Web Magazine for Information Professionals

United Kingdom Serials Group Conference 2005

Sarah Pearson reports on the annual 3-day UK Serials Group (UKSG) conference recently held at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.


The UKSG (UK Serials Group) annual conference is the highlight of the year for the serials publishing and information community. It provides a forum for discussion of the major issues affecting the serials industry and brings together all sectors of the supply chain not just from the UK but from all over the world. The mixture of presentations, workshops, briefing sessions, exhibitions and social gatherings, involving publishers, intermediaries, vendors and libraries is an ideal opportunity to meet colleagues, look at new products and services and generally keep up to date in this rapidly changing environment. The content of the conference is an indication of current concerns and a barometer of future emerging trends in the world of serials provision.

The themes of this year's conference were very much based around commercial publishing versus the open access model and how the two can work side by side; the big deal and its alternatives; usage statistics; VLEs (virtual learning environments); access to information in developing countries; and the future for serials.

In addition to the main conference stream, the breakout workshops and briefing sessions covered a range of topics which are highlighted in the conference programme and not discussed here [1].

The conference opened with an address from the chair of UKSG, Keith Courtney, who discussed some of the issues and challenges that the UKSG has been facing since the last conference. It was followed by a short update from NASIG (the North America Serials Interest Group).

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Plenary Session 1

Does More Access Mean Less Library?

Simon Mayes-Smith, Credit Suisse First Boston

This was the first time that UKSG has invited a member of the financial investment community to talk at the conference. The financial market has a strong interest in scientific publishing and media equities. It has a strategic analysis role in the publishing industry for the benefit of investors, pension funds and investment opportunities. Simon Mayes-Smith described how the static state of library budgets is currently undermining the research activity of academic institutions. There are three main areas where universities are hoping to ease this problem - unbundling; the author-pays open access model; and open archives. Examining each one in turn, he went on to describe why none of these options will ease the current crisis in e-resource funding. The speaker produced statistics to show that bundled deals work out cheaper than expected due to the level of use. He then went on to explain that open access will cost authors up to 6.5% of their annual income, reducing the cost benefit of the model to researchers and that the model takes no account of corporate funding from sectors such as the pharmaceutical industry. It will also produce more fragmentation of research across the Web. Finally, he explained that while mandating deposit in an Institutional Repository is a good thing, it still relies on a copy being deposited in a commercial publication.

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Commercial Scholarly Publishing in the World of Open Access

Derk Haank, Springer Science & Business Media

This paper looked at the current state of commercial publishing in the light of new business models and changing technology. The database licensing model is now dominant, rather than the individual subscription model. Pricing models are increasingly value-based. Derk Hannk argues that the author-pays model is possible because of the cost structure of e-publications. The author-pays model is available for all 1400 Springer titles. The only thing that has changed in this model is that the author pays and selects that article as available open access. The Springer subscription income continues to pay for non-open access articles. The journal subscription cost is then adjusted annually dependent on the scale of open access. However, the open access model requires change in institutional budgets. The speaker predicts that in future there will be a situation of unlimited access through database licence, author Web sites, institutional repositories and open access articles. But the speaker predicts that not more than 5% of total research output will be available without subscription or licence.

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Plenary Session 2

Walking Away from the Big Deal: the Consequences and Achievements

Nancy J Gibbs, Duke University Libraries

Nancy Gibbs discussed in this paper the route which Duke University took as an alternative to the big deal. Duke University is a member of the Triangle Research Libraries network. A variety of consortial e-deals were negotiated. The consortium committee started looking at the Elsevier Science Direct and Blackwell Synergy packages. They found that there was little or no cancellation allowance. This meant that the library couldn't add to its collections due to static budget and rising journal prices.

