Nature Publishing Group and the University of California – Some pointers and thoughts

Besides watching this like the finals of Olympic hockey, I've been seriously impressed with the thoughtful and insightful commentary from a huge bunch of my libr* online contacts. Interesting stuff, too, from scientists and other folks interested in scholarly communication.

About the confidentiality of the discussions....

  • Walt Crawford reminds us of various freedom of information requests and state laws in California that essentially mean that the terms of the final agreement won't be confidential
  • Beth Brown thinks that this can only help with transparency in the future - which would be a relief

About the timing with respect to furloughs, cancellations, and closings...

  • Dorothea Salo and Beth Brown note that this deflects faculty anger over cancellations - typically directed at the liaison librarians - to the publishers (I witnessed such anger from a UCSD physicist)

About a history of this behavior...

  • A librarian (and I won't state the name because I'm not sure if it's ok) said "We had a 200% increase from NPG a few years ago, eventually moderated to only 100%. Reason - the deal we had before then was "too good" and didn't fit NPG's new business model"

About librarians fighting back (or at least stopping, for a moment, in suffering in silence)

About "list" price...

  • I'll be only the millionth person to point out that no one pays list. If there was a menu with prices and that's what you paid, this whole situation wouldn't exist. There's a lot of wheeling and dealing.

About what this means for the faculty...

  • Dr. Free-Ride points out that if the boycott happens, the tenure committees should be sure not to penalize those who publish in journals with lower impact factors

Some points from UC's response to NPG's response.

  • UC's been telling all of their vendors that they need relief, that they have to cut costs, and they've been negotiating for decreases - so if they took the money they got from that, and handed it to one publisher for such a large increase... well that would suck
  • The value of what UC affiliates freely give to NPG journals is huge.


I have no idea how this is going to turn out - but I'll be watching. The fact is, that if UC gave in to these rates and cancelled enough other things to pay for them, we would all be in trouble both when our renewals came around and for the other journals that they would cut.

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On behalf of Nature Publishing Group:
We understand that the letter from University of California and California Digital Library has raised concerns. However, we believe that the situation was not described fairly by CDL.
We have now issued a public statement on this matter, where we have fully described our understanding and position. You can find our statement here:
Nature Publishing Group will be doing all we can to bring this to a successful conclusion as soon as possible.
Grace Baynes
Nature Publishing Group

Regarding contracts and confidentiality: Economists Ted Bergstrom and Preston McAfee are studying the terms of these types of contracts, obtained under public records acts. Last year Elsevier tried to win an injunction against release of this information, but Ted and Preston previous in the Washington State courts. For details, see Ted's page at

Thanks for that link. It's definitely worth looking at those data during this situation.