You are browsing the archive for uk.

The cost of academic publishing

- April 24, 2014 in Comment, cost, Open Access, publishing, Russell Group, uk

UPDATE 28 April 2014: Imperial have released their subscription data - £1,340,213. This takes the Russell Group to a total of £15.7 million in subscription fees to Elsevier alone with data related to four universities still outstanding.   What could the UK academic community do with £14.5 million? That is the same as the yearly tuition fees for over 1600 undergraduates paying £9,000 fees. And that is what just 19 Universities in the UK are spending in total during a single year on journal subscriptions to a single publisher.   The act of publishing research has an intrinsic cost, and I don’t know anyone who claims otherwise. However, the key questions we as an academic community should be asking is how much this publishing process costs, and if we are receiving value for money. But we can’t answer these questions. Because we don’t know how much academic publishing costs. Historically, the costs of scientific research publication have been covered through subscriptions to academic journals in which the research has been published. Alternative business models are beginning to develop, but the majority of research around the world is still published in journals to which subscriptions are required. Individual academics are largely protected from the costs of access to these journals. Libraries at universities are largely responsible for managing institution wide access to journals, and through JISC negotiate these subscription costs. And then libraries are not allowed to tell anyone what these costs are. Libraries are placed under huge amounts of pressure not to release this data, and in the case of Elsevier, they are explicitly forbidden to by non-disclosure agreements in the contracts they have to sign. Today, Tim Gowers has released data showing that 19 Russell Group Universities alone spend over £14.4 million (excluding VAT) on subscriptions to journals published by Elsevier alone. Without a doubt you should read his blog post which has far more detail and background; but the headline figures are:  

University

Cost

Birmingham

£764,553

Bristol

£808,840

Cambridge

£1,161,571

Cardiff

£720,533

*Durham

£461,020

**Edinburgh

£845,000

*Exeter

£234,126

Glasgow

£686,104

King’s College London

£655,054

Leeds

£847,429

London School of Economics

Not released data

Liverpool

£659,796

Manchester

£1,257,407

Nottingham

Not released data

Newcastle

£974,930

Oxford

Not released data

Queen Mary University of London

Not released data

Queen’s Universty Belfast

£584,020

Sheffield

£562,277

Southampton

£766,616

UCL

£1,381,380

Warwick

£631,851

*York

£400,445

*Joined the Russell Group two years ago. **Information obtained by Sean Williams. Data taken from Tim Gowers blog post found here   This data, acquired through Freedom of Information requests, has focussed upon the Russell Group, but excludes data from Imperial College London, London School of Economics and Political Science, Nottingham, Oxford, and Queen Mary University of London who declined to release their data. And many of these of these are unlikely to be be small spenders. This means that the total figure for the Russell Group will be significantly higher than the £14.4 million stated above. Non-disclosure clauses, included by Elsevier within the contracts have previously prevented libraries from releasing this data, and even from discussing the figures with other libraries or academics within their own University, and the release of this data is likely to cause much comment among libraries and academics. There are large differences between different institutions – for instance Exeter is paying roughly a sixth of the costs being paid by University College London, with UCL spending £1,381,380 (that’s the yearly fees from 150 undergraduates). As Tim mentions in his in-depth analysis, it’s interesting to note that the institutions paying the lowest fees are those institutions who have only recently joined the Russell Group. While a bound physical copy was the only means of communicating written research over a distance, and was a huge development in 1665 with the publication of the first scientific journal, the ‘Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society’, the idea of journal subscriptions in return for access to academic research is understandable. There were large infrastructure costs involved. However, the Internet has created opportunity for significantly reduced distribution costs. Distributing ‘copies’ of digital work costs very little once initial costs have been covered, and given that this is the way many academics access research within the University, there is no justifiable reason why publishers should charge such widely different access fees to universities. Journal subscriptions are not the only cost to Universities for publishing research. As a transition towards open access is made, author processing charges (APCs) are common; especially in the UK where the Research Councils, Wellcome Trust and other funders have mandated that academics make their research freely and openly available at point of publication. However, this APC data is also not available, which means we can’t see how much money is flowing to publishers. And is is especially important in the case of many high profile and prestigious journals which are what are termed ‘hybrid journals’. These are journals in which some articles are freely available to read after receipt of an APC, but a subscription is still required to read the remainder. No data is currently made available that shows how much UK academics are paying to publish in an open access fashion, either in pure open access journals, or these ‘hybrid journals’. However, data released last month shows that in 2012-2013 alone, the Wellcome Trust alone spent over £1 million on articles published in Elsevier journals – of which nearly 95% was in journals to which an academic library had to also pay a subscription. And yet this is only a small piece of the picture; we still don’t know how much is being spent on APCs by other public funded research streams such as from the Research Councils or HEFCE. In a time of decreasing research funding from Government (given UK inflation rates the flat-line research budget results in a real terms cut), and increased onus on students as a source of income, what is an acceptable cost for publication of research? Be that cost met through journal subscriptions or an open access business model. And to whom should we be paying that money? These conversations are rarely had; partly through lack of information, and partly through the disinterest of many academics. And traditional publishers such as Elsevier benefit significantly and exploit the disinterest of many academics in this space. They take work largely funded by the taxpayer, carried out within publicly funded institutions, and then sell it back to this institution, and every other willing/able institution around the world. And then actively work to prevent libraries from releasing information that may begin to establish a competitive market in this space. To an advantage of many millions of pounds a year. Elsevier alone is charging £14.4 million to 19 universities in the UK – and will be gaining literally millions more from the other 100 universities in the country. They are also gaining millions of pounds in APCs. And that’s just one publisher. There are countless other traditional publishers to whom academic libraries pay subscriptions; Wiley, Oxford University Press, Nature Publishing Group, and Springer just to name a few. And none of this data is out there. No-one knows how much money is being drained from the academic university budgets (either from research grants, or indirect money received through HEFCE grants or student tuition fees) to the financial benefit of these for-profit publishers. We need to get a full picture of the costs of academic publishing – both the costs incurred through journal subscriptions and through APCs. While the focus of Tim’s work has been Elsevier, I’ve submitted Freedom of Information requests to Russell Group Universities asking for journal subscription data for Wiley, Oxford University Press and Springer, and I’ll be making this data available if/when it is released. I will also provide information where libraries do not honour their obligations under FOI, do not accept that this information is in the public interest, and what reasons are they give. And it is without doubt in the public interest to have data that can show the cost of publication made openly available. Without this, there can be no development of competitive markets in either subscriptions or APCs. A chilling effect, created by commercial publishers and non-disclosure clauses, requiring a lack of transparency cannot serve anything other than other than the business interests of traditional publishers.

