Journal subscriptions – Wiley, Oxford University Press, Springer

Following on from Tim Gowers work exploring the amount Russell Group universities pay Elsevier for access to journals, I started submitting freedom of information requests to the same universities, asking what they spent on journal subscriptions to Oxford University Press, Wiley and Springer over the previous 5 years[1]. During this time a number of funders have brought in mandatory open access policies, and I wondered if there had been any change in subscription costs during this time period.

£54.5 million was spent in total spent by 17 Universities on subscriptions to these 3 publishers over the 5 years; £31 million of which being spent on journals published by Wiley. Over the period of time, subscription costs increased in most instances, and increased faster than the rate of VAT.

Although the figures are interesting, there is only limited value comparing across universities.

There is a lot of secrecy around the cost of journals; which is why I’ve had to use FOI to get data that really ought to be in the public domain. However, what isn’t known is what access is being purchased in each instance. It is (very, very) likely that different universities are purchasing access to different journals – but I’ve not yet found a university who publishes a list of which journals they subscribe to.

I don’t know if a university would release a list in response to an FOI request, although I am tempted to try. There must be a computational way to work this out, however?

It’s also likely that different universities will be paying different amounts for the same or similar journal access, based upon the strengths of different institutions and organisations to negotiate deals.

Without knowing what universities are purchasing access to, it’s impossible to make statements about why there are price increases over the 5 years (and in some cases very significant price increases). It may be that the universities are purchasing more journals from the publishers, or it may be that publishers have put their prices up.

A catalog of journal subscriptions from institutions would be very useful for all manner of reasons (including enabling academics and students to easily see if there is access to something on a reading list), and it may well start a discussion between academics and librarians about what journals are accessible. I don’t see a reason to keep this information hidden away.

It would also be useful for useage statistics to be made available – even just the number of times an item is downloaded. I’m not sure why these figures are deemed ‘sensitive data’ and why publishers are not keen for this information to be made available. Perhaps if academics and students were aware how rarely some journals were accessed, they might be less willing to allow libraries to continue paying such large subscription fees.

Despite these caveats, the data from the Russell Group universities on journal subscriptions to Wiley, Oxford University Press and Springer make for interesting reading.

I’ve made the data available on Figshare here.

Why these publishers?

People often use Elsevier as a proxy for all the woes in the traditional scholarly publishing market, but I wanted to explore some of the other publishers. It’s very easy to forget other publishers given the focus many devote to just the one company:

  • Oxford University Press – the different roles of OUP interest me. It is a publisher, but is also considered a department of the University of Oxford, and the University receives income from the press (see pages 34 and 35 of this pdf.
  • Springer – recently purchased the open access publisher, Biomed Central, so I was very interested to see what/if anything had been changing here.
  • Wiley – one of the big learned society publishers, and have been involved significantly in many of the discussions at a policy level around publishing, including in the Finch Group.
Of the Russell Group
  • Oxford and Leeds never responded
  • Birmingham – refused point blank to give me the figures.[2]
  • Edinburgh wanted me to pay £10 per FOI – which I refused to do. I still am not sure why – as this wasn’t something I’ve ever previously been asked to do in response to an FOI. After speaking directly to a librarian there, I got some figures but nothing specifically accurate, so I made the choice not to include them in the data.
  • Durham, Exeter and Queen Mary’s weren’t approached. There was no specific reason for this.
Universities – columns AE to AK
  • £54.4 million was spent by 17 Universities on subscriptions to 3 publishers over the 5 years.
  • Over the 5 years, University of Cambridge spent £5 million on subscriptions to journals from the three publishers, paying more in each of the years 2010 to 2014, and spending significantly more than any other university on Springer journals. UCL and the University of Manchester were also big spenders, each paying over £4 million in the same period of time.
  • London School of Economics paid the least of those who responded – paying £1.1 million over the 5 years (just over £200,000 a year).
  • As column AK shows, most universities have experienced a significant increase over the 5 years, with the University of Southampton having the greatest increase at 36 %. All increases are in the double figures, although 2 universities did have a very slight decrease (York – 3.03 % and Cardiff – 1.15%).
  • Only Imperial gave me figures that excluded VAT. I didn’t want to add the VAT from their figures as VAT has varied across the period 2010 to 2014. Without knowing when amounts were paid, there was a strong risk I may remove the wrong amount.
Oxford University Press
  • The most interesting thing about OUP is the very large percentage increases over the time period. Every library experienced at least a double figure percentage increase, and some, such as Imperial, receiving a triple figure increase. Increases in VAT are not anywhere near sufficient justification for these price increases.
  • The sums of money involved are relatively small numbers (compared to other journal subscription costs) – with only £4.36 million spent over 5 years by the 17 universities.
  • The 2 Universities paying the most to OUP are Southampton (£393,276 over 5 years)  and Manchester (£367,083 over 5 years).
  • The LSE spent the least over 5 years – £136,573.
  • I was interested to see if Oxford University received a subsidy on OUP journals, or if they pay for them at all (due to OUP being department of the University of Oxford). I’m sadly unable to answer this – but will be resubmitting the FOI.
Springer (Columns Q -> V)
  • University of Cambridge spends far more on Springer subscriptions than any other Russell Group University who responded – spending over £500,000 a year on average, and £2.65 million over the 5 years. UCL is the next highest spender, with a cost of £1.94 million over the 5 years
  • LSE paid the least over the 5 years – £ 327,779.75.
  • A few Universities managed a reduction in costs over the 5 years, although Glasgow, Nottingham and Southampton all had large percentage increases. Southampton was the highest at 45.4%.
  • Many of the responses came back with figures in Euros. In each instance, I converted the figures to pounds using the exchange rate on the 1st Aug of the relevant year. However, rates fluctuate across a year, so as we do not know when invoices were paid, it is very difficult to give exact figures.
Wiley (Columns X -> AD)
  • £31 million was spent by the 17 universities on Wiley subscriptions over the 5 year period, Only LSE and York paid less than £1 million.
  • Many universities spent around £2 million across the period – but Imperial paid the most spending more excluding VAT than any other university did including VAT.
  • Only York University saw a decrease in subscription costs across the 5 years – dropping 8.1%.
What is next?

