Library Connect brings you a special guest blog post (first posted on the Liblicense listserv) from Elsevier’s Chrysanne Lowe, VP Global Marketing Communications, regarding the recently published website thecostofknowledge.com. Many of you know Chrysanne from her longstanding involvement with the librarian community that Elsevier serves. As this petition and RWA have been at the forefront of many minds in the library and scientific communities, we thought it important to share with you here an Elsevier leader’s perspective on the underlying issues pertinent to this discussion.
I was watching Twitter last night; literally watching the boycott commentary run by like a market ticker, and wondered to myself "when did research information get so exciting?" Now it seems that the world has discovered what Librarians and Scholarly Publishers have known and struggled with for years. The information industry is exciting; and the issues at hand are complicated and at the forefront of the intellectual property and copyright arena; with far-reaching repercussions.
Although it’s tempting to boil issues down to catch-phrases like "Publicly funded research should be free to the public," it is much more difficult to divine the implications of such statements. I was recently told about a dynamic government-funded research center to develop flexible display technology. What portion of that research should be free: the research report to the funding agency; the peer-reviewed published article; or the new flexi-plastic tablet as the result of that publicly-funded research? How did we come to accept that the peer-reviewed article meets that obligation? I think this is an important discussion; one that needs much more thoughtful debate.
And as that debate is fueled in part by three criticisms of Elsevier on thecostofknowledge.com, I hope readers will keep these facts in mind:
First, that access to published content is actually greater and at its lowest cost per use than ever. This is a direct result of investments from publishers to digitize and disseminate content and the effort of libraries to form consortia to negotiate discounts for increased volumes of quality material.
Secondly, that Elsevier offers a broad menu of purchasing options: from pay-per-view, title-by-title, to collections; however, there is no contesting that the introduction of large collections have added enormous access at fractions of the list prices; and resulted in reduced cost per use. It’s just not true that the "extra titles" are unused, we can see from usage reports that in fact approximately 40% of usage from the Freedom Collection comes from previously unsubscribed journals.
Finally, it is Elsevier’s mission to expand access to content, not restrict it. And because of the actions that Libraries and Publishers have taken, we have together been hugely successful in this mission. In a recent study by the Publishing Research Consortium, over 90% of nearly 4000 researchers surveyed reported "very high satisfaction" with access to research articles. Elsevier supports open access. We offer several open access options, including a sponsored article option for over 1,100 titles. We have always allowed authors to voluntarily post manuscripts.
Elsevier aims to make research more accessible and discoverable while ensuring the integrity of the scientific record. We’ve always supported the principle that the public should have access to publicly funded research. We believe this can best be achieved in an environment without government mandates.
From what I see inside Elsevier, there is universal recognition that we are on a journey. We are furiously looking to innovate, adapt, and change; as any company that has existed for well over a hundred years must. I know that many libraries struggle with budget problems right now; but Librarians and Publishers, in my humble opinion, have accomplished a great deal since we embarked on this transition from print to electronic dissemination. The many customers that I have worked with over the years have never failed to address these complex issues with thoughtful and considered approaches. Why do we, Libraries and Publishers, continue to do this? Maybe because we both know that this is exciting and meaningful work; that simple slogans won’t serve science in the long run; and that although we understand there will be differences of opinion, continued engagement and respect will continue to advance the cause.
We’d like to thank Chrysanne for addressing these issues in the Library Connect blog. We’ve always encouraged your feedback herein, and we’re thinking that if this doesn’t garner any comments, nothing will!