Worries about “Lock Ins” and “Lock Outs”: Recent Mergers Highlight Library and Smaller Publisher Concerns

My colleague Alena, as promised, attended the recent Anywhere Access (AA) webinar. AA aims to become “as fast as Sci-Hub” and to streamline the search-to-PDF workflow for researchers. Marketing heavily to researchers directly, AA aims to lock libraries in to purchasing subscriptions for its service (see this comparison of its features with other discovery mechanisms). For well-funded institutions, getting on board is perhaps a no brainer, providing its functionality lives up to the hype.

But many of us in the library community worry about the accessibility of such tools to institutions without the funds to purchase them in terms of making more pressure on libraries to provide such services – pressure on institutions which may already be falling behind the wealthy institutions because of budgetary pressures due to subscription journal increases and other factors, expanding the effects of the digital divide. What would stop people in such cases from continuing to use P2P servers to access content their libraries cannot purchase or which are not available via open access? I cannot imagine that, in these cases, such libraries will be able to “disrupt the disrupters,” as promoted in the webinar follow-up email. AA will need critical subscription mass.

It can also mean, for wealthy institutions, that once the “lock” happens, subscription to the tool becomes difficult to discontinue in the future. And if there are only one or two good players in this space (and not a fully competitive marketplace, as currently appears to be the case), this always opens up the door to steep future fee increases and, at some point, threats to a long-term funding model, on the library side. But of course, the end users might not care about such worries. Should they?

It’s not just librarians who are concerned about big mergers and marketplace “consolidation”; smaller academic society publishers, too, are facing similar issues, as seen in an article by Angela Cochran from the American Society of Civil Engineers in The Scholarly Kitchen:

I am concerned about what I will call ‘lock out.’ As some librarians are concerned about their faculty, students, and institutions being ‘locked in’ to one particular publisher’s services, I am concerned about society and small publishers being ‘locked out’ of critical technology services.

She discusses these issues in relation to Wiley and Elsevier:

Many of us on the Atypon platform were varying degrees of concerned about the sale to Wiley. The concerns were entirely about a publisher owning the platform that housed the content of many other publishers. We are faced with the same situation now that Elsevier has bought Aries Systems. A publisher that competes with many of Aries Systems’ customers, now owns the submission and production system used by these publishers.

For some of us, like my organization (American Society of Civil Engineers), it’s a double-whammy. Our platform with all of its content and user data is owned by Wiley. Our submission system with all of our author and editorial data is owned by Elsevier.

Read the full article, “Clowns to the Left of Me…Jokers to the Right,” at: https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2018/08/06/clowns-left-jokers-right-independent-publisher-age-mergers-acquisitions/



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Open Grants: Assisting Early Career Scientists

An increasing number of researchers are sharing their grant proposals openly. They do this to open up science so that all stages of the process can benefit from better interaction and communication and to provide examples for early career scientists writing grants.


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Another One-Click to PDF Player

Digital Science is now actively promoting Anywhere Access in quest to provide researchers with easier access to content:

I will have someone on staff attend one of the upcoming webinars about the service and report more here in the coming weeks.

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Open Science on Both Sides of the Atlantic

  1. A helpful Open Science MOOC (core partners: Leiden University’s Centre for Innovation and the German National Library of Science and Technology): https://opensciencemooc.github.io/site/Resources/

2. …& a brand new resource from the US National Academies: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25116/open-science-by-design-realizing-a-vision-for-21st-century

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Who Owns Digital Science (Makers of Overleaf)?

…and the answer is: Holtzbrinck.

Holtzbrinck also holds a majority share in SpringerNature, as Roger Schonfeld detailed for The Scholarly Kitchen in October 2017 together with an analysis of a possible scholarly publishing “duoply”:

Any kind of acquisition of Digital Science would leave Springer Nature and Elsevier with many of the pieces of a research workflow business in combination with publishing operations and platforms. There are a number of differences between the two workflow businesses and publishing operations, but the fundamentals would be that the two largest scientific publishers, and the two largest open access publishers, would also be the two largest scientific workflow providers. This would reinforce the emerging marketplace dynamics as one leading towards duopoly.

Watch this space.

Additional Reading

Schonfeld, Roger (2017). Who Owns Digital Science? The Scholarly Kitchen. https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2017/10/23/ownership-digital-science/


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California Joins Germany, Finland, & Others in Championing Journal Subscription System Change

The University of California system has issued a strong statement championing further development of open access publishing infrastructures, in the spirit of Germany’s Projekt DEAL and Finland’s “No Deal No Review“:

It has become increasingly clear that the problem of rising journal costs in the context of a widespread movement toward open access can only be addressed by tackling the subscription system itself.

Read more:

Championing Change in Journal Negotiations

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Evaluating RG Score in relation to the Leiden Manifesto

Orduna-Malea, E., Martín-Martín, A., Thelwall, M., &  López-Cózar, E.D. (2017) analyze ResearchGate (RG) Scores using a set of seventy-three Nobel Prize winners, also analyzing the RG Score in relation to the Leiden Manifesto for research metrics principles (Table 7). The authors caution against using RG Scores as indicators of academic reputation:

Within RG it is possible to distinguish between (passive) academics that interact little in the site and active platform users, who can get high RG Scores through engaging with others inside the site (questions, answers, social networks with influential researchers). Thus, RG Scores should not be mistaken for academic reputation indicators.

Additional Reading

Hicks, D., Wouters, P., Waltman, L., de Rijcke, S., & Rafols, I. (2015). The Leiden Manifesto for research metrics. Nature, 520(7548), 429–431. https://doi.org/10.1038/520429a

Orduna-Malea, E., Martín-Martín, A., Thelwall, M., &  López-Cózar, E.D. (2017). Do ResearchGate Scores create ghost academic reputations? Scientometrics, 112: 443. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-017-2396-9

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Academic Social Media: ResearchGate Financials

In one of my writing workshops this semester, my students asked me to provide an overview of the academic social media landscape. One of the surprising things for students to consider in such discussions is the fact that social media outlets (including very “solid” looking enterprises such as LinkedIn and ResearchGate) are actually subject to the whims of the marketplace, and their future is by no means as secure as the tools may appear.

Thus this morning, scanning my work Twitter (which I find functions quite well for staying aware of global scholarly publishing trends), I was not surprised to find a discussion by the American scholarly publishing community regarding ResearchGate and its current financial status. A brief analysis of this is provided by german startups at:


To make a long story short, ResearchGate is losing money and its path towards “profitability” is unclear.

What does this mean for students? I feel it’s important to continue stressing that such tools – while very useful – may disappear or have certain functionalities “gated” in the future. That it’s still important to keep one’s own personal archive.

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The Movie You’ve Been Waiting For…

Coming September 2018 to NYC – October 9 to Rotterdam (Erasmus University, Netherlands) – is Paywall: The Business of Scholarship. Featuring interviews by academics and publishers alike.


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Springer Nature IPO Withdrawn

Why Was Springer Nature’s IPO Withdrawn?

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