Memorandum from the Council of Australian
The Council of Australian University Librarians
(CAUL) submits the following evidence to this inquiry. In making
this submission, CAUL supports the evidence submitted by The Society
of College, National & University Libraries (SCONUL) and the
UK Consortium of University Research Libraries (CURL)
University libraries collaborate at national
and international levels. The global nature of scientific publishing
has compelled university libraries to develop global strategies
and responses to the challenges they face in serving their teaching
and research communities. For this reason, CAUL wishes to provide
this evidence to emphasise the global nature of these issues.
1. What impact do publishers' current policies
on pricing and provision of scientific journals, particularly
"big deal schemes", have on libraries and the teaching
and research communities they serve
1.1 There is ample evidence for the large
increases in the subscription prices of scientific journals over
the last two decades. The Association for Research Libraries in
the United States has tracked price increases and shown that they
are far ahead of standard measures of price movements.
1.2 Libraries have employed several strategies
to deal with this pricing challenge. Libraries have formed consortia
to improve their bargaining position and negotiating power. When
necessary, libraries have cancelled subscriptions. Some of Australia's
larger research libraries have cancelled significant numbers of
journals in recent years (eg, University of New South Wales in
2002). In other cases, libraries have reduced expenditure on other
types of information, notably scholarly monographs, to maintain
funds for serials. Currency fluctuations also affect this situation:
Australia has just ended a long period of depreciated value of
its currency. Commercial publishers like on occasion to present
themselves as partners in the academic enterprise but are not
at all sympathetic to the difficulties this caused for library
budgets. Publishers have not recognized the difficulties this
caused, and many libraries are forced into cancelling substantial
numbers of subscriptions.
1.3 Cancellation of subscriptions affects
provision to the teaching and research communities served by university
libraries. This is compensated to some extent through resource
sharing and use of commercial document suppliers, such as the
British Library Document Supply Centre. Libraries generally bear
the costs of using such services. However, interlibrary loan and
document supply services are generally restricted to segments
of teaching and research communities. Undergraduates do not usually
have such privileges. Also, there are financial and logistical
limits to the amount of resource sharing any library can undertake.
1.4 The "big deal" schemes have
enabled university libraries to extend the number of journals
to its community. There are some benefits in this: more information
is available; ready access to information supporting new areas
of research is possible. The negative aspects of these deals include:
increasing proportions of budgets assigned to large publishers;
paying for content which is not wanted or used; and, punitive
approaches to cancellation. Once a library is in a large deal,
it is difficult to cancel titles without penalties. Several Australian
university libraries experienced this issue in negotiating new
contracts with Elsevier in 2002.
The monopoly position enjoyed by the large publishers
puts libraries in an unequal negotiating position. "Big deals"
and price differentiation are profit maximizing strategies for
large publishers, but they threaten the existence of smaller publishers.
Big deals lock libraries into multi-year contracts and annual
price rises. To maintain their participation when budgets are
tight they are often forced to cancel subscriptions from smaller
publishers, even though their titles may be of more value than
some included in big deals. A Morgan Stanley report on the STM
market in 2002 <http://www.econ.ucsb.edu/~tedb/Journals/morgan
stanley.pdf> concluded that the publishers with the biggest
online portfolios will drive many smaller competitors out of business.
1.5 Licence provisions in the big deals
vary. Libraries have had some success in negotiating resource
sharing provisions to enable wider access to information. However,
these provisions often have restrictions. For example, one large
publisher allows document delivery within the jurisdiction only.
Australia is surrounded by many developing countries who could
not afford access to a "big deal".
1.6 Journal prices from learned society
publishers seem reasonable by comparison with commercial publishers'
prices, and this has relieved pressure on societies to contain
costs through increased efficiencies. It has also allowed them
to increase profit margins while still staying well below the
prices set by the commercials. Societies defend their profits
as justified because they subsidise other worthy activities. CAUL
believes that learned societies play an immensely valuable role,
but the Committee may wish to ask whether subsidising them through
library budgets is the most rational or transparent way to assist
2. What should Government, academic institutions
and publishers be taking to promote a competitive market in scientific
2.1 Mergers and acquisitions require close
examination in order to restrict the growth of monopolies. CAUL
welcomes the intervention of the UK Office of Fair Trading in
this matter. The relative production costs per title between commercial
and non-commercial publishers suggests that commercial publishers
may be exploiting the monopoly of prestigious titles. Cost-benefit
studies consistently demonstrate large differences between commercial
and non-commercial journals (in favour of the latter) and suggest
that commercial pricing bears little relation to production costs
and is relatively immune to competitive pressures. See for example:
Bergstrom, T C. Free Labour for Costly Journals? Journal of
Economic Perspectives 15(4): 183-98. <http://www.e-jep.org/archive/1504/15040183.pdf>;
La Manna, Manfredi. The Economics of Publishing and the Publishing
of Economics. Library Review 52(1), 2003, 18-28. <doi:10.1108/00242530310456988>;
Tenopir, Carol and Donald W King. Towards Electronic Journals.
