Background

In this section: Understand the changes in the academic publishing environment and how American universities, including the University of Illinois, have responded.

Publishing industry evolves

Traditionally, scholars at research institutions have made their research available through a “gift exchange” arrangement, whereby they submit articles to publishers and serve on peer-review editorial boards with little or no expectation of personal financial gain, but with the implicit understanding that the publishers will provide the widest possible audience for their research. Scholars are typically rewarded by their institutions for their research publications through promotion and tenure systems.

As outlined by Edwards and Shulenburger in their article, “Beginning in the late 1960s and early ’70s, this gift exchange began to break down. A few commercial publishers recognized that research generated at public expense and given freely for publication by the authors represented a commercially exploitable commodity” (“The High Cost of Scholarly Journals (And What to Do about It)“).

Prior to this breakdown, most journals were published by scholarly societies that charged enough for their journals to break even and fund society activities, but were essentially not-for-profit ventures. By contrast, the current academic journal market is dominated by a few very large multinational firms that have methodically bought up the top titles in various fields and steadily raised prices for them.

Additionally, publishers began offering libraries packages of titles, known as “the big deal” or “bundling,” instead of the traditional single title subscription model. While such bundling deals often mean that libraries pay less, on average, per title, it also means that libraries are often forced into subscribing to less-popular titles in order to gain access to the more heavily used journals in the bundle.

Though the internet should have reduced costs for libraries by being able to have quick and effective access to research, libraries are paying more than ever in order to gain access to academic journals. John Wenzler presents evidence that libraries have increased their spending just for journal subscriptions, but have not increased their budgets overall, meaning that less of their money is used to do other library maintenance. Publishers are bundling access to their journals in a “big deal,” and charging the most that an institution will pay. Prices are not rising for the publishers of these journals, but their profits are (“Scholarly Communication and the Dilemma of Collective Action: Why Academic Journals Cost Too Much“).

Now What?

Universities nationwide continue to respond to rising journal costs and budget pressures through cancellation of journals, shrinking monograph budgets, and investments in initiatives and programs meant to diversify the scholarly publishing landscape. Specifically, schools are investing more in online and Open Access journals, though that does not mean that prices are less than in the previous print era (“New World, Same Model“).

What about the University of Illinois?

In 2006, the Library launched IDEALS, the University’s institutional repository. The Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship (IDEALS) collects, disseminates, and provides persistent and reliable access to the research and scholarship of faculty, staff, and students at the University. IDEALS now has over 93,000 items.

On October 19, 2015, the Senate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus also approved a University Policy on Open Access to Research Articles. This policy grants the University a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license to exercise all rights under copyright to the scholarly articles produced by faculty members. This policy is technically known as a “permission mandate.” Many other universities in the United States have adopted this model, including Harvard, Duke, Princeton, Kansas, Stanford, and MIT. For a thorough explanation of the legal implications of permission mandates, see Eric Priest’s, “Copyright and the Harvard Open Access Mandate.” 

In the policy, the faculty observed that Open Access, by providing the widest possible dissemination for research, enhances benefits to the state, region, and world while also raising the visibility and profile of the researchers at the University. Under the policy, researchers will retain copyright to their work. Work published before adoption of the policy is exempt from it. Further waiver provisions are available for specific articles upon request.

With this important new policy, the University of Illinois joins other premier research institutions, including Harvard University, Stanford University, and the University of California (whose policy serves as a model for the Illinois policy) in affirming the importance of access to high-quality research without barriers to access and use. The policy is based on recommendations from the University of Illinois University Senates Conference (USC) to the Senates for the Chicago, Springfield, and Urbana-Champaign campuses. To view the policy, visit: www.senate.illinois.edu/sc1512.pdf.

On May 19, 2016, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees approved the policy:http://www.trustees.uillinois.edu/trustees/agenda/May-19-2016/017-may-Open-Access-Task-Force-item.pdf. According to the board meeting notes: “Each Senate and Provost’s Office will be jointly responsible for implementation. The policy is to be reviewed within three years with reports to the Senates and the Vice President for Academic Affairs.”