After user consultation, each university opted not to renew the consortium licence. Instead, they paid individual subscriptions only to the titles which were required by each institution. Over 500 titles were cancelled. Each institution found that they paid more per title for journals after the big deal was cancelled but they paid only for what was needed which worked out at an overall saving. They were then able to purchase more titles. If the publishers had been more flexible in their cancellation and pricing policy, there would not have been so many cancellations.

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All or Nothing: Towards an Orderly Retreat from the Big Deals - Recent Negotiations in the Netherlands

Nol Verhagen, University of Amsterdam

This paper looked at the recent experiences of the UKB consortium in The Netherlands which is a consortium of 13 university libraries. Nol Verhagen described the benefits and drawbacks of the big deal and the results of recent negotiations in the Netherlands with various publishers.

The consortium administers bundle deals for full collections, subject-specific collections, e-access to print collections and e-only access to former print collections. The speaker listed some of the benefits of the big deal: Users always have access to required material; librarians find it easier to administer a single deal rather than individual subscriptions and publishers benefit from having no intermediaries to deal with. The drawbacks are lack of flexibility; the administrative burden of cost-sharing and consortial and inter-departmental decision-making. Negotiations in the Netherlands led to better value for money and more flexibility overall.

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The IReL Experience: Irish Research Electronic Library

Fiona McGoldrick, IRIS: the Consortium of Irish University and Research Libraries

The IReL initiative was formed to provide electronic access to journals, databases and packages for the IRIS consortium of 7 universities in the area of STM publishing, initially for a 5 year period. The project members selected 30 major services or databases and 90 individual titles. The total coverage was 3,500 titles from 20 publishers.

The priority list for negotiation included e-only; no 'no cancellation' clauses; authentication must be via IP or Athens; perpetual access must be available; material must be available for ILL and coursepacks and there must be COUNTER-compliant usage statistics available.

The subscriptions were paid directly from IRIS, thereby bypassing university finance. Access to titles was maintained through individual library Web sites and catalogues rather than through a central Web site. There were problems. For example, it was complex to administer and not very flexible. However, overall it has been seen as a success and the completion of licences on the remainder of the required packages is now underway.

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Plenary Session 3

Experimenting with Open Access Publishing

Martin Richardson, OUP (Oxford University Press)

OUP has experimented with open access recently to see if it can be widely adopted and whether it is financially viable. In this highly informative presentation, Martin Richardson described the two open access models provided and measured their success:

The partial open access model - The author pays to make the article available as open access. There is a fee waiver system for UK authors to increase uptake. The subscription price for 2005 was held for the open access title involved in this experiment. There was a 25% open access take-up in this journal.

The full open access model: There is a larger fee for authors than the partial model. The articles are deposited in PubMed Central simultaneously. Findings were:

OUP will be analysing usage, citation and impact factor changes in the near future based on the introduction of the open access model. It was great to see a practical case study of the new model in operation and discussed at the conference.

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Are They Open Yet? The Impact of Open Access Publishing on Research Libraries

Paul Ayris, UCL (University College London)

The information landscape is driven by academic strategies. In his paper, Paul Ayris described surveys done of different user types within the institution and how it affects the information landscape. The paper looked at the user as researcher and the student as learner.

In a survey of students the single most important thing that a library can provide to improve the service was set textbooks. E-learning and e-resource provision did not rank highly with taught students. The provision of e-resources is still a research-led issue. Drivers to improve visibility of e-resources to taught students will be market-led - students as consumers.

The new policy from RCUK (Research Council UK) mandates deposit in open access sources for their funded research from October 2005. The RCUK will also pay for author article submission for funded research. UCL is moving towards mandating deposit into their IR (Institutional Repository). One way to do this is to link repository development to the RAE (Research Assessment Exercise).

Paul Ayris concluded that current models of provision support research in STM. The UK has to examine new subscription models. Learners are currently not well served by e-learning strategies. IRs are in their infancy but open access and archives are on institutional agendas. Mandates of funding bodies are crucial to future developments in this area.

