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NEWS ARCHIVES ACROSS THEMES  
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A growing number of libraries are increasingly cancelling subscriptions to full suite of publishers' journals, opting for limited titles to save on costs
- 13 Jun 2018

Florida State University has entered into negotiations with publisher Elsevier to see how it can resolve a pricing issue. Back in April, FSU announced that it would not renew a so-called 'big deal' with Elsevier in 2019, due to its high cost, and would instead subscribe to a subset of the most-needed journals. The university's move represents the latest example of academic libraries walking away from these comprehensive and expensive subscriptions, which include all or most of a publisher's catalogue, and instead signing up for la carte titles.

Over the last few years, around two dozen libraries in the US and Canada have cancelled at least one big deal with a publisher.

According to Joseph Esposito of Clarke&Esposito, a publishing consultancy firm, a key driving force behind the recent uptick of package cancellations is the negotiating leverage that libraries have gotten as a result of sites such as Sci-Hub that provide free, illegal access to journal articles.

According to Roy Ziegler, the associate dean of collections development at FSU Libraries, because FSU is still in negotiations with Elsevier, it is possible the situation might change before subscriptions lapse at the end of the year.

In 2015, the University of Montreal decided to take an empirical approach to its subscription negotiations. To do so, the university closely examined the university's collection of approximately 50,000 journals to see which titles were essential for their faculty and students. The analysis, which combined usage and citation statistics with faculty surveys, revealed that only around 11.6 percent to 36.9 percent of the titles in their big-deal bundles were indispensable.

Other Canadian universities have conducted similar analyses to determine whether to cut down their journal subscriptions. Some of those have ended in cancellations. The University of Calgary, for example, cut more than 1,000 titles between 2015 and 2016, primarily through unbundling two packages with Oxford University Press and Taylor&Francis, according to Thomas Hickerson, the university's vice-provost of libraries.

Driven by the European Commission's goal of making all scientific articles freely available by 2020, a number of countries have been pushing for more academic publishers to adopt so-called 'publish-and-read' models, which cover reading paywalled papers and publishing articles as 'gold' open access (immediately and freely available from the publisher) in one fee. While some of these negotiations have been successful, others have led to disagreements and stalled subscriptions.

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HighWire Founding Director John to lead industry initiative on manuscript exchange
- 08 Jun 2018

Members of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) have approved the 'Manuscript Exchange Common Approach' (MECA) - a major new academic publishing initiative co-led by HighWire Founding Director John Sack. The project will see the industry's leading technology providers work together on a more standardised approach to the transfer of manuscripts between and among manuscript systems, such as those in use at publishers and preprint servers.

The outdated, time-intensive way authors currently submit and re-submit manuscripts to different publishers is quietly a major productivity killer for researchers globally. It is estimated that a staggering 15 million hours of researcher time is consumed each year, simply repeating reviews. But the problem, described by one expert as 'publishing's nasty secret', could be solved if journals and publishers were able to transfer manuscripts between publications using different submission-tracking systems.

The MECA project will work towards a number of key goals, in order to address issues such as: Vocabulary: providing a standard nomenclature; Packaging: a simple, flexible, standard way to assemble files; Tagging: being able to pass submission information from system to system; Peer review: being able to pass review information from system to system; Transfer: enabling the transfer of information from system to system; Identity: a unique, consistent identity across systems; and Transmission: a simple, consistent way to send the information across systems.

Momentum has gathered pace since the project was first presented by John at the 2017 SSP Annual Meeting, with the first use case for the project now live.

In addition to HighWire and eJP, MECA's leading participants are Aries, Clarivate, and PLOS. The collaboration between HighWire and eJournalPress enables MECA for a new life sciences journal so that manuscripts and reviews could flow to - and from - other journals in a standardised way. The implementation entered into production earlier this year, and is now completed - meaning that manuscripts and reviews now flow smoothly via MECA, with the only author intervention being to agree to the transfer.

This first, fully-operational implementation will now serve as the base for documentation and elaboration through the NISO review and approval process.

