Expensive academic publications

The costs of academic publications threaten to surge out of reach for universities and research institutes.

In 2012–2016, the national subscriptions for the five largest academic journal packages will total nearly €64 million.

In the Vice-Rector Keijo Hämäläinen’s opinion, digitisation has made academic publishing more efficient but has also made it more expensive to access research publications.

“The digitisation of data and research infrastructure are both an opportunity and threat to Finnish science.”

The national negotiation strategy is being prepared by a working group with representatives from universities, universities of applied sciences and research institutes.

Funding cuts pose challenges

Academic journals are a lucrative business. For example, Elsevier, the largest academic publishing house, posted an operating profit of nearly €1.1 billion in 2014 (37% of its revenue), while that of its parent company, RELX Group, amounted to nearly €2.5 billion. The profit margins of other large academic publishers (such as Springer, Wiley, and Taylor & Francis) have also been around 30% in recent years.

According to Per Mickwitz, Research Director of the Finnish Environment Institute, large journal subscriptions have no viable competitors.

“This has made it possible to keep the prices high. The traditional power structures of academic publishing are further boosted by young researchers having to publish articles in established journals to achieve academic merit,” says Mickwitz, who is also a member of the strategy group.

The funding cuts to research resources laid out in the Government Programme will have an impact on the negotiations. The working group is seriously considering the possibility of the contract negotiations falling through because of the terms not being acceptable in Finland’s current situation. If no contract is signed, access to important research data may be hampered.

Aiming at open science

The Open Science and Research Initiative, launched by the Ministry of Education and Culture, aims to make Finland a leading country in open science and research by 2017. Openness enables new scientific discoveries and insights.

According to Vice-Rector Hämäläinen, the vision of open science also influences the negotiation strategy.

“We keep close tabs on international developments in this respect. Many other countries are also conducting or preparing for negotiations on journal subscriptions.”

In Finland, the preparations are coordinated by the FinELib consortium of libraries, which negotiates centralised licence agreements for national and international electronic material.

Further information on website (in Finnish)

Keijo Hämäläinen, Vice-Rector of the University of Helsinki, chair of the contract negotiation group, Keijo.Hamalainen[at]helsinki.fi

Kimmo Tuominen, University Librarian, Helsinki University Library, president of the Coalition for Finnish University Libraries, kimmo.tuominen[at]helsinki.fi

Kristiina Hormia-Poutanen, Director, National Library of Finland/Library Network Services, kristiina.hormia[at]helsinki.fi

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