The Rising Cost of Information Access

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According to Harvard University Library’s Faculty Advisory Council, the cost of subscriber agreements between Harvard’s libraries and journal publishers has become prohibitive. Calling the situation “financially untenable” in a recent public memo, the Advisory Council laid out the current state of affairs vis-a-vis subscription costs, explaining that price hikes and bundling agreements have spiked the cost of journal subscriptions. In some cases, this cost increase is as high as 145% over six years, far exceeding both the consumer price index and comparable price indices for higher education and library periodicals.

Harvard is not alone in feeling the stress of increased journal prices, though. Indeed the so-called “serials crisis” has become a hot topic in academia, with universities and researchers alike feeling frustrated by the rising access cost of information. The recently defeated Research Works Act in Congress further ruffled researchers’ feathers, with its prohibition against mandatory open access for taxpayer-financed research.

Despite the ascendance of this issue to the forefront of discourse in the scholarly research and information science worlds, the problem seems far from solved. Indeed, the Harvard memo warns that this increasing cost is “eroding” other collections efforts, and simply cannot continue. Some possible solutions are offered by Harvard’s Advisory Council, largely focused on fairer, more public contract terms and increasing the usage and prestige of open-access journals. Absent a major shift by prominent researchers toward open-access publishing, the unfortunate reality is that the oft-dreaded “paywall” may become more and more of a familiar sight for those in search of the latest research.

If your university or institution is feeling the crunch of rising journal subscription costs, are you worried about losing access to the research you depend on? How do you plan to cope with more expensive and possibly limited access? Have any brilliant ideas on how to solve the serial crisis?

Let us know here, or at [email protected]. We’ll publish your thoughts in future blog posts exploring this issue.