Journals online: An update

Journals online: An update McGill University

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McGill Reporter
February 10, 2000 - Volume 32 Number 10
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 32: 1999-2000 > February 10, 2000 > Journals online: An update

Journals online: An update

| In the summer of 1999, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) announced a grant of $20 million to support the Canadian National Site Licensing Project (CNSLP). The goal of the project is to increase significantly the quality, breadth and depth of the current research literature available to the Canadian research community. This initiative, in which 64 Canadian universities are participating, will license electronic versions of scholarly journals in science, technology, medicine and the environment and provide electronic desktop access to the individual user at participating academic institutions.

Frances Groen, director of Libraries
PHOTO: CLIFF SKARSTEDT

The successful application identified the major databases of 25 vendors as desirable licensing opportunities under the CFI initiative. Among these are the 174 journals published by Academic Press, the approximately 1,100 Elsevier science journals, the IEEE journals, transactions and proceedings, the 200 journal titles of Blackwell Science, the 400 journals published by Wiley and the science journals of Springer-Verlag.

In recent years, McGill University Libraries have entered into site licensing arrangements with publishers and vendors of electronic scholarly journals for institutional access. In an effort to secure better prices, McGill is participating in negotiated site licences through collaboration with other university libraries within the Conf*rence des recteurs et des principaux des universit*s du Qu*bec. The CNSLP requires McGill, like all other participating institutions, to rethink these existing arrangements in the light of a national agenda.

The strategy that is developing worldwide is towards site licensing on a national scale. National site licensing initiatives have been successfully implemented in the U.K., the Netherlands and Australia.

In the United States, largely due to scale, the predominant model is intrastate licensing. The importance of the national approach to Canadian research libraries is evident when one realizes that the buying power released by the CFI initiative, a total of $50 million over three years, will provide funding at a level equivalent to that available to the research library community in the state of California.

Issues surrounding pricing structures, ownership/access, modes of delivery, and preservation of electronically published research continue to be explored by the publishing and library communities. Nonetheless, due to such initiatives as national site licensing in North America and abroad, the expanding role of library consortia and the development of principles and standards by such groups as Consortia Canada, the International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) and others, it can be anticipated that a resolution to these issues will be reached in the near future. Such a resolution will further accelerate the transformation to electronic journals, indexes and abstracts, and research databases.

Funding Implementation and Management

The total funding will be expanded over three years to minimize the impact of inflation on the purchasing power and to ensure that sufficient content is available to achieve the project goals.

The full operational phase of the project will begin in Year 2 of CFI funding after the organizational structure and the majority of the licences are in place. The content, method of delivery and pricing algorithms may change significantly over a three-year time frame, and continuation of the project will be based on a thorough evaluation of the three-year initiative which will test all aspects of the program: governance, management, funding content and delivery.

The University of Ottawa is the lead institution on the CNSLP and a management structure, including regional representation from libraries and from the research community, is in place. The Quebec share of the project costs represents a little more than 27 per cent of the total project costs, and late last year, Education Minister Fran*ois Legault committed $5,421,000 as the Quebec government's contribution to this initiative.

A National Site Licensing Steering Committee is chaired by Dr. Howard Alper from the University of Ottawa. Deb De Bruijn, formerly manager with the British Columbia Electronic Library Network (ELN), is the project manager. The negotiation of site licences is to begin immediately.

The CNSLP Steering Committee will be responsible to the larger community for ensuring that the contracts negotiated will address the major concerns of the participating institutions including authorized use of licensed resources and authentication of users, archiving, copyright and intellectual property rights, pricing strategies and termination of rights, including residual rights to licensed information.

What Happens after CFI?

Over the course of the three-year project, a variety of strategies will be employed to ensure the sustainability of the project following termination of CFI support. These strategies will include:
generation of additional revenue through extending participation on licences to other CFI-eligible institutions;
generation of additional revenue through partnerships with non-CFI-eligible institutions (who may participate on licences but who must pay 100% of their costs);
cancellation of print journal subscriptions, where possible, with redeployment of institutional direct and indirect savings toward national site licences.
cancellation of institutional and regional licences for electronic products, where possible, with redeployment of direct and indirect savings toward national site licences;
- consideration, at the negotiations stage, for a portion of content funding to be expended on one-time costs, such as electronic journal backfiles.

The experiences of other consortia funded by initial startup grants have demonstrated that the planned exit strategy is often the most difficult phase of a national site licensing initiative. The universities have made a three-year commitment, but work still is required to ensure that the jump in funding required at the end of CFI and provincial matching support is not so extreme.

The CNSLP needs to think how it will move to a self-funded model after the three-year period. Since three years pass very quickly, work on the exit strategy will begin at the end of Year 2 at the latest.

There is a longer-term issue that must also be evaluated. Scholarly publishing and communication are changing significantly and at an ever-increasing pace. In 1996, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries produced a report entitled The Changing Nature of Scholarly Communication.

Only a few years later, this report appears dated as we see an escalating trend toward new initiatives run by researchers and scholars to make preprints and reprints of their articles available over the Internet. Publishers who have traditionally controlled the distribution of research results through copyright are becoming increasingly challenged by these initiatives.

The scholarly journal, as it has been known since its first appearance in the 1660s, is being transformed, as researchers repatriate control of their own works through research associations such as the American Institute of Physics, Los Alamos project or the recently announced National Institutes of Health (U.S) Pub Med Central. The role of the university library as it relates to the journal record is being transformed in this process.

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