The chair of the University of California - San Francisco's Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication, and two UC librarians, sent a letter to UC faculty in early June. It opens:
UC Libraries are confronting an impending crisis in providing access to journals from the Nature Publishing Group (NPG). NPG has insisted on increasing the price of our license for Nature and its affiliated journals by 400 percent beginning in 2011, which would raise our cost for their 67 journals by well over $1 million dollars per year.
While Nature and other NPG publications are among the most prestigious of academic journals, such a price increase is of unprecedented magnitude. NPG has made their ultimatum with full knowledge that our libraries are under economic distress--a fact widely publicized in an Open Letter to Licensed Content Providers and distributed by the California Digital Library (CDL) in May 2009. In fact, CDL has worked successfully with many other publishers and content providers over the past year to address the University's current economic challenges in a spirit of mutual problem solving, with positive results including lowering our overall costs for electronic journals by $1 million dollars per year.
NPG by contrast has been singularly unresponsive to the plight of libraries and has employed a 'divide and conquer' strategy that directs major price increases to various institutions in different years. Their proposed new license fee is especially difficult to accept in a time of shrinking UC library budgets and with the many sacrifices we all continue to make Systemwide. Capitulating to NPG now would wipe out all of the recent cost-saving measures taken by CDL and our campus libraries to reduce expenditures for electronic journals.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the story on June 8. Nature defended itself in the Chronicle the following day, claiming that California Digital Library was "paying an unfair rate" and violating confidentiality by negotiating in public.
The following day, CDL rebutted each point raised by Nature, noting that "[o]ur Faculty library committees have explicitly requested that they be consulted on major negotiations and journal cancellations" and also using historical data to counter Nature's claims that its pricing is fair:
[A]n increase of 7% per year translates to an increase of 40% over five years. Few, if any, library budgets have gone up at even a fraction of that amount over a comparable period (the materials budget of the UC Libraries increased by 7.46% between 2005 and 2009 and is now slated to decrease during the next few years). In other words, 7% increases compounded annually are budget busting (also note that 7% is more than three times the average US rate of inflation for the past few years). [...] Between 2005 and 2009, NPG increased their licensing fees to the University by 137% (granted this included some new titles, but truthfully not enough to warrant such a dramatic price increase). Even when our license was placed on a new and, we believed, more stable footing in 2008, our fees still increased by 5%. But now, NPG claims that their proposed 400% increase is to make up for "an unsustainable discount" that they have provided UC all along. We find this to be an implausible explanation given the remarkably large sums of money others and we already pay to NPG every year. The notion that other institutions are subsidizing "our discount" is nonsensical. If anything, other institutions are simply paying too much."
No updates have been issued since June 10.
P.S. -- The comments on the UC/Nature negotiations by our Faculty Forum speaker, Professor Jason Baird Jackson of Indiana University, are available here.Posted by stemp003 at July 2, 2010 4:31 PM