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Fat Cat Publishers <br>Breaking the System

Out-of-control costs for scholarly publications have fueled new digital repository initiatives

The scholarly publishing system is broken. At research universities everywhere, scholarly work—in the form of articles, books, editing, reviewing of manuscripts—is handed over to commercial publishers, only to be bought back by the libraries at huge cost. Libraries scramble to judiciously stretch shrinking budgets for growing runs of books and journals—books and journals that are critical to the research and teaching activities of the university’s faculty who, as authors and editors, contribute so generously to the publishers who sell them. The arrangement is bankrupting research library budgets and swelling the profit margins of commercial publishers.

Sadly, commercial publishing threatens the very system it exists to support. When expensive commercially published materials cannot be bought, when university presses cannot afford to publish monographs for junior faculty, everyone suffers. Students and scientists cannot gain access to badly needed materials; scholars cannot get tenure for lack of that first published monograph. The modern university, modeled on the ideal of the Greek temple where thinkers and learners pursued knowledge so that society could reap its benefits, is losing ground to crass commercialism. At risk is the very culture of the academy.

Universities are committed to safeguarding the treasures created and used by their communities. Most started years ago to explore digital technologies that could extend institutional capacity, through libraries and academic computing departments, to support their core mission—teaching and research. After decades of eroded purchasing power, most university libraries ran out of tricks and faculty and researchers began to feel the pinch. Now, universities are acting in concert to develop a sustainable system that would enable all institutions of higher education to meet the challenge of 21st century learning and scholarship. One of these is the University of California (UC).

Enter the California Digital Library

UC charged onto the scene in 1997 with the formation of its California Digital Library (CDL), which has become one of the largest digital libraries in the world. CDL’s mission is to support the assembly and creative use of the world’s scholarship by harnessing technology and innovation, and by leveraging the intellectual and cultural resources of the University of California.

eScholarship, CDL’s programmatic vehicle for experimentation in scholarly publishing, got cracking in response to faculty need for dissemination and publishing tools and services. The wildly popular eScholarship Repository, an open access system at the heart of the initiative, offers UC faculty a central, online location for everything from technical reports to peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes. In slightly less than two years, the repository has seen almost 500,000 full-text downloads, i.e., downloads of entire papers or articles.

The program seeks to demonstrate a reliable and sustainable model as part of the effort to improve all areas of scholarly communication—creation, peer review, management, dissemination, and preservation.

A System Based on Faculty Need
The eScholarship program began with the notion of “scholar-led innovations in scholarly communication.” We at the CDL spent two years investigating, exploring, and mapping the expressed needs of UC faculty, students, and researchers and we struggled to reconcile contradictory needs: short-term (“I need it now, no matter the cost!”) and long-term (“We must invest in a sustainable publishing system”). We learned that change would need to come on many fronts—policy, organizational, technical, behavioral, and attitudinal—and that UC’s efforts must span them all.

We also realized that, though many faculty were interested in the possibilities for change, most were not as ready for true innovation as we had hoped…and they were all very busy. The most universal concerns turned out to be quality, i.e., peer review, recognition, permanence, and time.

In order to at least replicate the range of possibilities in the current print-based paradigm, we focused first on acquiring and building a digital infrastructure to support several modes of publication, including non-peer-reviewed papers (e.g., working papers and technical reports), peer-reviewed papers, and book and journal publication. The eScholarship program supports two basic formats: Adobe Acrobat (PDF) and XML. After some experimentation with assorted technical and organizational approaches, the current eScholarship Initiative coalesced in early 2002, with infrastructure components that span the range of faculty and researcher needs.

Working Papers and Research Reports. The eScholarship Repository provides UC departments, centers, and research units direct control over creation and dissemination of the full range of scholarly output, from pre-publication materials through journals and peer-reviewed series, and—beginning in May 2004—posting of legally available UC author’s digital copy of commercially published articles.

