INTERIM REPORT TO THE PRESIDENT
President’s Committee on Scholarly Communication
In July 1998 you convened a Committee on Scholarly Communications to review the current state of scholarly communications, look at national efforts to change the environment, and plan a course of action to be undertaken at this university. You asked the committee to look at the impact of high prices on library acquisitions, examine ways to maximize access by faculty to the materials they need, and identify internal policy changes that would be necessary to implement these changes. You also asked the committee to look at ways for IU to establish a national model for scholarly communication as we have done for intellectual property rights. The committee is to submit its final report by the end of the academic year, but you also asked the committee to give you an interim report in December.
The committee has met six times this fall. We have devoted most of our time thus far to understanding better the wide variety of practices and norms with regard to scholarly communication within academic disciplines, including the sciences (chemistry and mathematics), humanities (history and philosophy), and professional schools (law and business).
The divergence among these disciplines is noteworthy and greatly complicates the process of identifying and prioritizing the key issues and opportunities that need to be addressed and of recommending specific steps for resolving those issues and taking advantage of those opportunities. For example, scholars in the sciences rely on articles published in journals, rather than monographs, to report as rapidly as possible the results of research. Dramatic increases in prices, much higher than the Consumer Price Index, particularly for non-U.S. scientific publications published by commercial presses, have occurred during the past decade.
In some areas of the humanities, such as history, monographs, instead of journal articles, are critical for tenure and promotion. Monographs are increasing in price at a slower rate than are journals, but fewer and fewer monographs are purchased by libraries because of the need to fund expensive journals, particularly those in the sciences. Rapid dissemination of results is less important in the humanities than in the sciences, and older publications are consulted more frequently than in many scientific disciplines. However, there are some areas of the humanities, such as philosophy, where monographs play a much smaller role than do journal articles.
In business, journal articles are the main outlet for research results. Monographs and conference proceedings are of secondary importance. Both association and commercial journals are important. Association journals are significantly cheaper than commercial journals and electronic versions of journals and working papers are becoming more common. The field of law is radically different from both the humanities and the sciences. Articles are generally not peer-reviewed, but are most often reviewed by students who edit the law journals. The journals are inexpensive and largely subsidized by the universities which publish them; commercial journals are not the most prestigious, but rather the prestige of a law journal generally comes from the ranking of the law school that sponsors it.
The committee has also devoted considerable time to understanding the impact of the various scholarly communications norms and practices within disciplines on academic libraries. National data from the 110 member libraries of the ARL indicates that despite cancellation of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of journals since 1986, ARL libraries have spent 124% more on serials to purchase 7% fewer titles.
The IUB Libraries serials budget has grown by 126% since 1984; however, an increase of more than 230% would be required to keep pace with U.S. serials prices alone. The proportion of the IUB Libraries collection budget allocated to broad disciplinary groups has remained relatively stable over the past decade despite the obvious increases in costs for serials, in general, and scientific publications, in particular. The overall 1998-99 IUBL materials budget is allocated 65% to serials and 35% to monographs, (having shifted from a 60/40 split ten years ago). However, there is wide variance among the broad disciplinary groups in this apportionment, as might be expected due to the relative importance of these respective publishing formats:
Sciences are 90% serials and 10% monographs
Social Sciences are 73% serials and 27% monographs
Area Studies are 41% serials and 59% monographs
Humanities are 30% serials and 70% monographs
The relatively stable allocation in the IUB Libraries has been possible for several reasons, one of the most significant of which is that between 1989/90 and 1997/98, the IUB Libraries have canceled 2,795 subscriptions valued at $741,700, averaging $265 per subscription. In the last six years alone, the IUB science libraries have collectively canceled (net) 443 subscriptions at a reduction in costs of $222,340. In 1998/99, the IUB Libraries are slated to cancel another $130,000 in journals. Similarly from 1989/90 to 1997/98, the Ruth Lilly Medical Library canceled some 283 subscriptions at a total value of $151,386, averaging $535 per subscription and has already canceled an additional $21,000 in journals this year. With 5% increases to the IUB collection budget in past years, monograph purchases have remained constant.
Moreover, more than $900,000 in end-of-the-year one-time funds from the campus administration has been necessary to cover serials deficits and fund new database acquisitions in the five-year period 1991/92-1996/97.
The largest single fund in the IUB Libraries, close to $400,000, is devoted to networked databases; in 1993/94 this fund was $40,000. Electronic resources are now estimated to constitute almost 10% of the collection budget. Since the pricing of electronic resources is frequently tied to continued purchase of print counterparts or represent increased costs for enhancements in the digital version, acquiring these resources typically incurs additional expenses.
Having spent most of the fall trying simply to get our hands around the issues connected with scholarly communications, the committee is only now beginning to prioritize which issues and opportunities warrant the most urgent attention and to consider specific steps for addressing them. We have, however, reached several preliminary conclusions:
1. The issues surrounding scholarly communications are many and vary widely among disciplines. While this point may have been obvious to some, many members of the committee have been surprised by how widely the norms of scholarly publication and the markets for scholarly materials differ among disciplines.
