What’s the Big Deal? | Ithaka S+R

“The dominant mode by which research libraries have provided maximum journal access as cheaply as possible—subscription bundles or “Big Deals”—is giving way to new approaches. This transition is taking place through a combination of negotiations, activism, business modeling, user needs research, and decision support, among other factors. To support these processes, Ithaka S+R partnered with 11 academic libraries to understand researcher perceptions to help inform their ongoing strategic decision making about Big Deal journal subscriptions.

Recognizing that libraries must also undertake case-by-case assessments prior to making decisions about any particular journal package, in this report we share findings from the project that merit wider public consideration. We detail patterns in how researchers approach discovery and access to journal content, focusing on their experiences when mechanisms for access change. These experiences are used as a jumping off point to also explore researchers’ perceptions of the various models for facilitating their access to journal content and of the stakeholders engaged in that work.

We found that when a suite of journals is no longer available through a Big Deal subscription package, researchers experience little negative impact in the short term. There are some institutional, disciplinary, and career-stage variations, but overall researchers are able to work around the access barriers they encounter. This reality is deceptively benign. Researchers remain supportive of their libraries and are also interested in broader efforts to challenge the status quo of the scholarly communications business. However, they do not have a solid understanding of the strategies for advancing new modes of journal access beyond the subscription model, nor are they clear on what the library can and should provide in response.

We recommend three areas of activity that institutions should be especially mindful of when considering changes to journal subscription packages …

We found that when a suite of journals is no longer available through a Big Deal subscription package, researchers experience little negative impact in the short term. There are some institutional, disciplinary, and career-stage variations, but overall researchers are able to work around the access barriers they encounter. This reality is deceptively benign. Researchers remain supportive of their libraries and are also interested in broader efforts to challenge the status quo of the scholarly communications business. However, they do not have a solid understanding of the strategies for advancing new modes of journal access beyond the subscription model, nor are they clear on what the library can and should provide in response….”

ACRL 2021 Environmental Scan

“Every other year, the ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee provides a scan of higher education, detailing the current environment and its anticipated impact on libraries. While this year’s Environmental Scan is no different in terms of scope, we are now facing challenges to higher education on a scale not seen in decades. Across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives and livelihoods of millions of people, and in the United States, this disruption has been compounded by the eruption of protests surrounding civil rights and other social justice issues. While the 2021 Environmental Scan covers developments over the last two years (2019 and 2020), the events of 2020 are anticipated to have lasting repercussions, and, while not the primary focus, are a common thread throughout the document….

After years of debate, more academic libraries have begun to rethink the big deal, often with support from their faculty. Florida State University, Iowa State University, the State University of New York (SUNY), the University of California, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill have all cancelled big deal packages in recent years. These decisions have been driven by evolving licensing principles, increased open access content, cost considerations, and new tools to analyze the impact of more targeted subscriptions.91 With current and inevitable future budget cuts taking place across the country, one can expect this trend to continue. Colleges and universities are facing difficult times that will impact academic library budgets, prompting major transformations in collection management, including the consideration of how to manage big deal packages.

Unsub: Part 1: From Big Deals to Real Deals for Academic Publishing & Libraries – Charleston Hub

“The rise of sophisticated publishing units within and amongst academic institutions, often led by campus libraries, appeared along with the increasing use of pre-publication avenues and alternative publishing systems and other author posting options. Today we have a more nuanced publishing ecosystem of preprint servers, postprints repositories and other options, too many to name. These have been critical as new research has been shared broadly during the COVID crisis across the globe, proving the potential of these publishing options. 

In a recent study by University of Western Kentucky librarians reported that even though article purchasing represented a cost to the institution, “most of these institutions believe their article purchasing program is successful.” In a 2020 article posted on arXiv.org, Marc-Andre Simard, Jason Priem and Heather Piwowar  reviewed published literature on the impact of library Big Deal cancellations on academic libraries, noting that “cancellations have a surprisingly small effect on interlibrary loan requests.”  …”

 

Unsub: Part 1: From Big Deals to Real Deals for Academic Publishing & Libraries – Charleston Hub

“The rise of sophisticated publishing units within and amongst academic institutions, often led by campus libraries, appeared along with the increasing use of pre-publication avenues and alternative publishing systems and other author posting options. Today we have a more nuanced publishing ecosystem of preprint servers, postprints repositories and other options, too many to name. These have been critical as new research has been shared broadly during the COVID crisis across the globe, proving the potential of these publishing options. 

In a recent study by University of Western Kentucky librarians reported that even though article purchasing represented a cost to the institution, “most of these institutions believe their article purchasing program is successful.” In a 2020 article posted on arXiv.org, Marc-Andre Simard, Jason Priem and Heather Piwowar  reviewed published literature on the impact of library Big Deal cancellations on academic libraries, noting that “cancellations have a surprisingly small effect on interlibrary loan requests.”  …”

 

With 50% Cut, Virginia Research Libraries Recalibrate Relationship with Elsevier – SPARC

“Equity, affordability, and accessibility were at the center of the recent decision by the Virginia Research Libraries (VRL) consortium to cut their spend with Elsevier nearly in half while maintaining access to their most frequently used materials.

