Publishing Research Consortium (PRC) Studies What Prompts Journal Cancellations

Librarians will embrace open access resources and cancel subscriptions when possible, according to a study of librarian purchasing preferences conducted by Scholarly Information Strategies on behalf of the Publishing Research Consortium, an independent group representing publishers and scholarly societies. The study, Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Co-existence or Competition? calls into question “previous claims that librarians will continue to subscribe to journals,” when some or all of the content is freely available in institutional archives. “Overall, the survey shows that a significant number of librarians are likely to substitute OA materials for subscribed resources,” the summary states, “given certain levels of reliability, peer review and currency.” The study, conducted in July 2006, surveyed over 400 librarians internationally, collecting their general attitudes to open access and analyzing the relative importance of specific “decision-making factors such as price, embargo period, article version, and reliability of access.”

Price, of course, was a major factor. Currency, however, is also critical and cannot be overlooked, the report stresses. In other words, embargoes of any kind were specifically frowned upon. “Resources become much less favored if they are embargoed for any length of time,” the study concludes. The survey tested the effect of embargoes on both OA and licensed content and found there was a “significant effect” on librarians’ preference for open access resources when the embargo period was set to at least 12 months. The study, however, bolsters claims made by publishers in opposing government-mandated archiving policies, such as the one initially proposed by the NIH in 2004, finding that a “six-month embargo has little impact” on librarians’ preference for open access. Unsurprisingly, however, the study finds that librarians will generally prefer open access because the price is right. “Librarians show a strong preference for content that is made freely available,” the study notes. “Even as librarians were asked to trade off price considerations against other factors, such as the version of the content and the immediacy of its availability, there remained a significant pull towards free content or content whose cost had been greatly reduced.”

Library Journal Academic Newswire, Nov. 9 2006