Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
February 19, 1999

Journal study committee submits 27 ideas to ease funding woes

by Linda Charles

Publishing companies are getting rich off the hard work of faculty members, Olivia Madison, dean of library sciences, told the Faculty Senate at its meeting Feb. 9.

"The federal government (through our grants), the state governments pay for our research. We then give our research, our creative activities, to publishers and they charge the universities and libraries back to obtain what we created to begin with," Madison said.

"There's a growing gap between the price of information and an institution's ability to pay for it," she said.

Madison told the senate that between 1986 and 1996, the cost of scholarly journals increased 146 percent. In addition to the increased costs of journals, there also is a steady increase in the number of journals published.

The traditional way that libraries have dealt with the increase in journal prices -- cutting back the number of journals they buy -- does not work because publishers simply raise the prices to compensate for the decreased demand, she said. Iowa State is in the process this year of cutting its journal budget by 14 percent ($550,000).

Last May, the senate appointed a special committee, chaired by David Hopper, to examine the rising costs of scholarly communication and journal subscriptions and to work with the University Library and administration to seek ways to address the problem.

The committee's report, presented to the senate during the meeting, contains 27 recommendations, falling into three basic areas: building a competitive electronic library, ensuring the stability of the current core research collection and responding to the challenges of the scholarly communication crisis.

Recommendations for the electronic library include ensuring an adequate software and hardware infrastructure, and acquiring electronic-only versions of specific titles when feasible.

Recommendations to ensure the library's core research collection involve reducing the number of journals to be dropped in the current cancellation project and keeping some of the journals whose cancellations are most strongly contested, especially those that are interdepartmental and support interdisciplinary programs.

Recommendations to address the scholarly communication crisis include expanding participation of faculty, administrators and library officials in national efforts to encourage competitively priced journals.

To view the committee's 27 recommendations, visit this Web site:

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Revised 02/18/99