I’m really pleased that we’ve got more of the subscription data out into the public domain. I hope that in the future, releasing this data becomes the ‘standard’ thing to do for all universities. I would love to see UK academic libraries commit to publish their journal spend in 2015. I’m sure it will be cheaper than responding to another set of FOIs next year.

As for what’s next? Well, I will be merging my data with the work recently published by Stuart Lawson and Ben Meghreblian, and I’m going to continue talking about publishing models with academics. I’m also going to start thinking about how to develop a catalog of journals that institution subscribes to. If you have any bright ideas on that, please do let me know!

 

 

[1] Yes, I’m writing this up *much* later than I’d hoped. I’ve been very ill over much of 2014 – although am better now!

[2] Some of the documents have been made unavailable after I left Open Knowledge Foundation at the end of the summer. I’m hoping to regain access to them soon, so I can provide the explanation that Birmingham University gave me.

The sheer scale of hybrid journal publishing

The last few years have seen a significant rise in what are termed ‘hybrid open access journals’, where only some of the articles are freely available to read and a subscription is still required to read the remainder. As many journals require payment from authors to publish in this fashion, then university libraries need to pay subscriptions to read the remaining articles, publishers are in effect being paid twice for the same work.

With recently published data from the Wellcome Trust, the scale of this double charging has become much more clear.

In Oct 2012 – Sept 2013, academics spent £3.88 million to publish articles in journals with immediate online access – of which £3.17 million (82 % of costs, 74 % of papers) was paying for publications that Universities would then be charged again for. For perspective, this is a figure slightly larger than the Wellcome Trust paid in 2012/2013 on their Society & Ethics portfolio.

Only £0.70 million of the charity’s £3.88m didn’t have any form of double charging (ie, was published in a “Pure Open Access” journal) – with this total being dominated by articles published in PLOS and BioMed Central journals (68 % of total ‘pure’ hybrid journal costs, 80 % of paper total).

Top 5 publishers by total cost to Wellcome Trust

Publisher

No. of articles

Maximum Cost

Average Cost

Total Cost (nearest £1000)

Elsevier (inc. Cell Press)

418

£5,760

£2,448.158

£1,036,000

Wiley-Blackwell

271

£3,078.92

£2,009.632

£545,000

PLOS

307

£3,600

£1,139.286

£350,000

Oxford University Press

167

£3,177.60

£1,850.099

£300,000

Nature Publishing Group (not inc. Frontiers)

80

£3,780

£2,696.396

£216,000

Top 5 publishers by total cost to Wellcome Trust – separated into money spent on author charges for articles appearing in hybrid and pure open access journals

Publisher

Journal Type

No. of articles

Max Cost

Average Cost

 Total Cost (nearest £)

