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The Ithaka Report: University Publishing in a Digital Age Laura Brown ARL Annual Meeting October 11, 2007.

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Presentation on theme: "The Ithaka Report: University Publishing in a Digital Age Laura Brown ARL Annual Meeting October 11, 2007."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Ithaka Report: University Publishing in a Digital Age Laura Brown ARL Annual Meeting October 11, 2007

2 Background to Report Why this particular study? –My OUP question—How is it that a prestigious but relatively poor (by American university standards) university in the UK has developed a publishing program that: Is nearly twice the size of the ENTIRE American university press community? Extends the university’s reputation for excellence in scholarship and education throughout the world? Creates sufficient surplus to innovate, keep pace with the changing publishing needs of scholars, and still returns a healthy subsidy to its parent institution? Are there lessons here for American university presses? Why now? –Publishing is changing. Old models are breaking down. New models (for content creation, authority, dissemination, etc.) are being invented. This is the time when university presses have the opportunity to redefine themselves. –Technology as catalyst Disintermediates publishing. Puts tools in hands of scholars to disseminate New expectations for discovery/access –Questions about relevancy of university presses in general, and particularly in the digital age.

3 Background to Report (con’t) How is it different? –From what we thought: We started out to do a study of American university press publishing, but ended up trying to understand how universities think about their role as publishers, not just through their official publishing arm. –Compared to other studies: one of first times this question has been looked at in the round. Candid view of all stakeholders. That unusual lens helps create new vision of what might be possible. Can it make difference? –We purposely addressed the report to provosts and presidents: unless they engage, won’t happen. –If all stakeholders embrace vision, start genuine dialogue, create experiments at scale, believe answer is yes.

4 Key Findings If it’s not online, it doesn’t exist. –We’re not saying book/print is going away (still good reading technology) –But in order for a piece of work to be discovered and embedded in scholarly workflow scholarly publishers will need offer simultaneous print and electronic editions now, and for some time to come. –This applies not only to new publishing, but to storehouse of scholarship that languishes on the backlists of university presses.

5 Key findings (con’t) The term “publishing” requires a broader definition. –With new networking/digital technologies, almost everything scholarly is getting “published”, or disseminated. –The materials that are disseminated are moving further upstream into research processes, creating a continuum of informal to formal publication. The lines between creation of knowledge and publishing are blurring. –The credentialing forms of academic discourse—monographs and journals—are sharing the stage with a range of new and developing content types that will gradually demand new credentialing/authority processes and metrics.

6 Key findings (con’t) Scale matters –Value of aggregations for searching has been proven. –Digital publishing is capital-intensive (infrastructure, new and multiple formats, staff expertise) and it is hard to support those expenses unless they leveraged across a large enough program. –R&D is vital in this quickly changing electronic environment, but R&D is a luxury that small business cannot afford. University presses are working flat out just to keep their traditional businesses going. –Authors want to reach the widest possible market. The big commercial firms have international sales teams, and have built promotional programs that communicate constantly, and in more and more effective ways, with their core markets. –Recent trends bear this out—leading commercial scholarly publishers are getting bigger and attracting publications that used to reside with Ups. (Anthrosource from U of California Press to Wiley/Blackwell) They are acquiring assets that allow them to grow and compete more aggressively (Wiley/Blackwell; T&F/Informa/Erlbaum).

7 Key findings (con’t) Commercial firms are building business models/products that take the new definition of publishing into account. –Commercial organizations are moving further upstream to work directly with faculty in the research process, providing tools, support, and research environments (Nature Publishing Group’s “Precedings”). –Commercial firms are testing new business models (Elsevier’s OncologySTAT advertising model). –Commercial firms are building integrated platforms for all of their content to break down content silos and enable search across the whole publishing SPRINGERLINK).

8 Key findings (con’t) The official publishing arms of universities are NOT. –American UPs are struggling to make the transition to digital publishing. –Most presses do not have sufficient capital or bandwidth to develop new systems, expertise, infrastructure, products, or business models. –No one American UP is large enough to mount a credible alternative to commercial publishing forces (no scale, R&D, infrastructure, M&A options, global reach). –Monographs—the one content form that UPs dominate—are poised to undergo another downturn unless they are put online and reinvigorated. –No longer able to deliver on their founding mission—to disseminate the research of the university (ies). –Lost attention of owners: no enterprise can thrive when owners don’t care. –BUT: they still have a lot to offer, and could have even more.

9 Key Findings (con’t) Libraries are trying to mount an institutional response to the challenges of new publishing paradigms. –I know many of you feel worried about future, but my travels convinced me of the resourcefulness and vigor of libraries responses. You are: Building technical expertise to help scholars create digital work. Assembling rich online research environments (tools, content, access) to meet needs of faculty (and that will give birth to exciting new content) Digitizing special collections/Creating and advocating for access solutions In the best position to understand the needs of scholars (usage, disciplines, etc.)

