Library Committee, New Brunswick Faculty Council
Statement and Resolution on the Crisis in Scholarly Communication
April 16, 2004

University library budgets can no longer keep pace with the expanding volume of published material and the rising cost of scholarly journals and monographs. For example, the world production of scholarly communication is estimated to have doubled since the mid 1980s; during this period the unit cost of serials has more than doubled (215%) according to statistics from the Association of Research Libraries, rising roughly four times as fast as the consumer price index over the same period. Some for-profit publishers use the technique of bundling major journal titles with lower tier journals and require multi-year contracts to lock in revenues. This strategy has increased pressure on library budgets and reduced the control that librarians have traditionally exercised in deciding the nature of collections.

Reed Elsevier’s Science Direct is a well-known example of journal bundling.

The Northeast Research Libraries Consortium (NERL) recently negotiated a five-year contract (2004-2008) for Science Direct, and Rutgers and U Conn were among the majority of NERL members who agreed to this contract. Some other NERL members, Cornell and Harvard, chose to cancel their subscriptions to this package. Rutgers’ contract is large (approximately 20% of our overall collection budget for the current year), but provides the full text of about 1200 Science Direct and Academic Press journals. The majority of NERL libraries have decided that the NERL/Elsevier contract was advantageous to their situations, but all would like to encourage other models of publishing to compete with for-profit publishers and pay less for scientific information and scholarship

Issues of scholarly communications are complex, and they vary among research universities. Librarians at various research universities including RU have sought to keep faculty and staff apprized of the situation by organizing working groups and conferences and disseminating information online, as in the case of the Web site created by the Rutgers Libraries. In view of recent faculty resolutions at other universities and Rutgers’ new approach to budgetary planning, it is timely and important for Rutgers faculty to seek alternatives to the current model for publishing and disseminating scholarly work.

Faculty governing bodies from other research universities that have developed recommendations concerning scholarly communication include:

The following universities have cancelled subscriptions with one or more major commercial publishers

New Brunswick Faculty Council Library Committee

April 16, 2004

Relatively low-cost traditional journals and open access online alternatives, either currently available or under development by members of the academic community, are viable alternatives to commercial publishing venues. Accordingly, the New Brunswick Faculty Council Library Committee recommends adoption of the following resolution:

  1. That the administration, faculty and libraries work together to explore and adopt such alternatives by:
    1. Striving to use scholarly print and on-line journals that are less expensive than current commercial publishers for publication of their work, and by volunteering review and editorial assistance, and aiding the production of such journals.
    2. Refusing bundled subscription plans, whenever possible, that limit librarians traditional responsibility to make collection development decisions on a title-by-title basis in the interest of the academic community that they serve.
    3. Evaluating the pricing of journals and canceling those that are disproportionately expensive in comparison to their educational and research value. Special attention should be given to for-profit journals.
    4. Encouraging tenured faculty to contribute articles or editorial and review services to reasonably priced, or free, journals rather than those that engage in monopolistic and expensive pricing.
  2. Establish a Standing Committee on Scholarly Communication composed of academic and library faculty as well as administrators to:
    1. Analyze alternative publication methods including business models that are currently under consideration.
    2. Support the adoption of efficient and cost-effective methods for disseminating and archiving scholarly work by Rutgers academic community.
    3. Evaluate and ensure that new models of publication adopted at Rutgers meet high quality standards required for academic promotion and tenure.

We recommend that faculty invited to serve on the committee of resolution 2 include all those who are currently involved in initiating new modes of scholarly communication, or serving as editors of scholarly publications in their fields. To this end, we recommend that the University establish and maintain an up-to-date data base listing faculty that serve as editors of scholarly journals, monographs and books in their respective fields.