexisNexis, which makes up 42% of adjusted operating profits for the group, saw sales grow 14%, and adjusted operating profit rise 13%, at constant currency. Reed said its core law firm markets were flat in US and marginally lower internationally reflecting a downturn in legal services industry.
The publishing arm of Reed Elsevier has had a “relatively robust year” in light of the economic downturn, thanks to good subscription renewal rates among its journals and strong e-book sales, the company has claimed.
The company saw revenue growth climb 14%, as did adjusted operating profit, and cashflow grew 11%. However reported operating profit declined 13%.
Elsevier, which contains the science publishing divisions and accounts for 44% of adjusted profits for the entire group, saw sales grow 4%, while profit increased 9%.
John Wiley & Sons, Inc. annouced it’s 2009 results (which are now no longer on Wiley’s website), but DigitalKoans sums it up well in his blog post, where he provides excerpts from a press release.
SCIENTIFIC, TECHNICAL, MEDICAL, AND SCHOLARLY (STMS)
- Full year revenue +9% and fourth quarter revenue +17% on currency neutral basis (a nonrecurring acquisition accounting adjustment reported in fiscal year 2008 contributed 2% to the full year growth rate)
- Full year contribution to profit +14% and fourth quarter contribution to profit +22% on a currency neutral basis
- New contracts in fiscal year 2009 to publish 32 society journals; renewed or extended contracts for 87 journals; did not renew agreements to publish 9 journals
Global STMS revenue for fiscal year 2009 declined 1% to $969 million due to unfavorable foreign exchange of $97 million. Revenue advanced 9% on a currency neutral basis and including a $17 million acquisition accounting adjustment, which reduced revenue in fiscal year 2008. Increased revenue from journal subscription renewals, new business, global rights, and STMS books was partially offset by lower sales of backfiles, reprints, and custom publishing.
Direct contribution to profit for the fiscal year grew 4% from prior year to $399 million. On a currency neutral basis, contribution to profit advanced 14%. The year-over-year increase reflects top-line results and a $17 million accounting adjustment related to the Blackwell acquisition that reduced revenue in the comparable prior year period, partially offset by higher editorial fees due to the addition of more society journals and performance-related compensation.
For the fourth quarter, global STMS revenue was down 2% with a negative foreign exchange effect of $54 million. On a currency neutral basis, revenue advanced 17% due to the resolution of the third quarter journal billing delays, which shifted some revenue into the fourth quarter. Revenue also advanced due to new business. Higher global rights income was offset by lower backfile sales and advertising revenue. Direct contribution to profit for the quarter increased 3%, or 22% excluding the unfavorable impact of foreign exchange, mainly due to top line results.
All regions exhibited journal sales growth, excluding unfavorable foreign exchange. The performance is mainly attributed to renewals, new business, and the acquisition accounting adjustment in fiscal year 2008. Subscription and pay-per-view revenue was up year-over-year, while backfile revenue fell due to the economic climate, particularly in the US. . . .
Journal licenses, which represent approximately 60% of our journal subscription revenue, provide academic, government, and corporate customers with online access to multiple journals. In the fourth quarter, agreements were signed or renewed with universities, library consortia, and government agencies in the US, Norway, Japan, China, Brazil, Canada, Greece, Chile, Denmark, and India.
STMS Books and References
Book sales and other related income, which account for approximately 17% of STMS revenue, were up 5% over fiscal year 2008 on a currency neutral basis. The total number of books published was up slightly. Online book sales rose approximately 20% to $10 million.
And Wiley’s 3rd quarter fiscal year 2010 results show that Wiley STM profit rates are up 18% to $89 million (for one quarter!), for a profit rate of 39%. Wiley is outsourcing – so these profits are accompanied by job losses in the U.S (from Heather Morrison).
“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”
From Open Access News:
Scholarly and Research Communication, a new OA journal published by the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing at Simon Fraser University, released its first issue. Abstract of the launch editorial:
In general, publishers are motivated by social values rather than by profit. They provide a service by transforming a manuscript into an exploitable literary property targeted at a known market. STM journal publishers distinguish themselves by extracting maximum profit based on the potential financial value of the need-to-know research they report. In the 1990s and aided by the Internet, scholars began to reassert control of journals and journal publishing. Scholarly effort has focused on transmission, that is to say, production and creation of the public record. Full control by the scholarly community must embrace the transformative nature of publishing, and reinvolving publishers to provide a full range of publishing services would seem desirable. The journal Scholarly and Research Communication is being founded to document the developing study and technology involved in this quickly expanding field.
In a move that puts them at odds with the official stance of the Association of American University Presses, a group of university-press directors yesterday issued a position statement that endorses “the free access to scientific, technical, and medical journal articles no later than 12 months after publication.”