The decision by six members of VRL (William & Mary, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, and James Madison University) was grounded in a values-driven negotiation process that relied on data to make the case to move away from Elsevier’s “Big Deal” Freedom Collection. The new one-year agreement with Elsevier for 2021 significantly reduced the overall spend for each campus and allowed for a collection tailored to include each institution’s most used materials….”

Friday Big Deal (Not Very) Longread: Boycotting Elsevier Is Not Enough, by Shaun Khoo

“Khoo argues that boycotting Elsevier is also not really a useful tactic, other than perhaps for consciousness raising. What’s needed is investment in alternatives, and more importantly, culture change that makes it attractive for authors to choose those alternatives….”

Four Concerns About the new UC-Elsevier Deal

“I can only speak for myself, but here, in a nutshell, are some key things that make me hesitate to cheer this new deal:

Elsevier does what’s best for Elsevier. The serials crisis—the slow-motion catastrophe that has seen a few journal oligopolies commandeer library budgets, crowding out other investments—is not an accident or a natural disaster. It is the result of a deliberate business strategy, implemented by commercial firms whose sole duty is not to science but to their shareholders. By far the largest and most-boycotted (to little effect) of these firms is Elsevier. That Elsevier loves this deal is enough to make me worry. That concern only deepens when we see sharp independent observers like Roger Schonfeld argue persuasively that these deals will ensure Elsevier’s continuing dominance of scholarly publishing in the open access future.

It transforms access, but caters to IF mania. Open access activism has long been focused on how commercial academic publishers use copyright to lock up and monetize research. Open access aims to remove copyright as a barrier to access to knowledge, and on those terms, the UC-Elsevier deal is a success. But copyright is only half (maybe less) of the dysfunction in academic publishing. The deeper, more insidious problem is the journal prestige economy (aka impact factor mania)—the academy’s reliance on journal reputation and metrics like journal impact factor in evaluating the quality of scholarship and of scholars. A publisher who controls a high-prestige title has a captive workforce of authors who must struggle to publish in their outlet in order to advance professionally. Transforming the copyright aspect of this system without also upsetting the prestige economy (e.g., by reforming promotion and tenure) only shifts the unsustainable cost of IF mania from readers to authors (and author-supporting institutions, like the UC).

Far from unsettling the prestige economy, the UC deal seems to cater to it, offering authors reassurance that publishing fees will not be a barrier to their participation in this system. When libraries urge faculty to embrace open access, a common rejoinder is “Then the library should pay my APCs.” When I hear that suggestion, the ensuing conversation is typically about why that’s an unsustainable model, and why more radical change is needed to address the many harms of the old system. The UC’s response, at least in this deal, is, “Sure, here you go!” That may put the rest of us in a difficult position.

It undermines the only potential upside of charging authors to publish. Shifting costs to authors is generally a disaster for them, especially authors in less-wealthy countries and those without access to grant funds to offset publication costs. But advocates for this cost-shift have long argued that this pain is good because it will give authors a reason to publish in more efficient (read: cheaper) journals. Once they have “skin in the game,” the invisible hand will lead authors to choose cheaper journals, forcing publishing charges down as journals compete on price to attract authors. But that hasn’t happened so far, and there’s little reason to believe it will. In any event, deals like the UC-Elsevier deal undermine this potential upside of charging authors by subsidizing and, if necessary, completely covering the cost on their behalf. Insulating academics from the exploding costs of their choices is exactly the 

What Collaboration Means to Us: The SPARC Journal Negotiation Community of Practice

“Negotiations are a particularly challenging area for collaboration among libraries. Driven by the prevalence of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and confidentiality clauses, the culture of information sharing outside of consortial arrangements is not a ready tendency by academic librarians, despite some notable exceptions1. The perception of potential antitrust concerns chilled discussions about negotiation strategy and tactics, and large publishers continue to exploit this asymmetrical information environment aggressively. Even before the current COVID crisis, many libraries reached a breaking point in the serials cost increases that their budgets could no longer bear. These challenges around effective collaboration drove the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) to work with our members and the wider library community over the past two years to develop a journal negotiation community of practice. Initially focused on supporting libraries exploring cancelling their Big Deals, the community of practice quickly expanded to include negotiations more broadly, reflecting the need to better align the remaining publisher contracts with library needs and values and to better support libraries in this work. The Journal Negotiation Community of Practice has become a platform for dialog, sharing data and best practices, and creative problem solving. SPARC’s role is focused on both community building and catalyzing discussions as well as disseminating resources produced by these discussions. We work to create a welcoming environment for librarians to share both their questions and their experiences and to provide support by building tools to share actionable, on-demand information about both negotiating subscription packages and walking away from these packages altogether….”