2. As a result of this wide divergence, we believe it is unlikely that any single solution is likely to address the wide range of issues connected with scholarly communications. Put bluntly, we do not believe there is any "magic bullet."
3. Our discipline-specific exploration of issues surrounding scholarly communications has also convinced us that no single institution is likely to be able to effect meaningful change. We believe that collective action is almost certain to be necessary. This is likely to involve colleges and universities working together, the participation of scholarly and professional societies, and collaboration with organizations outside of the academic community.
4. Any meaningful change in the norms of scholarly creativity and publication in a single discipline, much less across the academy, will require substantial changes in the academic culture. Those changes will obviously be neither easy nor quick. One important part of motivating those changes will be educating faculty precisely as the committee has spent much of the fall educating itself about the divergent range of scholarly communications norms.
5. The committee has been struck by the important distinction between "access" to information as opposed to "acquisition" of the physical objects in which information may be contained. Although access presents many issues (including, for example, those relating to the predictability of costs, compliance with copyright laws, and stable archiving/continued access), many of us are persuaded that focusing on access rather than acquisition is one key part of coping with and taking advantage of changes in scholarly communications. This shift in focus has important implications for many aspects of the university, especially for the library. Effective implementation of this concept will require that faculty become more aware of the copyright implications of their agreements with publishers. Faculty also need to become more aware of the implications of copyright on their research and teaching. We are often not the best stewards of our own intellectual property, and the need for greater faculty education about the issues and their alternatives is clear.
6. Although the committee has not yet sought to prioritize the issues and opportunities it has identified, it is already clear that the rapidly escalating cost of many commercial serials, especially in the sciences, is a critical issue. While we remain uncertain as to whether anything can be done to reverse this trend or meaningfully diminish its impact, we have given preliminary favorable consideration to a recommendation that this university collaborate with others, perhaps through the CIC or the AAU, to establish a thoughtful, open process for identifying scholarly publications which fail to meet clearly specified, objective criteria for pricing and licensing. The collaborating organizations would then decline to purchase those publications and would encourage their faculty neither to submit material to those publications nor to serve on their editorial boards. While the details of such a program would need to worked out carefully and antitrust issues would need to be considered, we believe that this type of approach could offer ethical and practical force to the arguments against anticompetitive pricing and licensing practices, and help change the posture of many universities from merely complaining about such practices to seeking to actively combat them. The committee is not insensitive to the risks associated with evaluating the behavior of one set of institutions. However, it should be remembered that there is special justification for the academic community scrutinizing the practices including pricing and licensing practices of publishers of scholarly material because colleges and universities both support the creation of most scholarly material and are its primary audience.
7. While economic issues are clearly critical, the committee believes that they are not the only points for future discussion relating to scholarly communication. For example, coping with the ever-expanding volume of information and improving the "filtering" and "navigation" services of libraries are vital to future scholarly activities.
8. Finally, the committee has discovered no evidence to suggest that the demand for funds to acquire printed and electronic material is likely to decrease in the foreseeable future. Modest increases in library funding have barely made it possible for this university’s libraries to make any pretense of "keeping up" with the expanding number and price of scholarly materials, and even that has come at the cost of significant cancellations of subscriptions and through the availability of end-of-the-year one-time funding. Electronic scholarly resources, while often offering new levels of access and service to faculty and students, have to date not resulted in any net cost savings. Quite the contrary, making available powerful new electronic information services poses increased demands on library budgets. While the prioritization of demands for scarce university resources in not in this committee’s mandate, most committee members believe that funding for scholarly collections is both critical and likely to be more necessary than ever in the face of many of the changes in scholarly communications norms and practices that we have identified.
The committee has encountered a variety of suggestions for possible future consideration next semester. While we have not yet had an opportunity to consider these, we attach a list of them for your information.
We obviously have much more to do, but we appreciate the opportunity to share with you our preliminary thoughts and we look forward to discussing them with you on Tuesday.
Members of the President’s Committee on Scholarly Communications:
Co-chair Suzanne Thorin, University Libraries
Co-chair Gary Hieftje, Chemistry
Ann Bristow, University Libraries
Martha Brogan, University Libraries
Fred Cate, Law
Kenneth Crews, Copyright Management Center
Blaise Cronin, SLIS
Mike Dunn, Philosophy
John Gallman, IU Press
R. Jeffrey Green, Business
Mike Grossberg, History
Dave Pisoni, Psychology
Lisa Pratt, Geology
Carl Rothe, Physiology and Biophysics
Bill Ziemer, Math
Interim Report to the President (December 1998)
President’s Committee on Scholarly Communications
Suggestions for Possible Consideration During the Second Semester