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Crossref facilitates use of essential peer review information for scholarly communications
- 06 Jun 2018

In response to requests from the community for flexible registering of peer review content (and associated discussions of published content), Crossref has extended its infrastructure to not only support the registration of this content, but also the easy retrieval, use and reuse of it, through its public API. The initiative is seen to be a major advancement for the discoverability and usability of peer review reports.

Late last year, after collaboration with like-minded member organisations, Crossref opened a new deposit schema to enable the registration of peer reviews, referee reports, decision letters, author responses, and community comments. Metadata to characterise both the peer review type and stage-to accurately reflect the history of the review-can now be deposited and searched for.

Metadata for over 10,000 peer reviews is now openly available and easily retrievable for analysis and integration into other tools and services, through Crossref's public API.

Organisations such as BMJ, ASAPBio, PeerJ, and ScienceOpen have been driving the development of peer review content registration. They recognise the importance of persistent records for peer review content; and understand this supporting metadata enriches scholarly discussion, reviewer accountability, transparency, and peer review analysis.

As the data is not subject to copyright and no sign-up is required to use it, anyone can retrieve the information necessary for their own integration and analysis. Institutions and researchers will now be able to build a stronger picture around the role of the peer review in scholarly communications as a whole, in addition to identifying and assessing their own contributions.

Quick to respond to the shifting needs around scholarly communications, Crossref is committed to the expansion of their infrastructure to support the demands of scholarly progression and scientific discovery. The availability of peer review data is just one of the many progressions the non-profit organisation has made in recent months to aid facilitation of transparency and governance, and to put research in context.

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BMJ provides Ebola resources to support healthcare workers in Democratic Republic of the Congo
- 31 May 2018

Following the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, BMJ is providing free access to a range of evidence-based online resources to support healthcare workers with the early detection, diagnosis and management of Ebola.

Free information about the Ebola virus and how best to treat it, is available from BMJ Best Practice, the clinical support tool from BMJ, for health professionals working on the frontline in affected rural and urban regions of DR Congo. The information has been reviewed and aligned with WHO guidance.

For health professionals located outside affected regions, online learning courses from BMJ Learning and BMJ OnExamination offer guidance on how to recognise who is most at risk and how to manage suspected cases of Ebola in primary care.

As a values-driven company serving international communities everywhere, BMJ is committed to improving global health outcomes by providing evidence-based knowledge and education.

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Changes to FSU's Elsevier 2019 subscriptions
- 27 Apr 2018

The Florida State University Libraries have announced plans to cancel FSU's comprehensive 'big deal' subscription to Elsevier journals. Instead, the Libraries will subscribe to a subset of most-needed journals, as identified by faculty and usage statistics. This change will take place in January 2019.

 In March, the Faculty Senate, at the recommendation of the Senate Library Committee, voted unanimously to endorse this plan. Provost McRorie also strongly supports this move.

The exceptionally high and ever-increasing cost of the Elsevier 'big deal' is seen to have made it unsustainable. Florida State University currently pays just under $2 million a year, and the cost increases by at least four percent annually.

FSU is being charged too much as the result of a poorly thought-out 20-year-old contract between Elsevier and the State University System. Through this contract, UCF pays less than $1M for the exact same product. FIU pays just over a million. USF pays about $1.5 million.

Over the last 8 years, FSU's provosts have tried every possible way to negotiate a reduction to FSU's disproportionately high cost, without success. A partial cancellation seems to be the only remaining option.

 Much of the demand for articles will be met seamlessly through individually subscribed titles. For unsubscribed content, access will be available by interlibrary loan delivery to the desktop guaranteed within 24 hours (no cost); or expedited delivery within minutes ($30, subsidised by the library.)

Librarians have been working with faculty during recent weeks to choose the best titles for continued subscriptions. STEM areas are particularly affected. Some disciplines (arts, humanities, law, etc.) much less so.

With some of the savings, they will be able to acquire a variety of other materials that faculty have requested - requests they have had to deny because so much of the budget has been consumed by Elsevier.

Other major research libraries have taken this approach and have been surprised at how well faculty and student needs can be met without the 'big deal' subscription.

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