Data Roundup, 25 October

- October 25, 2013 in Data Roundup, gephi, la nacion, strata, technology, uk

The English Silicon Valley map, Little Data economics for the news industry, the New York Data Week and Strata Conference, an infographic on movies’ supercars, workshops and new databases.

Mike Leeorg – New York City Skyline Sunset

Tools, Events, Courses Interested in joining and developing a data journalism project? Medialab Prado is looking for collaborators for its “Workshop on Data Journalism: Transforming Data into Stories”. Participants will work in groups to produce selected projects ranging from “Globalization and health trends” to “Climate Finance Maps”. Workshops take place on two editions: 25-27 October and 13-15 December. Hurry up! The deadline for registration is October 24. If you are curious about the dimension of your Facebook network you may want to have a look at the first DataJLab video tutorial on Gephi. Gephi is platform that helps you visualizing complex series of relations and, above all, is available for free to anyone! Next week every New Yorker should not miss the appointment with two of the biggest events on the world of data. On Monday 27th starts the NYC Data Week and, right the day after, the Strata Conference opens the doors to the public. It’s going to be an intensive agenda of workshops, speeches and meetups for anyone interested in analyzing and visualizing numbers and statistics: journalists, information architects, designers, entrepreneurs, start-uppers and many more. Data Stories The legendary Guardian Data Blog recently published an interesting analysis of the diversity of languages spoken in England. In “What does the 2011 Census tell us about diversity of languages in England and Wales?” the University College London geographer Guy Lansley, author of the article, displays the distribution of idioms in the Country through a series of dot maps based on data released by Office for National Statistics. If you are wondering what kind of role data analysis and data intelligence play in big news industries nowadays then you should absolutely read Ken Doctor’s point of view on the Nieman Journalism Lab where he describes and presents “The newsonomics of Little Data”. Want to know which is the English Silicon Valley? Read and explore John Burn-Murdoch’s map of Britain’s technology sector hotspots on Financial Times. For those with a true passion for cars and movies Cool Infographics posted “Car of the Silver Screen”, a long nice-looking graph showing all the most famous characters’ supercars: from the legendary Sean Connery’s Aston Martin DB5 in “007 Goldfinger” to the most recent Audi R8 e-tron driven by Robert Downey Jr. in “Iron Man 3”. Data Sources Data journalists from La Nacion just released the beta version of Declaraciones Juradas Abiertas, a huge database listing assets, holdings and properties of Argentinian public servants aimed at increasing public administration transparency towards citizenship. flattr this!

Make Things Do Stuff to Mobilise 100,000 Young Makers Across UK

- June 6, 2013 in creative technology, event, Featured, london, make things do stuff, mozilla, nesta, projects, uk, video design, webmaker

Creative Web Literacy is an increasingly important issue. I’ve written about it. Many others have written about it. But what are we all doing about it? One of the campaigns I’m proud to be involved with here in London is Make Things Do Stuff, a UK-wide network of like-minded organisations including Freeformers, Technology Will Save Us, […]

Make Things Do Stuff to Mobilise 100,000 Young Makers Across UK

- June 6, 2013 in creative technology, event, Featured, london, make things do stuff, mozilla, nesta, projects, uk, video design, webmaker

< ! -- magazine.image = https://design.okfn.org/files/2013/06/1.jpg -- > welcome

Creative Web Literacy is an increasingly important issue. I’ve written about it. Many others have written about it. But what are we all doing about it?

One of the campaigns I’m proud to be involved with here in London is …

Make Things Do Stuff to Mobilise 100,000 Young Makers Across UK

- June 6, 2013 in creative technology, event, Featured, london, make things do stuff, mozilla, nesta, projects, uk, video design, webmaker

< ! -- magazine.image = https://design.okfn.org/files/2013/06/1.jpg -- > welcome

Creative Web Literacy is an increasingly important issue. I’ve written about it. Many others have written about it. But what are we all doing about it?

One of the campaigns I’m proud to be involved with here in London is …