Scholarly Communication: Elsevier, a Case Study
Two factors are especially potent in driving the crisis in scholarly communication: a high-profit motive on the part of publishers, and attendant actions to consolidate market share and pricing power through mergers. Much has been written about increases in science, technology and medicine, about commercial publishers, and about Elsevier, this sector's most successful player.
CDL undertook long and serious conversations with Elsevier as the former contract came to a close in December 2003. Happily, a new five-year contract was negotiated that accommodates the University's deteriorating budget situation without sacrificng access to the titles selected by each campus. For more information and a list of Elsevier titles currently available see Elsevier Journals — UC Status.
- Reed Elsevier now publishes about 20 percent of the core science publications available commercially (source: Publisher Mergers: A Consumer-based Approach to Antitrust Analysis (PDF), Susman, Carter and Gray, and the Information Access Alliance. June 2003) and is the largest Science, Technology, and Medicine journal publisher in the world. It reported 29% profits in 2002, 41% for the period 2000-2002.
- The University of California is Elsevier's second largest client, coming after the consortium of Japanese universities.
- UC has a consortial agreement with Elsevier for ScienceDirect, an online database of circa 1,700 titles. Our previous agreement expired on December 31, 2003 and has been replaced by a contract that UC finds much improved.
- UC paid $8 million in 2002/03 for digital access to Elsevier titles, with an additional $2 million for print. This represented one-sixth of UC libraries' total materials budget. Science Direct titles consume 50% of the total budget for all online journals that UC libraries subscribe to as a consortium, but only receive 25% of the use given to such journals. 10% of the titles in Scienc Direct get 50% of the use.
- The list price of many Elsevier journals is far higher than the industry norm. For example, "the monthly journal World Development, which cost … about $250 in 1997, is now priced at a staggering Euro 1,584, or US dollars $1,772 annually, an increase over five years of 608%." (source: The Rise and Rise of Journal Subscription Prices in African Studies (PDF), by Hans Zell, published in the Africana Libraries Newsletter No. 111, June/September 2003.)
UC faculty contributions to Elsevier
A large portion of what Elsevier is selling to the UC community, was created, vetted, or enhanced by UC faculty. These statistics are from 2003.
- 150 UC faculty members serve as managing editors for Science Direct.
- 964 UC faculty members serve on Elsevier journal editorial boards, 255 of them from Berkeley.
- Almost 50% of UC held Elsevier journals have at least one UC faculty member on their editorial board
- 10-15% of the content is written by UC Faculty.