The statement was signed by the directors of a group of small and medium-size presses, including Penn State University, Rockefeller University Press, the University of Michigan Press, and the University Press of New England. It was posted on Peter Suber’s Open Access News blog.
“The signatories think that it is important to publicly align ourselves with the stance taken by many university faculties and administrators on scholarly communication,” Mike Rossner, the Rockefeller press’s director, told The Chronicle by e-mail on Wednesday. His press makes its content publicly available six months after publication, he said, “and our revenues have increased every year since then.” That experience has led his press to conclude that “providing public access to scholarly-journal articles after a short delay is compatible with our subscription-based business model.”
from The Chronicle: Daily News Blog, 4 June 2009, by Jennifer Howard
Text from the Position Statement:
- The undersigned university press directors support the dissemination of scholarly research as broadly as possible.
- We support the free access to scientific, technical, and medical journal articles no later than 12 months after publication. We understand that the length of time before free release of journal articles will by necessity vary for other disciplines.
- We support the principle that scholarly research fully funded by governmental entities is a public good and should be treated as such. We support legislation that strengthens this principle and oppose legislation designed to weaken it.
- We support the archiving and free release of the final, published version of scholarly journal articles to ensure accuracy and citation reliability.
- We will work directly with academic libraries, governmental entities, scholarly societies, and faculty to determine appropriate strategies concerning dissemination options, including institutional repositories and national scholarly archives.
The statement is signed by the directors of the University Press of Florida, University of Akron Press, University Press of New England, Athabasca University Press, Wayne State University Press, University of Calgary Press, University of Michigan Press, Rockefeller University Press, Penn State University Press, and University of Massachusetts Press.
Elsevier has gotten some bad press of late for practices that undermine the quality of the scholarship they publish. Read on:
From the Scholarly Kitchen, by Phil Davis, May 7, 2009:
According to the magazine The Scientist, the publishing giant Elseiver admitted to publishing six fake medical journals between 2000 and 2005.
These “journals” were all sponsored by pharmaceutical companies but lacked proper disclosure of sponsorship. The initial finding, released on April 30 in The Scientist, involved the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, a publication which was paid for by Merck. The publication, complete with an honorary editorial board of academics, was largely a compendium of reprinted articles and reviews from other Elsevier journals that presented data favorable to Merck’s products. All six publications were released in Australia.
And Peter Suber has collected comments about Elsevier’s antics on his blog entry “More comments about Elsevier’s fake journal.”
Elsevier Won’t Pay for Praise, Inside HigherEd, June 23, 2009
As if the textbook industry didn’t have an image problem already…
Elsevier officials said Monday that it was a mistake for the publishing giant’s marketing division to offer $25 Amazon gift cards to anyone who would give a new textbook five stars in a review posted on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. While those popular Web sites’ customer reviews have long been known to be something less than scientific, and prone to manipulation if an author has friends write on behalf of a new work, the idea that a major academic publisher would attempt to pay for good reviews angered some professors who received the e-mail pitch.
Here’s what the e-mail — sent to contributors to the textbook — said:
“Congratulations and thank you for your contribution to Clinical Psychology. Now that the book is published, we need your help to get some 5 star reviews posted to both Amazon and Barnes & Noble to help support and promote it. As you know, these online reviews are extremely persuasive when customers are considering a purchase. For your time, we would like to compensate you with a copy of the book under review as well as a $25 Amazon gift card. If you have colleagues or students who would be willing to post positive reviews, please feel free to forward this e-mail to them to participate. We share the common goal of wanting Clinical Psychology to sell and succeed. The tactics defined above have proven to dramatically increase exposure and boost sales. I hope we can work together to make a strong and profitable impact through our online bookselling channels.”
Sarah Gold, Publishers Weekly — Library Journal, 6/25/2009
Collaboration and cooperation were the bywords at this year’s annual meeting of the Association of American University Presses in Philadelphia, June 18-21, while a call for radical change of a “broken” business model came from the AAUP’s outgoing president, Alex Holzman, who urged presses to embrace a comprehensive e-book publishing program.
Numerous sessions with titles such as “Library-Press Cooperation,” “University and Press Collaborations” and “The Mellon Collaborative Publishing Grants: Reports from the Presses,” underscored Holzman’s point that today’s university press business model—plagued by declining monograph sales, heavy returns, and declining subsidies from parent institutions—is in need of serious revisions. Such revisions could involve closer ties with other academic departments and institutes within the parent institution.
As Nathan MacBrien, publications director for the University of California International and Area Studies, put it, at a time when every academic department, including university presses, must justify its existence, “collaborations make for institutional embeddedness” that can help guarantee a press’s future.
Speakers also addressed other forms of cooperation: allying with campus libraries (to which some presses are already institutionally joined at the hip) and working with other university presses with complementary strengths or overlapping interests to accomplish complex projects and achieve cost savings.
Read the rest of the article: http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6667368.html?nid=2673&source=title&rid=