Is It Such a Big Deal? On the Cost of Journal Use in the Digital Era

Authors : Fei Shu, Philippe Mongeon, Stefanie Haustein, Kyle Siler, Juan Pablo Alperin, Vincent Larivière

Commercial scholarly publishers promote and sell bundles of journals—known as big deals—that provide access to entire collections rather than individual journals. Following this new model, size of serial collections in academic libraries increased almost fivefold from 1986 to 2011.

Using data on library subscriptions and references made for a sample of North American universities, this study provides evidence that, while big deal bundles do decrease the mean price per subscribed journal, academic libraries receive less value for their investment.

We find that university researchers cite only a fraction of journals purchased by their libraries, that this fraction is decreasing, and that the cost per cited journal has increased.

These findings reveal how academic publishers use product differentiation and price strategies to increase sales and profits in the digital era, often at the expense of university and scientific stakeholders.

URL : Is It Such a Big Deal? On the Cost of Journal Use in the Digital Era

DOI : https://doi.org/10.5860/crl.79.6.785

Vanishing industries and the rising monopoly of universities in published research

Authors : Vincent Larivière, Benoit Macaluso, Philippe Mongeon, Kyle Siler, Cassidy R. Sugimoto

Anecdotes abound regarding the decline of basic research in industrial and governmental settings, but very little empirical evidence exists about the phenomenon. This article provides a systematic and historical analysis of the contribution of various institutional sectors to knowledge production at the world and country levels across the past four decades.

It highlights a dramatic decline in the diffusion of basic research by industrial and governmental sectors across all countries—with a corresponding increase in the share from universities—as well as an increase of partnerships between universities and other sectors.

Results also shows an increase in the relative share of industries in applied research, as measured through patents. Such divergence in university and industry research activities may hinder industries’ ability to translate basic knowledge into technological innovation, and could lead to a growing misalignment between doctoral training and future job expectations.

Industries and universities must rethink strategies for partnerships and publishing to maximize scientific progress and to ensure the greatest gains for society.

URL : Vanishing industries and the rising monopoly of universities in published research

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0202120

The rise of the middle author: Investigating collaboration and division of labor in biomedical research using partial alphabetical authorship

Authors : Philippe Mongeon, Elise Smith, Bruno Joyal, Vincent Larivière

Contemporary biomedical research is performed by increasingly large teams. Consequently, an increasingly large number of individuals are being listed as authors in the bylines, which complicates the proper attribution of credit and responsibility to individual authors.

Typically, more importance is given to the first and last authors, while it is assumed that the others (the middle authors) have made smaller contributions. However, this may not properly reflect the actual division of labor because some authors other than the first and last may have made major contributions.

In practice, research teams may differentiate the main contributors from the rest by using partial alphabetical authorship (i.e., by listing middle authors alphabetically, while maintaining a contribution-based order for more substantial contributions). In this paper, we use partial alphabetical authorship to divide the authors of all biomedical articles in the Web of Science published over the 1980–2015 period in three groups: primary authors, middle authors, and supervisory authors.

We operationalize the concept of middle author as those who are listed in alphabetical order in the middle of an authors’ list. Primary and supervisory authors are those listed before and after the alphabetical sequence, respectively.

We show that alphabetical ordering of middle authors is frequent in biomedical research, and that the prevalence of this practice is positively correlated with the number of authors in the bylines. We also find that, for articles with 7 or more authors, the average proportion of primary, middle and supervisory authors is independent of the team size, more than half of the authors being middle authors.

This suggests that growth in authors lists are not due to an increase in secondary contributions (or middle authors) but, rather, in equivalent increases of all types of roles and contributions (including many primary authors and many supervisory authors).

Nevertheless, we show that the relative contribution of alphabetically ordered middle authors to the overall production of knowledge in the biomedical field has greatly increased over the last 35 years.

URL : The rise of the middle author: Investigating collaboration and division of labor in biomedical research using partial alphabetical authorship

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0184601