Washington (D.C.), Special Libraries Association, 2000. ISBN 0-87111-507-7;
Morgan Stanley Equity Research. Scientific Publishing: Knowledge
is Power. 2002.
2.2 Academic institutions are educating
their communities about the price distortions in the scientific
journal market and the significant outlays of human resources
that universities make freely available to publishers for peer
review and editorial responsibilities. However, academic staff
are generally not responsible for expenditures: finding funds
to pay for journal subscriptions is the "library's problem".
There is some evidence that academic staff cancel personal subscriptions
as prices increase and rely on library provision. Ref: Changing
Research Practices in the Digital Information and Communication
Environment [by] John W Houghton. With Colin Steele &
Margaret Henty August 2003 (c) Commonwealth of Australia 2003
ISBN 0 642 77387 4 ISBN 0 642 77388 2
2.3 To encourage the development of alternatives
to commercial journals that are increasingly unaffordable, academic
librarians have endeavoured to encourage author-researchers to
retain control over the copyright of their articles, and to publish
in less expensive journals. The work of SPARC (http://www.arl.org/sparc/)
is notable here. CAUL is a member of SPARC, a coalition of academic
and research libraries and organizations working to correct market
dysfunctions in the scholarly publishing system.
However the behaviour of author-researchers
has proved difficult to change. A researcher looking to publish
faces the prisoner's dilemma. They may acknowledge the public
good that would be served by preferring to publish in an open
access journal rather than an established but expensive commercial
one, but unless all their colleagues do the same they themselves
will be disadvantaged.
CAUL has come to the view that changes to incentives
and rewards are necessary. Research funding bodies should make
it a condition that articles resulting from their funds should
be publicly available, and every effort should be made to remove
implicit or explicit bias in favour of print publication in research
assessment schemes and career advancement systems. Several universities
are encouraging academic staff to publish in cheaper alternatives.
This can be a disincentive to staff who wish to publish in the
`best' journal, but some institutions are recognizing publication
in alternative journals in promotion and qualification processes.
2.4 Encouraging academic staff to review
their copyright assignment practices is another way of reducing
monopoly power of large publishers. Extending a non-exclusive
licence is one alternative; another is to negotiate publication
in databases hosted by a university or the academic staff member.
Enabling academic staff to publish in open access modes could
enable publishers to compete on the added-value aspects of the
publication process. Permitting or providing open access to content
would highlight the publishers' debt to the research community
that provides raw material to publishers free of charge and also
clarify those areas of service on which publishers compete.
3. What are the consequences of increasing
numbers of open access journals, for example for the operation
of the Research Assessment Exercise and other selection processes?
Should the Government support such a trend, and if so, how?
3.1 CAUL recognises that this question is
specific to the environment in the UK. However, governments and
universities are increasingly recognizing that open access raises
their research profile and contributes to national competitiveness.
See for example the DARE project in the Netherlands http://www.surf.nl/en/actueel/index2.php?oid=7.
A 1997 OECD report on National Innovation Systems found that prosperity
in a knowledge economy depends as much on the knowledge distribution
power of the system as it does on its knowledge production power.
4. How effectively are the legal deposit
libraries making available non-print scientific publications to
the research community and what steps should they be taking in
4.1 In Australia, legislation enabling legal
deposit of electronic publication has not been achieved. Collecting
agencies such as the National Library of Australia are selectively
collecting and preserving "born digital" material, through
negotiated agreements with publishers. It is currently not within
the power of Australian legal deposit libraries to be effective
in this matter.
5. What impact will trends in academic journal
publishing have on the risk of scientific fraud and malpractice?
5.1 CAUL supports the evidence in the SCONUL/CURL