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Summary Paper from the Publishing Research Consortium

This paper is based on flawed research, as it is based on librarian purchasing preferences, but omits key factors: research and educational priorities of the university, and faculty assessment of the importance of journals. It is when we take the latter factor into account that we can understand the experience of physics, where nearly 100% open access through self-archiving has peacefully coexisted with a subscription-based system for more than 15 years.

My original comment to the SPARC Open Access Forum, November 14, 2006:

This study is interesting, however as a librarian my comment is that the assumptions underlying the study illustrate a lack of understanding of the basic decision-making process of the academic librarian collections specialist.

This study looks at 6 attributes and assesses librarian preferences, in an attempt to predict cancellations of subscriptions in favor of open access materials if articles are available in archives.

Elements of the model examined:
Version of Article
Percentage of a Journal's Articles that are Available
Reliability of Access
How up-to-date is the content
Quality of the content

The problem with this, is that the primary factors determining collections decisions are not taken into account: research and educational priorities of the university, and faculty assessment of the importance of journals. When we take these factors into account, we can see why it makes sense that librarians continue to subscribe to physics journals, even when prices are considered high and virtually all of the articles are available for free in arXiv.

In other words, the answers this study have found really do not matter, because it did not ask the right questions. Research into librarians' collections decisions might be best led by librarians.

Original post at:

More discussion about this study, including comments from one of the
principal investigators, Chris Beckett, can be found in the SPARC
Open Access Forum Archives for November 2006.

Any opinion expressed in this message is that of the author alone, and does not reflect the opinion or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or Simon Fraser University Library.

Heather Morrison