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ICSTI: Bundled Subscriptions - the debate

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <epc-l@iucr.org>
  • Subject: ICSTI: Bundled Subscriptions - the debate
  • From: Pete Strickland <ps@iucr.org>
  • Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2002 16:48:48 +0100 (BST)

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Date:         Sun, 22 Sep 2002 10:51:16 +0100
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From: Barry Mahon <mahons1@EIRCOM.NET>
Subject: Bundled Subscriptions - the debate
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Dear All,

In my message of last week about the Chronicle of Higher Education article

“Second Thoughts on 'Bundled' E-Journals -
Librarians' skepticism grows on colleges' agreements with Elsevier”

There was a live discussion on Thursday last;

The transcript of the discussion is at:


To whet your appetite, here is an extract.....

Question from Andrew Gordon-Brown, JP Morgan, publishing analyst:

1. What is it about the STM market where an academic scholar signs away the
rights to his/her research for nothing and then the commercial publisher
 sells it back to the very same intstitution making a 40% operating margin in
 the process? 2. Where does the value lie in the journal publishing process?
 THe commercial publishers would have you believe it's in the peer review
 process and in the value added web-based services. Is this true?
3. Why do research universities not change the way they incentivise their
scholars? As long as research grants and career promotion are dependent on
getting articles published in expensive journals, nothing will change.
4. Will universities genuinely not renew their contracts with Elsevier
 Science or is this just hot air? Which universities believe they can make
 savings and how much?

Kenneth L. Frazier: [Director of the library system at the University of
 Wisconsin at Madison, the guest in the discussion]

1. The custom of giving away one's articles for publishing, and sometimes
 even paying for the privledge of publishing one's journal, is a long
 standing custom of academe, not just for science, technology, and medicine
 (STM). From the author's point of view, the value is in being published in a
 pretigious journal. The extremely high cost of research journals is a
 relatively new thing. We're just now getting to the point of realizing that
 academe can't afford this system any long. 2. The value is in the reputation
 of the journal title, which comes from the peer review process. Journals
 actually don't provide peer review; the academic colleagues of the author
 provide that review, often for free. And, publishers aren't the only
 institutions capable of providing web-based access to articles. My point is
 that an alternative model is possible.
3. I agree. those changes are beginning to take place in the academic
community. That is, faculty members are being recognized for publishing and
disseminating knowledge in new ways. Another hopeful sign is that many
university administrators, provosts, and presidents are beginning to call for
 such change in the academic culture.
4. It's a mystery to me; I just don't know. My guess is that university
 libraries that have rapidly growing budgets will continue to buy the bundled
 products. And only those universities facing severe budget challenges will
 be able to begin moving away from the old publishing model.



Best wishes

Peter Strickland
Managing Editor
IUCr Journals

IUCr Editorial Office, 5 Abbey Square, Chester CH1 2HU, England
Phone: 44 1244 342878   Fax: 44 1244 314888   Email: ps@iucr.org
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