Elsevier

Hybrid

402

£5,760

2,443.28

£982,199

Pure OA

21

£3,996

2,541.48

£53,371

Wiley-Blackwell

Hybrid

263

£3,026

2,010.88

£528,862

Pure OA

8

£3,079

1,968.60

£15,749

PLOS

Hybrid

0

£0

£0

£0

Pure OA

307

£3,600

1,139.29

£349,761

Oxford University Press

Hybrid

135

£3,177.6

2,004.14

£270,558

Pure OA

32

£2,184

1,200.25

£38,408

Nature Publishing Group

Hybrid

67

£3,780

2,867.82

192,143.71

Pure OA

13

£2,880

1,812.923

23,568

Wellcome Trust pays nearly £1 million to Elsevier, and pays over £500,000 to Wiley-Blackwell to make articles freely available on point of publication, in journals that a university library will also be trying to find money to also pay subscription fees to. These are outrageously high sums of money! Especially given a recent explosion in the number of journals, and an increase in journal prices, means even well-funded libraries can no longer afford the cost of subscribing to many journals!

Journal articles should be published in a way that means they are freely available – and not just to academics, but also to wider public audiences. And I’m not critical of article processing charges. However, I’m unsure how any publisher can justify charging an academic an average cost of £2,443 to publish in a journal that is already being supported by library subscriptions from not just one university, but many universities around the world. And surely no cost based model should charge more for publication in a hybrid journal with multiple funding streams than in one supported purely on author charges (as appears to be the case with Wiley-Blackwell).

Data

Data source found here

Original data: Kiley, Robert (2014): Wellcome Trust APC spend 2012-13: data file. figsharehttp://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.963054

Enhancements on original data made by Cameron Neylon: https://github.com/cameronneylon/apcs

Wiley-Blackwell open access licenses – clarity needed

Update – the Vice-President & Director of Open Access from Wiley has responded below.

Alongside the awesome Theo Andrew, I’ve been leading the crowd sourcing effort to explore the Wellcome Trust Article Processing Charge data (Original data found here). This effort is still on-going, so please do have a look if you have even a few minutes to spare.

I’ve found an interesting case when looking at the licenses of work published in Wiley-Blackwell journals.

Every Wiley-Blackwell article I’ve looked at so far makes the statement: “Re-use of this article is permitted in accordance with the Creative Commons Deed, Attribution 2.5, which does not permit commercial exploitation.” (For an example, see the image below).

This isn’t my understanding of ‘Creative Commons Deed, Attribution 2.5’ at all.

CC BY (as it is otherwise known), allows for any use, including commercial use, as long as you “give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.” (Text taken from Creative Commons CC BY 2.5 human readable summary).

Creative Commons have spent a lot of time ensuring that the licenses are incredibly easy to understand, but it seems the license statement here from the publishers is deliberately difficult to understand and contradicting the actual meaning of CC BY licenses.

Have I gotten confused about Creative Commons licenses? Or have Wiley-Blackwell?

If it’s not clear to me – someone who spends a lot of time thinking about open access and licensing – it’s hardly going to be clear to other academics and professionals who should be able to spend time focusing on research, rather than spending time talking to lawyers.

Open Access in Europe

Help me find examples of the benefits of reusing research…

I’ve just got back from Guimarães, Portugal where I attended the kick off meeting for PASTEUR4OA (Open Access Policy Alignment Strategy for European Union Research). PASTEUR4OA is a multi-partner European project aiming to help EU Member States develop and implement policies to ensure Open Access to all outputs from publicly funded research, helping to develop (or reinforce) open access strategies and policies at national level. Part of this work will involve mapping existing policies at national and institutional levels, and part of this will be directly engaging policy makers, and helping to develop national centers of expertise.

It was a great opportunity to meet (and remeet) many people from across the EU interested in Open Acccess, including representatives of SPARC Europe, Jisc and the Open University.

I’m involved in this work as part of my role at the Open Knowledge Foundation. One key aspect of this project will be strengthening the existing Open Access community at the Open Knowledge Foundation, and increasing engagement between our community and policy makers across the EU.

Another key aim will be pushing hard to ensure that when people talk about ‘open access’ as part of this project, they are using the term as defined by the Budapest Open Access Initiative and in agreement with the Open Definition, considering the right to reuse and not just the right to view.

Often when people talk about Open Access they are just thinking about the right to view, and the need for free access to research. Within Europe policy makers are largely on board with the idea of research being ‘free to view’, and Horizon 2020 also has a requirement for journal articles resulting from funding to be published in a manner that is free to view. However, the research articles are not *required* to be free to reuse – and I think it’s important that we try and convince policy makers about this requirement.

I’m going to put my thinking cap on over the next few weeks about good case studies about content mining and other benefits of reuse. If you have any bright ideas about case studies – please do contact me! These examples can either be possible scenarios, or examples taking place right now. I want to get a collection together as soon as possible and provide them to advocates talking to policy makers!