Sustainability planning is certainly a tricky business. Over the last several months I have been working with teams grappling with sustainability and other long-term plans for four projects: the Big Ten Academic Alliance’s Geoportal, Mapping Prejudice, the Data Curation Network, and AgEcon Search. These are all cross-unit collaborative projects, and multi-institutional in most cases, but their common element is that my library serves as administrative and/or infrastructural home and/or lead institution. This planning has led to an interesting thought experiment, spurred by the AgEcon Search planning.
Over the past few years the MIT Libraries – like many US research libraries– have been watching with interest the development of “offsetting” agreements in Europe and the UK. In offsetting agreements, a single license incorporates costs associated with access to paywalled articles and costs associated with open access publication. This type of agreement has emerged in Europe and the UK and been the source of both new deals and broken deals.
[Authors note — this post was drafted back in January, so although the Scholarly Kitchen post that inspired it is a little old, the general themes are still relevant]
Joseph Esposito was being intentionally provocative, perhaps even tongue-in-cheek in places, in his post back in January, Why Elsevier is a Library’s Best Friend. There are some good exchanges with commenters, many of whom had the same thoughts I did as I read. Here are a few additional responses both to Esposito and to fellow SK’er David Crotty about the post and the back-and-forth in the comments.
At the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting earlier this month, I attended the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coaltion (SPARC) Forum on “Shaping the Landscape of Open Access Publishing: Individually, Locally, and Collectively.” One of the speakers was my friend Chealsye Bowley, Community Manager for Ubiquity Press, a U.K. based open access publisher. Bowley also happens to be a featured “Woman Working In the Open.”
Last July at MIT Press, a press release went out that should have caught the eye of any reader of this blog. MIT Press announced the creation of a new leadership position called Director of Journals and Open Access and the appointment of Nick Lindsay to the role. To my knowledge, Nick is the only person in the North American university press world who has OA in his title. Last month, I sent him a few questions about this unique initiative.
Last month, I attended the Charlotte Initiative Open Conference. This Mellon-funded project brought together publishers, librarians, and technology providers to explore a reconsideration of the transactional models between publishers and libraries for eBooks. To quote the initiative, “Our starting premise is that permanent acquisitions of eBooks requires these licensing terms:
- Provision of irrevocable perpetual access and archival rights.
- Allowance for unlimited simultaneous users.
- Freedom from any Digital Rights Management (DRM), including (but not limited to) use of proprietary formats, restricted access to content, or time-limited access terms.”
I was invited to be on the project’s advisory board two years ago and I’ll admit the premise seemed like quite a stretch at that time. In a climate where the rhetoric of accountability is paired with market-optimizing tools like DDA and EBA, the idea that libraries will only buy our most successful books and then insist on broad usage terms like the Charlotte Principles just felt like a non-starter. As John Unsworth mentioned in his conference keynote, publishers operate in the world of risk and libraries have historically helped academic publishers mitigate risk by building deep monograph collections. Predatory publishers figured out how to game this system, forcing libraries to use “accountability” as a reason to reduce monograph purchases despite the arrival of digital platforms making them less expensive and more accessible than ever. As a director at a public university press, I can attest to the acute pain that strategy has had on mission-driven non-profit publishers and on the humanities and social science disciplines we support. More on that in a moment.
On March 15, founding editors Stacy Konkiel and Lily Troia, both of Altmetric, and Nicky Agate of the Modern Language Association, will officially launch The Idealis, a portal for connecting to curated open access library and information science scholarship. Operating on the WordPress plugin Press Forward, The Idealis will include annotated lists of open access scholarship written by, for, or of interest to information professionals. Curation will be done by volunteer editors with expertise in the field. Each editor will serve on two-week rotations during which they will nominate pieces for inclusion in The Idealis platform using the Press Forward plugin. Initially, the collection will consist entirely of works focused on scholarly communication, but the hope is that The Idealis will soon grow to include scholarly work from a wide-range of library interests, including critical librarianship, public librarianship, school librarianship, and more.
The Electrochemical Society, a small nonprofit scholarly society founded in 1902, has an important message for all of us who are concerned about access to science. Mary Yess, Deputy Executive Director and Chief Content Officer and Publisher, could not be clearer about the increased urgency of ECS’ path: “We have got to move towards an open science environment. It has never been more important – especially in light of the recently announced ‘gag orders’ on several US government agencies– to actively promote the principles of open science.” What they committed to in 2013 as an important open access initiative has become, against the current political backdrop, truly a quest to “free the science.”
Last month I was invited to participate in a panel on Open Access at the annual American Historical Association meeting in Denver. One of my colleagues led their presentation with the astute comment that the way most historians react to OA is with apathy. After all, the economics of traditional monograph publishing work pretty well in history and the book is still the coin of the realm in this field. If OA is a solution to an economic crisis, then history should be the last place we need it, right?
This post is co-written by Michael Elliott (Interim Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Emory University), Christopher Long (Dean, College of Arts and Letters, Michigan State University), Mark Saunders (Director, University of Virginia Press), and Charles Watkinson (Director, University of Michigan Press).
As part of an initiative to explore the potential benefits of open access modes for disseminating academic monographs, we have found ourselves returning to basic questions about how we want to measure and understand what it is we do when we send a monograph out into the world. Every book is created from our basic scholarly impulse to enrich some aspect of the complex world we share. Yet when we seek to tell the story of its impact, we too often rely on narrow, dull, and/or inadequate measures — citation counts; print runs; downloads.