When to Hold Them, When to Fold Them: Reassessing “Big Deals” in 2020: The Serials Librarian: Vol 0, No 0

Abstract:  While cancellations of “Big Deals” at research institutions are making the headlines, small- and medium-sized schools are also addressing the issue of managing their journal packages by cancelling or unbundling major publishers’ journal packages. Although “Big Deals” were advantageous when first acquired, as the years passed, large publishers absorbed more publications annually, which brought higher costs and titles of lower relevance to the library. Each year librarians at Pepperdine University have analyzed cost per use, and each year the cost per use increased on many packages until these increases became unsustainable. Coinciding with this tipping point, alternatives to licensing entire packages emerged or became more viable. Libraries across the country realize that they no longer need to own everything. The authors go into details for each of the publishers’ “Big Deals,” present reasons why they were cancelled or restructured, the alternative solutions implemented, and what the reaction has been.

 

VRL reaches agreement for new one-year agreement with Elsevier | UVA Library News and Announcements

“Most of the Virginia research libraries involved in the negotiation are experiencing budget shortfalls for 2021 and projecting budget shortfalls for 2022. Each institution involved reduced its overall spend for the year, balancing its COVID-distressed budget for 2021. The new agreement frees the institutions from the “Big Deal” Freedom Collection, allowing for a collection that better suits users’ needs….”

JMU Signs a New One-year Agreement With Elsevier : JMU Libraries

“JMU [James Madison University] recently completed contract negotiations with Elsevier, one of the world’s largest and most profitable academic publishers. As part of a coalition of public doctoral institutions in Virginia (including the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, and William & Mary), the JMU Libraries negotiated a new, one-year 2021 agreement addressing our priorities of affordability, accessibility, and equity….

As we have shared throughout the year, our Virginia Research Libraries (VRL) coalition has been moving toward a new, more sustainable arrangement with Elsevier, anticipated to begin in 2022. Due to the pandemic’s negative effect on operating budgets, we accelerated this process, and asked to renegotiate the last year of our current, five-year contract. This final year would have cost approximately $10 million across the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nearly a half million dollars at JMU….

With our revised contract, we have realized much-needed cost savings and successfully unbundled the “Big Deal” of Elsevier’s “Freedom Collection,” a package of journals that included many unwanted titles. We now subscribe only to the Elsevier journals that our campus most frequently needs and uses….”

Contracts Library – SPARC

“A number of libraries and consortia have provided the full text of Big Deal licenses. These provide useful information about the terms and conditions publisher may seek to include in their standard agreements. For tips on how to acquire additional contracts not listed here, see our “Freedom of Information Requests” guide. If you have an agreement that can be lawfully shared here, please contact us. We’ve also compilled tips on pushing back against confidentiality clauses and NDAs. …”

ReadAndPublishAgreementsUnethical – Google Docs

“The new ‘Read and Publish’ / ‘transformative’ agreements are just another version of hybrid because subscriptions are combined with APCs (Figures 1 and 2). They are also another version of a ‘Big Deal’ because universities are locked into a contract with a publisher that involves a bundle of journals at prices that are divorced from actual costs….”

ReadAndPublishAgreementsUnethical – Google Docs

“The new ‘Read and Publish’ / ‘transformative’ agreements are just another version of hybrid because subscriptions are combined with APCs (Figures 1 and 2). They are also another version of a ‘Big Deal’ because universities are locked into a contract with a publisher that involves a bundle of journals at prices that are divorced from actual costs….”

2020 Charleston Library Conference: Virtual Meeting Details

“Academic libraries in the U.S. have seemingly diverged into two camps as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic: those who see the current environment as an uncomfortable bump in the road, and those who see the pandemic as the impetus to radically change business as usual. Our approaches to open access in relation to traditional scholarly publishing and Big Deals must take the latter route, particularly when it comes to an overall collections strategy that combines the library collections budget with outreach efforts and digital initiatives infrastructure. Many libraries have made great progress (or big headlines) in their support of OA initiatives, agreements, and contracts over the last several years. Transformative agreements, library/publisher divorces, and OA funding models categorize some of the most visible. These didn’t appear overnight; rather, the libraries engaging with them took strategic, multifaceted steps to achieve their progress to date. Examples include targeted faculty and central administration conversations, strategic Big Deal cancellations/reductions, open research and research data curation initiatives, and library-as-publisher investments. This session will explore these building blocks and others identified in a national survey on OA perceptions and activities, as well as a live-session survey of 2020 Charleston conference participants to marry pre and post-COVID attitudes and approaches. The results of the live survey will be shared with the session attendees in a collaborative dialog framed by the overarching question, “Where do we go from here”? The authors will end the session with a call for libraries and their stakeholders to recognize that while there is no one-size-fits-all approach, we will need to utilize the best technology and tools available to rapidly prototype our next steps. An introductory framework for OA rapid prototyping will be shared, and explored in more detail through the “Prototyping for Progress Workshop”.”