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Public Access, Open Archives: A Funder's Perspective

Mark Walport, Wellcome Trust

Mark Walport then discussed open access from a funder's perspective in his excellent paper. Part of the funder's mission is to ensure the widest possible dissemination of research findings. University research is publicly funded and should therefore be publicly available. The publishing community is one of the barriers to this mission. Brand is still important. Researchers have no visibility of the economic cycle because a) no money changes hands between author and publisher and b) they then go to the library and their article is there.

Mark Walport listed the benefits of publishing in an open access journal: Immediate global availability; increased usage and therefore increased citation and impact. It won't necessarily cost more. The cost can be divided between a submission fee and a publication fee. This will help journals with high rejection rates sustain the model.

He then went on to list the benefits of storing articles in an IR:- Immediate access to a copy with no delay; long-term archiving of papers; it is future-proof and searchable.

There are increasing developments in digitisation which are receiving more support from funders. The speaker concluded that it is important for funders to take the lead on depositing information. Funders need to pay for open access deposit. They need to encourage and enforce author copyright retention.

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Concurrent Session 1

VLEs: Setting the Scene

Alicia Wise, Publishers Licensing Society

This thought-provoking paper looked at the role of VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments) within institutions from the viewpoint of librarians, publishers, VLE vendors and e-learning practitioners. In particular, Alicia Wise has researched the role of journal and book content in VLEs and the issues that these have brought to the surface.

The VLE has a role in widening participation in learning and challenging expectations of how students learn. There have been differing views in the role and value of e-journal and e-book content in VLEs. Questions which continue to be asked are 'whose job is it to get e-journal and e-book content into the VLE?'; 'Do users have legitimate access to the content?' and 'How is access to content authenticated in a VLE?'

Barriers to using e-journal content in a VLE stem from commercial publishing and business models. Breach of copyright is an issue. Where does the institution stand on the re-purposing of content? Are there any restrictions on the format of content and the timing of it's delivery in a VLE?

The speaker concluded that collaboration between libraries and publishers is important. Libraries must input into the institutional strategy to achieve objectives. Publishers must clarify their role in e-learning.

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The Implementation of a VLE: Not So Virtual After All

Frances Boyle, Oxford University Library Services

Oxford University has developed its own VLEs and this has been the role of OUCS (Oxford University Computing Services). The aim was to create a VLE that specifically fits the University with its individual colleges. In this paper Frances Boyle detailed the range of information that a VLE would need to incorporate and link to.

Feedback showed that the users liked the one-stop shop approach. Tutorials were available 24/7 with opportunities to get feedback electronically and for staff to monitor progress. Library staff found it easy to re-purpose tutorials for different groups. No technical knowledge was needed. It is easy to control access. It links course materials and e-resources.

There were various issues that came to the surface such as access management, copyright and Intellectual Property Rights; cultural and organisational issues; portal and repository integration and interoperability.

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Plenary Session 4

How Usage Statistics Can Inform National Negotiations and Strategies: a report on the JISC NESLi2 usage statistics project

Simon J Bevan, Cranfield University

Simon Bevan reported in his paper on the results of the JISC usage statistics project [2]. However, he was unable to report on specific findings as they were confidential due to their commercially sensitive nature.

The principle aim of the project was to report back to the JISC working group. Participants were 4 publishers, aggregators, libraries and a study team. Data was collated from libraries and publishers. The COUNTER JR1 report was analysed alongside data on the titles subscribed to by the participants. A number of libraries were also interviewed for case studies.

Conclusions from the data analysis were that smaller institutions have more unused titles; there was an increase in usage over the study period; there is quite a low average cost per title; a small percentage of titles generate high usage; and high-use titles are generally high in cost.

The case studies reported concerns that price caps were above library budget levels. Big deal costs are harder to justify. E-only barriers included VAT payments and the reluctance of users. SFX was found to increase usage. Print versions were being made harder to access as libraries moved to e-only. Participating libraries requested clearer explanations of pricing and more information on print dependencies. The role of NESLI (National Electronic Site Licensing Initiative) was considered very favourably with perhaps speedier conclusion of deals needed.

