Library Notes for Political Science

Teaching resources, news, and links to keep McGill’s Political Scientists informed

Nature Publishing Group and the University of California faculty

Posted by Megan on June 15, 2010

This message is modified from a blog post by Steve Lawson, an academic librarian in Colorado.

A recent confrontation between Nature Publishing Group and the University of California faculty and library has brought a lot of attention to the unsustainable cycle of journal publishing and the crisis it is creating in libraries. The issue is central to everyone in the academy.

In short, The Nature Publishing Group (NPG) (which publishes “Nature” along with many other journals) wanted to re-negotiate its contract with the University of California system, with a price increase amounting to about 400% (or over one million dollars). The University not only resisted such an increase, but some faculty there have organized a boycott of Nature journals: no submitting papers, no peer review, no editorial boards, and so on. In other words, they are withholding their mostly-free labor in the face of this price increase. Since then, NPG has responded and UC/California Digital Library has responded to that response.

I would welcome further discussion of this matter and how it affects the social sciences and humanities. For a discussion of the humanities vis-a-vis science and technology publishing, I recommend you read the excellent blog post “Fight Club soap” by the University of Virginia’s Bethany Nowviskie:

If you would like to read more (and I hope you do), here are some links for you:

Chronicle of Higher Ed, June 8, 2010 U. of California Tries Just Saying No to Rising Journal Costs

The letter from the California Digital Library to the UC faculty is attached to this email as “Nature_Faculty_Letter-June_2010.pdf

The response from Nature Publishg Group raises the novel idea that other institutions are currently “subsidizing” UC’s “discount,” and characterizes the UC position as unreasonable.

The response to that response from the California Digital Library — pointing out the idea of a discount from a set “list price” is meaningless, and containing the wonderful line “In fact, we would welcome more transparent means of determining what UC Faculty contribute and how this virtually free labor gets factored into revenue calculations or potentially could be used to offset subscription rates.” – is also attached to this message, with the filename “UC_Response_to_Nature_Publishing_Group.pdf


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