Friday, June 11, 2010

Library Budgets

I have written extensively on library budgets before. My alma mater, Univ California, has once again shown the way to deal with commercial publishers. After successfully dealing with Elsevier, they have now taken on Nature group of publishers. In the chronicle article titled Univ of California tries just saying no to rising journal costs, the letter issued by the Univ of California says,

The letter said that faculty would also organize "a systemwide boycott" of Nature's journals if the publisher does not relent. The voluntary boycott would "strongly encourage" researchers not to contribute papers to those journals or review manuscripts for them. It would urge them to resign from Nature's editorial boards and to encourage similar "sympathy actions" among colleagues outside the University of California system.

I encourage readers not only read the article but also the comments that follow that article. The Nature group of journals responded to this and the UC system was quick to counter their arguments.  I found the latter letter to be extremely well written and persuasive.  Of course, very very few scientists in India publish in journals like Nature or even review for them, forget serving on their editorial boards, and thus boycott would not work against Nature. However, the same policies could be followed in Indian universities for other journals published by commercial publishers. 

The librarians may note the cost paid by Univ of California for the Nature journals. It is worthwhile to note that all the IITs put together (all 15 of them) and IISc will have less full time equivalent researchers (FTEs) than a single UC school, yet we pay several times more.  It is an atrocity that we pay commercial publishers for access to journals in case of some new IITs, which have less than 10 faculty. I hope, one day before I retire from academics, that librarians in our country will take interest and try to reduce the library budgets by negotiating in consortiums.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In 2001, citing similar reasons, 40 members of the editorial board of the well-established Machine Learning Journal (a Kluwer publication) resigned and created a new journal JMLR; see
for details. JMLR is now a highly respected CS journal.

At the end of the day, the editors and reviewers safeguard the quality of papers published in a journal and they do this voluntarily. In theory, the JMLR model can work in other disciplines. The budget cuts that several Universities are now facing may provide the impetus for this.