Recommendations of the study included single national deals; simpler payment; a portal site for statistics; toolkits for usage statistics; aggregator statistics; and to separate backfile usage data from current subscription.

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The Library View of Usage Metrics

Jill Taylor-Roe, Newcastle University

In her paper on usage statistics, Jill Taylor-Roe examined why we need usage metrics, the disadvantages of using them and what they have highlighted at Newcastle University. Usage metrics are invaluable in highlighting trends, assessing effectiveness, informing strategic planning and funding bids and demonstrating value for money, demand for library services and user satisfaction. Disadvantages include the fact that it is time-consuming to collate usage statistics and report on them; they are not always directly comparable; a high level of IT skill is required and there are concerns about accuracy.

Newcastle University statistics show that ILL, photocopies and issues have decreased drastically in recent years. This is thought to be due to e-resources but has not been measured. They have also found that subscription titles have the heaviest use. Usage statistics are being used as a basis for cancellation decisions. They are now adding impact factors to the equation and are looking at RAE subject headings in big deals to analyse against impact factors.

The statistics are being used to develop more robust models for e-journal procurement and development of more effective KPIs. In future, Newcastle University will be looking at extending metrics to databases and e-books; doing more work with turnaway statistics; considering the impact of IRs, SFX / Metalib and Google Scholar. This was an excellent presentation with interesting arguments for the use of usage metrics.

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Change and Continuity in a World of Information

Mike Clark, GeoData Institute, University of Southampton

In the tradition of great last session papers, this was an inspirational and entertaining look at the world of electronic information as it stands now and what it could be like in the future. Mike Clark looked at technologies such as blogs and how they could affect the e-journal world. Technology is out of date very quickly. The coverage in this conference has demonstrated that the medium is the message. Technology constrains what we do with information. The explosion of information is restricting the process of informing. Throwing information into the world can be counter-productive. 'Quantity' is very much now; 'quality' should be tomorrow.

The speaker sees real-time publication, perpetual access, interactive, searchable serials with sound and animation, VLEs and open access as the future. Technological advancement could mean an overhaul of the peer-review system with a move towards the merging of journal content and online discussion and review. Journals could be customised.

The conference discussed the recent pattern of moving toward e-only provision. This can still be seen as elitist and exclusive. There are some parts of the world that will never be on the same playing field in terms of having the technology to receive information. This paper gave a different perspective on the world of e-information and what it could mean in the future and was very refreshing.

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Snap, Crackle and Ultimately Pop? The Future for Serials

Colin Steele, Australian National University

I'm afraid that it is impossible to write a review of this final paper as it was very much a visual presentation with a number of photographs and captions summing up much of the discussion content of the conference. It was a highly entertaining last paper and looked at issues which will continue to be discussed over the coming 12 months. These include the acquisition costs of serials, serial resource management in a digital environment, user behaviour patterns, the future of open access and the impact of research assessment on the serial publishing industry.

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As always, this year's conference provided discussions from a variety of industry and information community experts on the most topical issues affecting libraries and the publishing community today. The groupings of the sessions around the key themes was very good and combined with the more practical workshops and briefing sessions to provide the right level of discussion for everyone. The conference presentations will shortly be available on the UKSG Web site [3].

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  1. UKSG 2005 Conference programme http://www.uksg.org.uk/events/annualprog05.pdf
  2. JISC Journals Working Group Web site http://www.jisc.ac.uk/wg_journals_home.html
  3. UKSG 2005 Annual Conference presentations http://www.uksg.org.uk/events/annualconference.asp

Author Details

Sarah Pearson
E-Resources & Serials Advisor
University of Birmingham

Email: s.pearson.1@bham.ac.uk

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