About the California Digital Library

The California Digital Library (CDL) supports the assembly and creative use of scholarship for the University of California Libraries and the communities they serve. Established in 1997 as a UC library, the CDL has become one of the largest digital libraries in the world.

eScholarship is a project of the California Digital Library at the University of California’s Office of the President . It was launched to facilitate innovation and support experimentation in the production and dissemination of scholarship. escholarship.html

The repository, which debuted in April 2002, enables easy upload of papers into a centralized, managed location that makes the content freely available. UC faculty units are responsible for the review, selection, and deposit of the content, including editorial support for journals and peer-reviewed series; CDL is responsible for maintenance of the digital record.

The eScholarship Repository is extremely easy for contributors and readers alike. The technical expertise required to upload and publish papers is minimal. Documents can be provided in a variety of formats (Word, RTF or PDF) and associated materials such as pictures, data sets, and PowerPoint presentations can be posted with the article.

Each program or department has its own uniquely branded site complete with logo and links. Web search engines such as Google can easily crawl and index information about the papers, since each paper is represented by a static Web page with the relevant descriptive information. This information is also available for harvesting through the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH), to enable discovery services such as OAIster ( to provide one-stop searching of hundreds of similar repositories.

Journals and Peer-Reviewed Series. With the eScholarship Repository’s new peer-review capability, UC faculty now have an alternative to publishing their research in for-profit journals, whose rising costs have become such a burden to universities and libraries with shrinking budgets. UC faculty in all disciplines can use the eScholarship Repository to provide free, open access to peer-reviewed journals online.

Breaking the Bank:
The High Costs of Scholarly Publishing

Scholarly communication has become an international, multi-billion-dollar business. Statistics and facts compiled by the CDL support the case that publishers are ‘breaking the system’ with pricey pubs and practices that don’t properly recognize contributions on the academic side of the equation.

From 1986–2000 the Consumer Price Index rose 57 percent, serial prices rose 227 percent, and book prices rose 65 percent. (Assoc. of Research Libraries).

From 1989–1999 the number of journal titles published increased 58 percent and library journal expenditures increased 170 percent, but the number of titles typically acquired declined 6 percent (source: Assoc. of Research Libraries).

The CDL expects the number of peer-reviewed papers and journals to grow substantially in coming months, with the addition of scientific monographs and other content from the University of California Press, as well as new journals sponsored by departments at several UC campuses, including InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies. Additionally, Comitatus, a 34-year-old journal sponsored by the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, will be migrating to the eScholarship Repository this spring.

As UC faculty and others have joined the movement speaking out against the high cost of many scholarly journals, the eScholarship Repository has seen its numbers grow to nearly 2,800 papers and over half a million paper downloads (not Web hits) since its inception. The repository typically sees download rates well in excess of 10,000 paper downloads per week (with a high of more than 14,000 downloads in one week). Although a few papers tend to be quite popular, usage is spread fairly evenly across the repository, with about 75 percent seeing at least one download in any given week. A UC institute director has noted that “many papers are getting more readers from this source than we would expect them to get in the best professional journals.”

Post-Prints. Faculty members at UC are virtually up in arms over the runaway costs of commercial publishing. UC is trying to meet their frustration and their enthusiasm for change with policy suggestions and real publishing alternatives. A new service is being launched in response to the recent liberalization of publishing policies regarding the posting of electronic “reprints.” A section of the eScholarship Repository has been designated specifically for deposit of previously published articles. These articles will be searchable and browseable alone or in association with other eScholarship Repository papers, and will be fully discoverable alongside their commercially published twins.

Several institutions are working on a prototype discovery service for post-prints that could point readers to a publicly available article version if one is available. Such a service requires thorough and accurate descriptive information (metadata) to enable discovery of a post-print that is an exact replica of a commercially available article as well as to differentiate pre-prints from post-prints.

Books. Books are central to the scholarly enterprise and form the core of UC library collections. In keeping with our mission to support the research and instructional activities of the university, eScholarship is also engaged in a suite of digital book projects that build on the enormously productive collaboration between CDL’s eScholarship program and the University of California Press. The partnership was forged with the launch of eScholarship Editions, an XML-based service for publishing books that currently includes 1,500 University of California Press monographs and 500 additional books in process.

