This month, the University of Texas System joined the Texas Library Coalition for United Action, a partnership between Texas universities to increase access to academic publications from their own faculty.
Over 40 universities across Texas have joined the coalition, which aims to achieve open access to faculty research that has been prevented by academic journal publishers’ high-cost subscription models, according to a UT System press release.
Rebecca Bichel, dean of libraries at UT Arlington and chair of the UT System Advisory Committee on Library Affairs, said UT institutions hope to reach a “mutually beneficial contract” with publishers for open scholarship.
“It’s advantageous for our faculty when they publish articles because it gives their voice and intellectual rights more power, and it's helpful for (students) because ultimately it saves money for you when you read an article,” Bichel said.
Alexia Thompson-Young, assistant director of scholarly resources for UT Libraries, said one benefit they’re working toward is full access for alumni. Currently, only enrolled students can access resources through UT Libraries with their UT EID, Thompson-Young said.
“It's all about making scholarship open and sustainable,” Thompson-Young said. “If the content is open, nobody has to have a UT (EID).”
Bichel said the coalition has gained more leverage on publishing companies since the 14 UT institutions joined the alliance. Their main target is Elsevier, which the UT System has invested $10 million into for subscriptions to access academic resources, Bichel said.
“Elsevier is like the Uber (of publishing companies),” Bichel said. “We benefit hugely by having all those other institutions at the table with us.”
Collectively, the coalition has invested over $25 million into Elsevier’s ScienceDirect platform, according to the press release.
Jennifer Ebbeler, a classics associate professor and member of the UT Libraries Committee, said UT Libraries hasn’t had major additions to research collections in over two decades because most collections are now online.
“If a university is paying faculty to produce scholarship, they should own it, not some random publishing company,” Ebbeler said. “If we just kept buying paper journals, it wouldn't matter … but because a lot of the journals are in electronic form, we’re buying access.”
Andrew Davis, vice president of global communications at Elsevier, said the company is looking forward to the UT System forming an agreement with the coalition.
“We hope to build upon our very positive existing relationship with UT and the other members of the coalition to improve access to critical content and support their future research,” Davis said.
Ebbeler said if the coalition walks away from negotiations, institutions could lose access to resources. The University of California System restarted negotiations with Elsevier in July after UC lost access to their platform in January 2019.
“There's a lot of money at stake for the publishers, so they can't just walk away,” Ebbeler said. “It's really ridiculous that if I publish something in a journal, UT has to then pay to subscribe to that journal.”
Bichel said research produced by UT faculty can be more open to the world through a successful deal.
“We know as librarians that when we work together, we can be more effective — our voices are more powerful,” Bichel said. “We want to shift the process around so the world can see the incredible scholarship that comes out of the UT System.”