RLUK welcomes the publication of figures showing UK university spending on Elsevier big-deal journal packages.   Markets work best where there is pricing transparency and price non-disclosure clauses in contracts never work to the benefit of customers.  RLUK has long argued against such clauses in journal contracts and we are pleased that all major publishers, with the exception of Elsevier, have abandoned them.

The figures released as a result of Tim Gowers’ Freedom of Information request show that the Russell Group pays at least £17 million annually for access to Elsevier’s journals collection.  There is a wide variety in prices across the Russell group members.  The lack of transparency means that it is not obvious why this variety exists or what factors the prices are based on.  However, it is understood that a significant part of the pricing is based on each institution’s level of spend on print journals from over a decade ago.

We believe that there is no justification for continuing to base prices on an outmoded delivery mechanism. Prices should be more closely related to production costs, costs that in an online environment are falling.  However, rather than see falling prices, libraries have faced inflation-busting price rises over the past 20 years, while large commercial publishers post record profits.

We look forward to combining these newly released subscription data with the data institutions are publishing showing open access Article Processing Charges (APC) to give a more complete picture of the total sums that UK HE is spending with major publishers such as Elsevier.  RLUK has previously issued a position paper outlining the expectation that publishers will rebate institutions based on their APC spend, in line with the Finch Report and BIS comments.


Research Libraries UK

Research Libraries UK is a consortium of 34 of the largest research organisations in the UK and Ireland, including the three UK national libraries. Founded more than 25 years ago, RLUK has directly and indirectly sponsored some of the major free online UK resources in support of research, including Copac, the de facto UK Union Catalogue. RLUK’s mission is to work with their members and partners, nationally and internationally, to shape and to realise the vision of the modern research library

For further information please contact:

Phil Sykes, Chair, RLUK Ethical and Effective Publishing Group, P.Sykes@liverpool.ac.uk

Stella Butler, Chair, RLUK, S.Butler@leeds.ac.uk

David Prosser, RLUK, Executive Director, david.prosser@rluk.ac.uk


Top image courtesy of The British Library