One such effort is the Mark Twain Digital Project, a collaboration of CDL, UC Press and the Mark Twain Project at the University of California-Berkeley, that seeks to deliver all of Twain’s work online. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is funding the costs for original digital publishing of Twain’s works; CDL and UC Press are working to bring the previously published print works online. The entire project is pushing forward standards and best practices for publishing critical editions and archival manuscript collections in the humanities and will result in a digital publishing infrastructure of enormous consequence.

Digital books present a natural tie-in with our endeavors in shared print collections and services—both new and emerging—for reading, teaching, and printing book content. Efficient production and delivery of digital books is critical to a long-term solution to the scholarly communication crisis because they lend support to the university’s mandate for efficient system-wide management of print collections.

Matching Infrastructure to Opportunity
The UC Press eScholarship Editions have been greeted enthusiastically by faculty, librarians, and the public, and CDL now has an opportunity to leverage the investment made in developing a robust infrastructure by acquiring other digital book collections and extending our technical and service capabilities. We are exploring eCommerce models and the idea of licensed access to an expanded package of offerings. Such a package might include monographs from other university presses or groups within the university who currently publish their own monographs but could gain both prestige and efficiency by joining our efforts.

But UC’s recent negotiations with Elsevier Publishing, which attracted international attention, have animated UC faculty as never before. The faculty’s corresponding interest in alternative publishing venues has alerted us to the need to be flexible about where and how to deploy our services to best serve those needs. We are experimenting with new applications of existing projects.

An example is UC Press Monographic series, which has just migrated to the eScholarship Repository platform. This is a departure from the usual digital publishing path for UC Press monographs, yet it seems a perfect use of the streamlined publishing process of the open access platform.

UC’s digital publishing efforts are looking increasingly to the future rather than the past, to publishing what needs to be published (including what hasn’t heretofore been getting published) rather than re-formatting what has already been published. And work is underway between CDL and UC Press to develop an all-XML workflow, which will support growing dependence from outsourced compositor/mark-up/conversion services and thus move us closer to sustainability.

Changing the Paradigm
Although CDL has never strayed from its original mission, we now have infrastructure in place that allows us to focus on creating systemic change in the way authors and readers work. We have technologies that allow broader, freer, more creative uses of text and data and we can begin to fashion badly needed services for the classroom, office, and lab.

Increasingly, we respond to the needs of research and teaching, i.e., the needs of individual faculty for publication and dissemination, and the needs of the composite university faculty for access to and preservation of the scholarly record. And, increasingly, we glimpse the possibilities of a world in which the institutions of higher learning regain control of the levers of scholarly communication.

Ultimately, we hope for more alliances of digital libraries, university presses, and scholarly societies—the keepers of the scholarly record within the academy—so as to broaden the effort to serve and preserve the world’s knowledge for all humanity. For now, we are thrilled to be part of the awakening.

The Academic Community Fights Back

Faculty, researchers, and librarians have long griped about the high cost of scholarly publishing and the resulting limitations imposed on scholarly communications. Now, they are doing something about it. Below are comments from academics about the recent eScholarship initiatives.

“A free society's support for research universities rests on the assumption that the output of those universities will benefit the society. It follows that the research results must be readily available. And yet, we are participating in a scholarly publishing system that is dominated by commercial publishers who return large profits to shareholders. The price increases and pricing structures imposed by these publishers have the effect of narrowing the selection of information sources in both rich and poor institutions. To change this system will require broad, cumulative change. There is encouraging evidence that this change is beginning.”

From 1989–1999 the number of journal titles published increased 58 percent and library journal expenditures increased 170 percent, but the number of titles typically acquired declined 6 percent (source: Assoc. of Research Libraries).
— Carol Fleishauer, associate director for Collection Services, MIT Libraries

“The eScholarship Repository opens new publishing opportunities—the publication process is cheap, and we can get working papers out more quickly than we would with hard copy.”
—Ben Crow, associate professor at UC Santa Cruz

“Participating in the respository has increased our visibility and contributed to the exchange of research in the social sciences. I am especially grateful for the archival benefits. Because the scholarly materials we contribute will be maintained by the CDL for the long-term future, we can better support our faculty affiliates.”
—David O. Sears, director of the Institute for Social Science Research and a professor of psychology and political science at UCLA

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