October 15th, 2020
Each year, Libraries negotiates with publishers and vendors to provide access to the databases and journals that advance Purdue University’s world-changing research and transformative instruction.
For many years, Purdue has licensed access to most journals published by Elsevier for the West Lafayette, Fort Wayne, and Northwest campuses. Usage for many of these subscriptions is high, but so is the cost, and it has risen significantly over the past decade. When we negotiate with publishers, we seek contracts that are affordable, sustainable, and transparent, but sometimes, publishers insist on significant increases that far exceed available funding. For 2020, Purdue paid a staggering $3.3M for access to Elsevier content, and we are currently in negotiations with Elsevier for journal subscriptions for 2021.
This past June, we alerted Elsevier that we must reduce Purdue’s total spend on publications by $1.5M. This reduction is necessary due to the Libraries’ allocated budget and also reflects the need for more fair and equitable pricing. Purdue pays more for Elsevier subscriptions than many of our peer institutions, and our contracts are based on a complicated and archaic pricing strategy that favors Elsevier while hurting universities like Purdue.
In July, Elsevier proposed three options for 2021 pricing, none of which met our need for a reduced cost. We offered a reasonable counter proposal in August, which Elsevier declined to consider. As of early October, we are waiting to hear back from Elsevier on another proposal, one which we hope will honor our needs. As we move forward with these negotiations, we look to the University Library Committee (ULC), a group that reports to the Senate’s University Resources and Policy Committee, for input and guidance.
If Purdue cannot come to a satisfactory conclusion with Elsevier and reach an agreement which is both affordable and sustainable, we will be forced to significantly reduce the number of journals to which we subscribe. Over the past few years, some universities have terminated their subscription contracts with Elsevier entirely, and others have greatly reduced their subscription offerings, all due to the inability to arrive at a satisfactory cost agreement. (See the University of California and the University of North Carolina for recent examples.) Should a reduction in subscriptions become necessary, rest assured that Libraries will provide campus with alternative means to access the content that our students, staff, researchers and faculty need to meet their information resource needs.
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