Queen’s University Library is committed to providing our community members with the information they need while serving as responsible stewards of public funds.

Working in collaboration with our community and peer institutions, one strategy involves modifying the ways we purchase information, in particular from journal publishers whose pricing and bundling of content pose significant challenges. Our steps in that strategy are outlined below. At the same time, we’re working to advance alternative, cost-effective scholarly communication models that leverage digital opportunities to enable access to the widest possible audience at the earliest possible opportunity; see Innovation.

The highest possible proportion of public dollars invested in research and education should be spent directly on research and education. While supportive of strong private-sector relationships, and understanding the complexities of scholarly publishing, the U15 is concerned that the business model that is prevalent among for-profit book and journal publishers may impose undue financial pressure on the research and education ecosystem.

How We’re Working With You to Modify our Acquisitions Practices

1. Raise Awareness, Listen & Gather Data

The library is engaging extensively with the Queen’s university community to raise awareness of the challenges with prevalent publishing models and listen to individuals’ perspectives. In 2016-17, consultations included a forum co-sponsored by the Senate Library Committee, and presentations to 13 academic groups across the university, including Senate and Faculty Boards. Similar consultations have continued  throughout 2017 and 2018. And, liaison librarians continue to monitor the needs of their disciplines on an ongoing basis.

To learn more about which journals are important to Queen’s researchers, we engaged in a Journal Usage Project in 2016-17.

2. Identify High Value Journals for Queen’s 

The Journal Usage Project data analysis completed in 2017-18 showed that:

  • 15.22% of all available journals appear to be considered high priority by the Queen’s community (preliminary estimate)
  • The cost per use is extremely high in some cases – in the thousands of dollars for a single article

In the spring of 2018 we invited Queen’s faculty members and graduate students to review a database of the highly-valued journal titles, as identified by the JUP to tell us if we missed anything.  

3. Pilot Implementation

The library will continue to provide you with the information you need.

Buillding on the observations from the Journal Usage Project and further community input obtained in Spring 2018, we analyzed the best options for obtaining journal articles. Considerations included:

  • researchers’ input regarding Queen’s highly-valued journals 
  • perpetual access to backfiles, for example through Scholar’s Portal
  • consortial offerings and pricing
  • cost per use
  • Open Access availability
  • document delivery and inter-library loan options
  • other factors as they arise in an evolving landscape.

Beginning in 2019 the library will pilot alternative access options for a small subset of journal articles. The pilot will be guided by the results of Queen’s Journal Usage Project and the high-value journals identified by the Queen’s community. We will continue to consult with faculty and students in evaluating alternative access models to journal articles, and more flexible acquisitions practices to support research and teaching at the university.

Modifying Acquisitions Practices (MAP) Pilot

What Others are Saying

There is widespread (even if not universal) agreement that something is deeply wrong with the current system of academic publishing… The basic point…. is that the really hard parts — the writing of papers, and the peer review and selection of the ones to publish — are done voluntarily by academics, and modern technology makes things like typesetting and dissemination extremely cheap. And yet publishers are making more money than ever before. They do this by insisting that we give them ownership of the content we produce… 

… we cannot buy our way out of this … We really have to change the model.

…la consultation démontre clairement l'effet pernicieux de la mainmise des éditeurs commerciaux sur la diffusion du savoir.

…the consultation clearly demonstrates the harmful stranglehold that commercial publishers have on the dissemination of knowledge.

[Libraries] are developing their own strategies to maintain high-quality collections in the face of publishers’ strategies to maintain high-profit margins.

Why do publishers bundle? It’s about consolidation and money.

Locally, nationally and globally, libraries are investigating ways to provide a path forward for future access to scholarly publishing with the goal of creating a sustainable structure which supports research dissemination.

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