Report on Scholarly Communication Issues

To the UMBC Faculty Senate, 13 April 2004


The Library Policy Committee hopes to engage the UMBC community in discussions and planning efforts to address the growing international crisis in scholarly communication.


The Problem:  Every year academe gives away its scholarly work to publishers, only to buy it back as journal subscriptions.  This scholarly publication system has become a national problem, and costs have spiraled out of control.  The USM alone spends well over $10,000,000 each year on subscriptions, including over $2,600,000 spent by UMBC.  The current system of commercial publication is inhibiting rather than supporting access to scholarly output at a time when technology can enable vast improvement in access, speed of publication and savings in the cost of publication.  It is worst in the sciences and technology where we have had to commit the majority of our Library materials budget.  The Library is working in concert with other USM libraries on this problem.


For the past decade, an average of approx. $170,000 per year has been added to the UMBC serials subscription budget to cover cost increases.   Yet, our subscription list remains around 4,200 titles, as it was in the late 1980’s. 


The Library Policy Committee hopes to articulate over the next several months ideas, principles and strategies that are appropriate for UMBC to adopt in response to the crisis in scholarly communication.  The committee seeks the support of the Faculty in this endeavor and asks for additional volunteers who are willing to work on it.  Background information is available through the Library’s web site at


Leading institutions around the country have already begun substantive campus-wide discussions on this topic, cut subscriptions of titles from publishers which have raised prices excessively, joined alternative publishing projects and developed systems for institutional publishing online.  The Library Policy Committee asks for your participation and support for similar actions here at UMBC. 


Some promising topics for exploration include:


1.  Consider joining SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), an alliance of “organizations working to correct dysfunctions in the scholarly publishing system” (  cost: $5,000 to $12,000/yr.), and subscribing to such enterprises as the Public Library of Science (PLOS -- minimum cost:  $2,000/yr.) and BioMedCentral ( minimum cost: $4,856/yr.).  Each provides an alternative model for publishing academic articles.  If we join such projects as these now we will be able to influence and participate in the development of their alternative publishing models. 


2.  Explore ways to link journal subscription decisions to information on excessive pricing from publishers, alternatives to those publishers and alternatives to subscribing to particular titles.


3.  Explore campus funding of “front-loaded” publication costs in Open Access Journals; consider adding or redirecting Library subscription funds, as well as building such funding into grants or grant overhead for this purpose.


4.  Plan to create an institutional repository of UMBC research publications, possibly in cooperation with other USM institutions.


5.  Support the discipline-based, non-profit article servers which are being developed. 


6.  Consider the implications of alternative publishing models for promotion and tenure review.


7.  Engage faculty, staff and students in thinking about the crisis in scholarly communication and what the UMBC community can do about it.


Please review the background resources assembled by the Library:


Here is the UMBC FY04 budget context:

                        $   392,687      Monographs

                        $2,298,075      Serials subscriptions (after 5% cut of $153,607)

                        $2,690,762      Total materials (all information resources)

                        $5,762,656      Total, including materials, personnel, operating, LIMS


What is the Library Policy Committee asking the Faculty Senators to do?

1.  Become informed about scholarly communication issues in your department.

2.  Provide information at department meetings and encourage departmental discussion.

3.  Bring departmental views back to the Faculty Senate and the Library Policy Committee.

4.  Explore and consider UMBC actions which would help to break the cycle of subscription cost increases or redirect our resources to more efficient publishing paradigms. 





       chart of national expenditure data with “UMBC total materials budget” data added



                                                Admin\lpc\docs\report to faculty senate3  4/13/04, title date rev 5/7/04 LW