10 Key Findings--Libraries (con’t) –BUT you are not publishers. Can’t instantly invent credentialing (peer review systems, imprint prestige): Selection process in conflict with service perspective. Don’t have commerce orientation or mechanisms Don’t have a sustainability perspective No marketing operations to evaluate or create demand No editorial operations to develop content. –Publishers need your expertise/You need theirs.

11 Key findings (con’t) Universities and their leadership are, for the most part, not managing publishing as a strategic function of the university. Universities have the potential to mount a powerful not-for-profit publishing alternative, but lack the vision, conviction, focus, and organizational structure to do so. Why have potential? –Where scholars are (physical proximity, research networks) –University already has enormous research outputs –Already paying for it (underwrite content creation and peer review) –Have deep understanding (through libraries and faculty) of what scholars need –Have publishing arms with prestige –Have powerful, international brands

12 Key findings: university disengagement (con’t) So why are universities now more engaged in publishing? –Partly presses fault: not mounted compelling cases, keep distance from university (vanity issue) –Decentralized organization of university: no good mechanisms to get stakeholders to work together (this is not necessarily a reporting issue). –Not the way universities think about revenue generation, or brand, or even mission

13 Key findings: university disengagement (con’t) Positive reasons to engage –Publishing can enhance university reputation and prestige. –Universities can be in position to positively influence what gets published— favoring academic values over commercial ones. –University engagement can enrich the quality of what is published by facilitating rich dialogue among faculty, editors, and others on campus involved in the publishing process. –University participation in publishing will position its involvement in the full cycle of knowledge creation. –University involvement can influence the economics of the research and publishing marketplace. –Powerful knowledge creation environments—think research through to dissemination laboratories--can help universities to attract and retain faculty.

14 Recommendations to Administrators Recognize that publishing is an integral part of the core mission and activities of your institution, and take ownership of it. Survey the landscape of “publishing” activities currently taking place on your campus. Develop a strategic plan for scholarly communications and publishing on your campus, including how services should be provided to your faculty and students, how they should be funded, how they should relate to tenure and promotion, and with a position on intellectual property. Ensure organizational structure is in place to implement strategy. Commit resources—people, time, money—to deliver the plan.

15 Recommendations to Presses Get online. Reinvigorate the monograph. This is your bread and butter. There is nothing inherently less compelling about the “long argument”, but it has not made an effective transition to the digital age. It is not part of the digital scholarly workflow. This is a challenge you are in the best position to investigate and solve. Reconnect with your parent institution’s intellectual and strategic ambitions. Focus: create centers of excellence that reflect your parent brand. Collaborate with your library to develop tools, products, infrastructure, understanding of user needs and usage patterns/criteria. Build case for R&D space and resources. Create pilot projects to demonstrate the potential for new content types, hybrid products (e.g. fee- based/free; vetted/unvetted), and innovative research/content creation/dissemination environments. Work with your library, faculty, research centers, and IT to help develop the university’s scholarly communication plan.

16 Recommendation to Research Libraries Sort out what you do best and what presses do best. Don’t reinvent the wheel. (see chart in appendix) Help to create new structures for collaboration between presses, libraries, faculty, IT. Create agenda and recommendations for administrators. Develop pilot projects with your press and faculty that demonstrate the potential for new publishing paradigms. Focus on outputs of faculty, not infrastructure. It’s all about the scholarship. Experiment with new business models, creating joint ventures that are capable of sustainability. Your special collections are ripe for fantastic publishing ideas: can you and your presses develop their potential?

17 A few of examples of where all this is happening or starting to happen UNC proposal for “The Long Civil Rights Movement” NYU’s new joint position: Digital Publishing Officer U of California’s Library/Press initiative to inventory university-based publishing projects Penn State’s library/press joint imprint “Metalmark Books” Columbia University’s “CIAO” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Oxford Scholarship Online

18 Recommendations to All The development of technological tools and platforms are likely to demand greater scale than any individual university. Acting locally is not sufficient; you can’t see the system wide perspective (scholars don’t want silos). Consider ways to collaborate to develop that infrastructure. That could involve creating new not-for-profit organizations. It could be developing effective mechanisms for dealing with and influencing commercial organizations. It could be working in collaboration with other universities, such as discussions going on in the CIC. It could involve working in collaboration with existing not-for-profit organizations. (Think of the transformative effect of JSTOR, MUSE, HighWire)

19 Final Thoughts There is enormous potential for a new paradigm of university publishing, but the window is closing. –The train has left station on STEM –Humanities and Social Sciences are changing now –Borders between disciplines offers great new opportunities (even for reentry through side door to STEM publishing) The Biggest challenge will be creating new business models that ensure “dynamic sustainability”. –Won’t solve this challenge without willingness to build business models that not only generate enough revenue (or attract enough underwriting) to cover costs, but must create surplus to reinvest, continue to innovate, attract the best talent, and create truly competitive, excellent work. –Need experimentation to create these sustainable models. –Need rigorous review to see what works.


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