Publisher drops plans to increase fees for research papers after objections

Niall O'Donoghue

Publisher proposed to bring in extra charges for digital papers published more than 20 years ago

An academic publishing group has reversed their decision to charge Irish universities additional fees to access older research papers following an open letter condemning the proposal, despite claiming that the current system is “unsustainable”.

Taylor & Francis provides paid access to academic journals published under the current year to universities and courtesy access to titles dating back to 1997, the “beginning of the born-digital record”. However, their proposal would have introduced additional licensing costs for any journal articles published over 20 years from the ‘current year’ of a university’s subscription.

SCONUL, a representative group for academic institutions in the UK and Ireland, penned an open letter condemning the proposal on February 13th. DCU University Librarian Christopher Pressler was one of 110 signatories to the open letter, a list including representatives of the Irish Universities Association (IUA).

The open letter claimed that the proposal would increase administration activities and costs for the affected universities, as well as creating “confusion and annoyance for your customers and our reader communities” and lead to fewer citations of Taylor & Francis journals in academic articles.

“Diminishing this coverage is opportunistic and potentially profiteering… We continue to fail to see how this is in your interests.”

A week later, Taylor & Francis reversed their decision, albeit somewhat begrudgingly. The costs of continuing to provide courtesy access past 20 years are “unsustainable in the long term”, Communications Manager Laura Montgomery said in a blog post on February 19th Taylor & Francis believed the additional fees were not unreasonable as 20 years is the “maximum access range ever delivered to our customers”, according to Montgomery.

Taylor & Francis declined to comment for this article.

Meanwhile, the entire board of a Taylor & Francis owned publication resigned in protest to the publisher’s decision to terminate the contract of their editor-in-chief.

Taylor & Francis terminated the contract of ‘Building Research & Information’ editor-in-chief Richard Lorch on 31st December 2018, due to the desire to have a “fixed-term, rotating editor-in-chief position”.

The editorial team’s open letter claimed that over 40 individual letters of protest were sent to Taylor and Francis, saying “your process for arriving at a decision is one-sided and thus betrays our community’s interest and views. You have ignored us.”

Taylor & Francis told Inside Higher Ed they were in “direct contact” with the editorial team to suggest a meeting to explain their reasoning for terminating Mr. Lorch’s contract.

Niall O’ Donoghue

Image Credit: Taylor & Francis