By Jan Kunnas

A major financial problem for research libraries is the escalated subscription prices of scientific journals. A year's subscription for a journal of neurology might be 20 000 dollars and the average price for a chemistry journal is 3500 dollars (Darnton, 2009 I bring forth 2 solutions to these skyrocketing prices:

  1. A higher status given for open-access journals in the recruiting and promoting process would in the long run create downward pressure for the escalated subscription prices.

  2. A categorical cancellation by libraries of the most expensive journal in each subfield. This would punish the greediest publisher, and create a downward spiral in the pricing where each publisher would try to price its journals below the price of their competitors. In case of a draw, both journals should be cancelled in order to hinder pricing agreements between publishers.

To avoid an cancellation of high-quality journals in order to support lower quality journals, or cancelling much-used journals in order to support little-used journals. We could also consider dividing the price of the journal with its impact factor, taking into account different alternative impact factor indexes, and then cancel the one with the highest price/quality–index. Alternatively, we could calculate a price/use-index.


Solution 2 seems to neglect the fact that many journals are not incorporated in a Big Deal agreement with the publishers. Cancelling one journal, would subsequently not be possible without cancelling the entire agreement with that particular publisher. Our university needed to cut their budget spent on journal subscriptions, and was only able to gut Nature and Science from their list. I am interested to hear how this affects your idea.

Chris Hartgerink · 4 Aug, 2015

Hi Chris, you are absolutly right, these big deal agreements are a major obstacle for the exectution of part 2) of this plan. A possible solution for this would to make a similar cost benefit calculation between different bundles, and then cancel that package with the price/quality–index or price/use-index. For sure this would mean throwing some important journal over board in the short run, but it would be beneficial for the whole scientific community in the long run.

Jan Kunnas · 6 Aug, 2015
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Jan Kunnas



Published: 3 Aug, 2015

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