The various campuses of the University of California subscribe to science journals by purchasing a license that allows electronic access for members of the university community, including students. The average cost of this subscription for life science journals is $4,142 per journal. Total cost for the University of California system is 24.3 million dollars per year.
Nature Publishing Group publishes 67 journals including Nature and all of the various spinoffs. The average cost for a NPG journal was $4,465 but NPG is proposing to charge $17,479 per journal next year. This is a 400% increase.
All this is explained in a letter to University of California faculty members [Informational Update on a Possible UC Systemwide Boycott of the Nature Publishing Group]. The University of California schools are dropping the subscription to all NPG journals because it can't afford such a large increase.
An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education summarizes the UC proposal [U. of California Tries Just Saying No to Rising Journal Costs]. The idea is not only to drop the subscriptions but to boycott all the NPG journals, including Nature.
Keith Yamamoto is organizing the boycott.
Keith Yamamoto is a professor of molecular biology and executive vice dean of the School of Medicine at UC-San Francisco. He stands ready to help organize a boycott, if necessary, a tactic he and other researchers used successfully in 2003 when another big commercial publisher, Elsevier, bought Cell Press and tried to raise its journal prices.Way to go, Keith!
After the letter went out on Tuesday, Mr. Yamamoto received an "overwhelmingly positive" response from other university researchers. He said he's confident that there will be broad support for a boycott among the faculty if the Nature Group doesn't negotiate, even if it means some hardships for individual researchers.
"There's a strong feeling that this is an irresponsible action on the part of NPG," he told The Chronicle. That feeling is fueled by what he called "a broad awareness in the scientific community that the world is changing rather rapidly with respect to scholarly publication."
Although researchers still have "a very strong tie to traditional journals" like Nature, he said, scientific publishing has evolved in the seven years since the Elsevier boycott. "In many ways it doesn't matter where the work's published, because scientists will be able to find it," Mr. Yamamoto said.
[HatTip: Janet Stemwedel]