Purdue students and faculty could have lost access to the majority of scholastic research articles available online through Purdue libraries today.
Purdue signed another one-year contract with a publishing company that allows access to journal articles necessary for research for $2.9 million, after being threatened to be cut off in January if the contract was not signed by the end of the month.
Elsevier is one of the largest publishing companies. Purdue uses this company so its faculty and researchers may publish their work in world-renown journals and be able to access the articles later. This is used mostly for scientific and engineering articles. Trustee Bruce White described the way the company is charging and raising rates as "truly a monopolistic operation."
"What do you think would happen to usage?" White asked. "Because it's really a question of how fast people need the information if they have to pay for it."
According to James Mullins, dean of libraries, who works on the contracts with publishing companies, without paying the membership fees to Elsevier, the cost, would be much more to download Purdue faculty and researcher-generated content.
"It would turn about to be about $37 million per year," Mullins said.
As one Trustee noted, this would turn out to be about $3 for each download of an article.
Elsevier allows for Purdue to view its own articles published there as well as other articles by other universities. This allows for both Purdue faculty and researchers to keep up with the topics in their own fields as well as allow students access to knowledge from all over the world. Mullins explained that this is the reason students are pressured so much to use the online resources at the libraries.
"It's like having a Mercedes and an old Volkswagen in the garage," Mullins said, "and driving the Volkswagen every day because you don't know how to drive a Mercedes."
Mullins said most publishing companies increase rates 5 to 7 percent each year, because the companies know they can.
"They say it's because they have an increase in costs," Mullins said. "Every time there is a library that can't buy the new articles, the cost increases because there are less people sharing the whole cost."
What Mullins said the real problem is that companies know universities like Purdue need the company and will always use them. They have hooked universities by making sure they need the resource to advance their scholarly achievements and keep up with academia.
"They have a guaranteed 40 percent profit rate," Mullins. "This is because they know the universities will pay for it."
While $2.9 million for a year-long contract, other universities have been paying worse. For example Michigan has to pay $5 million for a contract and Indiana University has four different contracts with Elsevier, whereas Purdue only has one. Purdue has cut as many publication membership submissions as possible, but the cost is still high.
Purdue is looking to use open access as a way to eventually get away from paying publishing companies. This is a method being looking into by other universities such as Harvard, MIT, Penn State and Stanford. Purdue will be the second public university to implement this policy. With the open access policy, Purdue faculty and researchers would be able to put the last drafts of their articles online for free access.
"Elsevier will still have publishing rights and only allow you to publish after 12 months and only allow you to use the last final draft," Mullins said. "So if you want to cite the article, you still have to go to the site."