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Delivering scholarly communications to support your research and teaching

Scholarly communication: the system through which research and other scholarly writings are created, evaluated for quality, disseminated to the scholarly community, and preserved for future usei.

The way that scholarship is communicated in our society keeps changing and evolving.  We respond by utilising the University's information resources budget to select and acquire from among the available research publications, primary sources, audiovisual media and grey literature, those scholarly resources that best meet your current research and teaching needs.

Although we continue to manage the acquisition and curation of essential physical items, approximately 90% of the scholarly content that required is accessed online. Much of this online content is controlled by a few major profit-driven companies who aggressively acquire titles from smaller publishers and scholarly associations, bundle them into large collections and present them as 'big deal' subscription packages.

Big deals

Big deal packages provide access to a large volume of journal titles at a lower per-title price than title-by-title purchasing would afford and like other academic libraries worldwide, a major proportion of our budget has been allocated to maintaining them.  It has reached the point however, with routine annual price increases of between 5 and 15%, where subscribing to these packages is no longer sustainable.  These deals negatively impact our ability to build collections that provide the best fit for your research and teaching needs.

With the actual value of big deals less clear, scholarly publishing models in general have come under the spotlight as research organizations seek viable alternatives for the communication of scholarship.

The legacy scholarly publishing model

The existing scholarly publishing model has resulted in a system where publicly-funded, freely-shared research outputs originally created to contribute to the advancement of human knowledge, are primarily locked behind paywalls. Access to much of this scholarship is restricted to a small percentage of potential users.

We all pay for the creation of research, and once published, we pay again each year to continue to access the findings.  We pay for bundled content, a proportion of which is never used.  We need to subscribe to multiple bundled collections for essential unique content, and then find ourselves paying for additional bundled content that is duplicated across other collections.

A recent analysis of Scopus data indicated that our researchers published in just over 300 of the nearly 3000 journals that the University of Otago subscribes to.

The financial unsustainability of the big deal, coupled with the growing demand for open access to publicly funded research has resulted in a number of research organisations such as University of California System and national systems in Norway, Finland and Taiwan cancelling unaffordable subscriptions. SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) tracks these eventsii.

Emerging scholarly publishing models

Many research organisations are actively seeking viable alternatives for the dissemination of scholarly communications based on the principles of open access. This provides unrestricted public access to “a complete version of the work and all supplemental materials” subject only to attribution and responsible use, as described in the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities of 2003.

Open Access offers two main options. You choose the 'gold' option when you publish in an OA journal, or the 'green' option when you deposit a copy of an article into an OA repository. Variations on these have resulted in a wide spectrum of permutations based on levels of openness.

Hybrid journals for instance, remain behind paywalls or have pay-per-view for articles on a default basis, but give authors the option of paying a fee to make their articles free for others to access.  Most of the large STM (Science Technology and Medicine) publishers now provide this option in order to comply with open access mandates, yet still allow traditional subscription-based or pay-per-access business models to remain in place.

Open access initiatives such as Plan S, established by an international consortium of research funders requires that, from 2020, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms.

The emerging 'Publish & Read' model like the one secured by Germany's Projekt DEAL with a major publisher, are also becoming more widespread. This 'Publish & Read' agreement provides for open access publication of all scholarly articles by authors affiliated with German institutions at no extra cost and, at the same time, provides access for German institutions to the publisher's entire portfolio of electronic journals still behind paywalls.

Our strategies for access

We will take advantage of new improved access models as changes become more widespread.

  • While existing subscription models continue to exert a major influence, we employ an evidence-based approach to provide you with the most essential literature for your research and teaching
  • We quantify (as much as possible) the value our University receives from subscriptions using a renewals rubric developed by Information Resources staffiii
  • We research and develop tools to analyse the publication and citation patterns of our researchers to provide business intelligence for subscription renewal/cancellation decision-making

We collaborate for improved access to research through:

  • CONZULAC, The Council of NZ University Librarians Acquisitions Consortium, formed to negotiate the supply of monographic materials
  • Membership of the CAUL Consortium, the Electronic Information Resources Consortium, led by the Council of Australian University Librarians, who address a range of activities including collaborative purchasing of electronic information resources, licensing conditions, access issues, statistical reporting and effective negotiation

We face a changing scholarly communications environment, so this space will be used to share new information with you about significant changes and choices.

To provide feedback, or discuss how you might be able to contribute to positive change, please contact your Subject Librarian.


i) Association of College and Research Libraries Principles and Strategies for the Reform of Scholarly Communication 1 2003. Accessed April 17 2019
ii) SPARC Big deal tracking. Accessed April 17 2019
iii) Kennedy, J. L. (2018). Otago Renewals Rubric – an aid to subscription eresource renewals decision-making. Presented at the Collection Assessment & ROI Datasets Meeting


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