Librarians and scholars hoping that University of California researchers would make good on a threat to boycott the Nature Publishing Group over high journal costs are likely to be disappointed.
The university and the publishing group issued a joint statement on Wednesday saying that they met on August 17 “to discuss our organizations’ current licensing challenges and the larger issues of scholarly-communication sustainability.” They agreed to work together “to address our mutual short- and long-term challenges, including an exploration of potential new approaches and evolving publishing models,” they said.
They described the meeting as a friendly affair, with each side acknowledging the other’s contributions and value. “We look forward to a successful planning and experimentation process that results in mutual agreement that serves all stakeholder groups—NPG, the UC libraries, and the scholar community, thus avoiding the need for the boycott that had been discussed at an earlier stage,” the statement said.
The possibility of a boycott emerged in June, when the university’s dispute with the publisher over journal-licensing fees went public. The university took issue with proposed price increases; Nature defended itself.
As for what happens next, Laine Farley, executive director of the California Digital Library, told The Chronicle she wasn’t at liberty to say more at this point. A Nature official sent us a short statement saying that “further meetings are planned, NPG is looking forward to these discussions with the University of California, and we’ll make further announcements in due course.”
Rich Schneider, an associate professor in the department of orthopedic surgery at the University of California at San Francisco, leads the University of California’s Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication. An interview with Schneider suggested that it was not a lack of support for a possible boycott that had brought the university back to the negotiating table.
“We had tremendous support from the faculty,” he said of the university’s decision to challenge the publisher. “We had hundreds of letters of support.”
Like Farley, Schneider said he couldn’t go into details about what sorts of planning and experimentation the two sides had agreed to undertake. “We recognize there’s a tremendous weight on our shoulders,” he said. “Everybody wants to know what’s going on, so we feel a huge responsibility to do this right and take our time and not rush into anything.”
If a major public university and a high-profile publisher can’t figure out a way to work together at a time of rapid change in the world of scholarly communication, he said, “then who can, really?”
The Chronicle asked whether a boycott was no longer a possiblity. “Nothing’s off the table at this point,” Schneider said. “But everybody’s really optimistic.”—Jennifer Howard