Published July 4, 2018 | Version v1
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Evaluating offset in academic publishing


On behalf of the Swedish library consortium, Bibsam, a group of researchers have evaluated Springer Compact (SC) with Springer Nature (SN). SC is an offset agreement, intended to accelerate the transition to Open Access at controlled costs in Sweden. The commission was mainly to evaluate the economic and administrative effects of SC, and to make recommendations for future re-negotiations. Thorough evaluations of steps taken towards Open Science are necessary to assure that research libraries are powering sustainable knowledge in the digital age. Also, for offset agreements to benefit Open Science, research libraries need to take active command and steer negotiations. SC and this evaluation is a step in that direction.

The evaluation was based on the SC agreement, economic data, publication data, SN website information, data from OpenAPC, published reports and blog posts. We also collected survey data from corresponding authors and administrators.

To put the Swedish agreement in context, we compiled a transparent overview of three of SN’s current offset agreements. We calculated the cost increase for transitioning to a pay-to-publish-system, in Sweden, The Netherlands and the UK. The survey data captured aspects of Swedish administrators’ (n=16) and researchers’ (n=339) attitudes toward SC.

The findings are expected to impact the future of negotiating offsetting. In line with recommendations by Efficiencies and Standards for Article Charges (ESAC), SC has led to an increase in Open Access publications, control over expenditure for publishing, a movement towards pay-to-publish, and more efficient administration. However, this has come at a high cost. Others have argued that there was already enough money in the system to flip to pay-to-publish, yet both the Swedish and the British offset agreements were costlier than the license agreements they followed. In Sweden, the price increases were 42% or 51% (depending on how we prognosticated the hybrid-publishing with SN). Additionally, the overview of the piloted offset agreements revealed differences in which fees were emphasized. The inconsistencies leave open for debate what actually motivates SN’s costs. SN have argued that a transition to pay-to-publish requires infrastructure. We argue that that infrastructure is financed now, given the increases paid, and that no other country can be expected to finance such infrastructure as it is already in place. Future Swedish negotiations ought to take stance in the cost levels of the previous subscription-based agreements and not in the levels of the current offset agreements.

This evaluation stresses the need for transparency in licensing agreements, as called for by LIBER. By sharing insights from the Swedish agreement we hope to help create better conditions for future negotiations with publishers, in Sweden and abroad.


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