How much do they pay for journal subscriptions in the UK?

Thursday, July 30th, 2015 | Richard White | No Comments

Two independent British researchers have obtained and released data on the licensing fees spent on journal subscriptions in the UK higher education sector. The data, released openly on F1000Research, shows spending by over 150 UK higher education organisations on the journals from ten publishing groups, reaching a total of £430 million from 2010 – 2014. The data, being open, allowed me to do some quick calculations. Across these institutions the total spend in each year showed a steady increase over the five years: £76m, £82m, £88m, £91m and £94 respectively.

These figures are, of course, separate from anything spent on Author Processing Charges now being spent by UK insitutions to comply with goverment-mandated open access to publicly-funded research, which has become a significant cost in itself with the UK government’s support for the Gold OA model.

You can compare 2013 figures to publicly released figures for New Zealand institutions. The highest figure paid among the UK institutions that year was the £3.1 million spent by the University of Manchester. The University of Auckland was the biggest spender of New Zealand institutions in the same year at $14.8 million. The figures are not directly comparable – given that the UK’s include licensing fees for ten specific publishers and the NZ figures are for all spending on academic journal subscriptions — but do provide a broad basis for comparison. Similarly the total spends make interesting reading, with the UK’s £91 million spread across 153 institutions and NZ’s $55 million across just eight universities and eight Crown Research Institutes.

Radio NZ reports on “extortionate” tactics of research publishers

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 | Richard White | No Comments

$55 million – that’s the figure Radio NZ has reported that NZ universities and Crown Research Institutes pay in subscription fees to academic publishers. The University of Auckland alone spent almost $15m — with Otago spending the second-highest amount of $8.4 — on access to journals that for the most part comprises work done and reviewed by academics around the world for free, after signing their copyright over to the publishers.

You can also listen to the report from Morning Report.

Want massive NZ aerial imagery or map data?

Sunday, May 4th, 2014 | Richard White | No Comments

Last week Land Information NZ (LINZ) – which has been leading the way in open access government data for some time – announced they were releasing even more open data into the wild. Their data service now incorporates terrain, street maps and satellite imagery.

Screen shot of LINZ web siteCC BY – LINZ Data Service


There’s literally terabytes of it, covering around 95% of the country, which you can download or, if you need more than 3GB, have couriered to you.  In a press statement Land information minister Maurice Williamson said:

“Releasing publicly held aerial imagery for reuse has the potential to create cost savings for the public sector and generate economic benefits for the private sector. Imagery can be used to improve productivity in agriculture and forestry, and can be used in construction, engineering, disaster recovery planning, and land and asset management. Making aerial imagery available is in line with the government’s goal to make more publicly held data accessible to as many people as possible.”

It also means whenever you have a student asking  where they can get a map or overhead image of somewhere in New Zealand, you’ll know where to send them for an open access one.

Everybody’s doing it (except us)

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 | Richard White | No Comments

They’re doing it in the UK. In Australia too. And in the US, they’re going to be doing it more than they already were. I’m talking about open access publication of research.

In 2012 a public petition was made to the Whitehouse proposing that the public should have free access to the outcomes of scientific research that they have funded. Over 65000 people signed and this week the Obama administration has responded with a resounding, “Yes, we can.” While the US National Institutes of Health has had a public access policy for years (which “requires scientists to submit final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to the digital archive PubMed Central upon acceptance for publication“), the announcement this week goes much further. Any research with a budget of over $100m will be expected to be made publicly available within 12 months of original publication. “The logic behind this is plain,” says the statement, to provide access to taxpayer-funded research to innovators in industry, science and the public generally. It cites the “great success” of the NIH policy, which is to be used as a guide to other agencies now coming under this new one.

The discussion that has ensued has centred on the fact that 12 months after publication is hardly lightening fast and the level of budget threshold  (which sounds like a lot to NZers). Nevertheless, it is generally being hailed as a landmark announcement in the adoption of Open Access as the default.

A key reason for this is that the statement also “requires that agencies start to address the need to improve upon the management and sharing of scientific data produced with Federal funding.” This goes further than the UK’s Finch report and the announcements by Australia’s funding bodies in recent times.

In any case, from a NZ perspective, it is becoming clear that everybody is going OA except us – but the question is no longer if but when. While the NZ government has established NZGOAL and issued its Declaration on Open and Transparent Government, it has so far been silent on research by organisations like Otago. It can only be a matter of time before this changes, given developments around the rest of the world.