May 11, 1998
Washington, D.C. --- Several educational organizations have recently endorsed the concept of SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition. During their meetings over the last month, the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of American University Presses (AAUP), and the Big 12 Chief Academic Officers expressed their support of SPARC as an important strategy in ensuring a robust international research environment.
SPARC is a coalition of libraries, initiated by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), that seeks to partner with scholarly publishers willing to enter markets where prices are highest and competition is needed. Through its activities, SPARC intends to reduce the risks to publisher-partners of entering the marketplace and to provide faculty with prestigious and responsive alternatives to current publishing vehicles. SPARC will accomplish these goals by soliciting or encouraging the introduction of new titles of high quality and fair price, by guaranteeing a subscription base and significant marketing support, and by generating support for SPARC and its projects from faculty and from national and international associations representing higher education, scholarly and professional societies, and scholarly publishing.
"SPARC is a key strategy in reversing the trend of rising prices in the acquisition of scholarly information," states John Vaughn, Executive Vice President of the AAU. "Affordable, timely, and open access to the results of research is essential to a vigorous academic research enterprise. By encouraging greater competition in the science, technical, and medical information market, SPARC can promote access to a broad array of resources to support the faculty in our universities whose research contributes to our nation?s productivity."
The AAUP endorsed SPARC at its Board Meeting in early March. The AAUP resolution states that the "AAUP Board of Directors welcomes the SPARC initiative and looks forward to cooperating with the ARL in achieving the project?s goals." Peter Givler, Executive Director of the AAUP, sees SPARC as an opportunity for university presses to work with their institutions to create a stronger presence in the science publishing market. "University presses," notes Givler, "have always played a vital role in assuring that the results of scholarly research remain accessible to the educational community. SPARC, with its focus on the dissemination of scientific research, is a natural and welcome extension of that role."
"Academic leaders," states David Shulenburger, Provost of the University of Kansas, "need to participate actively in emerging national efforts to develop means to manage intellectual property in the interests of teaching and research." The resolution presented by Shulenburger to the Provosts of the Big 12 outlined an action agenda for the Big 12 universities to ensure long-term access to scholarly research. Shulenburger notes that "Failure to meet this challenge will put at risk the very nature of the research enterprise, which demands for students and scholars wide access to information about the theories, methods, and findings of others engaged in the search for knowledge." The resolution singles out SPARC as a key initiative in the educational community's collective effort to create electronic low-cost alternatives to the present publishing system.
"It is highly significant that SPARC has engendered so much enthusiasm and support from key organizations in higher education and scholarly publishing," comments Duane Webster, Executive Director of ARL. "The community has acknowledged the need for collective action to address the problems in the scholarly communication process and recognizes SPARC as an important strategy to create change. Endorsement of the SPARC concept by the AAU, the AAUP, and the Big 12 Provosts brings to SPARC a legitimacy and prestige critical to its success." According to Webster, SPARC is intended to moderate the prices of journals in science, technology, and medicine (STM), which have been increasing well beyond the rate of inflation for at least the past decade. Libraries have been spending more to buy less. Statistics collected by ARL show that in 1996 research libraries have spent 124% more on serials and have purchased 7% fewer titles than ten years earlier. Over the same period, the consumer price index increased 44% and health care costs increased 84%. The extraordinary increases in journal prices have crippled the ability of research libraries to adequately support the needs of faculty and students. The high cost of STM titles is due in large measure to the pricing practices of a few large commercial companies that dominate the market. "Introducing competition," states Webster, "is one important way of encouraging these companies to moderate their prices."
The Association of American Universities (AAU) was founded in 1900 by a group of 14 universities offering the Ph.D. degree. The AAU currently consists of 60 American universities and two Canadian universities. Approximately half are public institutions and half are private. The Association serves its members in two major ways. First, it assists them in developing national policy positions on issues that relate to academic research and graduate and professional education. Second, it provides members with a forum for discussing a broad range of institutional concerns, such as issues in undergraduate education. More information is available at: http://www.tulane.edu/~aau/index.htm.
The Association of American University Presses (AAUP) is comprised of 117 members affiliated with research universities, research institutions, and scholarly societies. Collectively, its members publish 10,000 books each year and over 700 scholarly journals. More information is available at: http://aaupnet.org/.
The Big 12 Universities include: Baylor University, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Kansas, University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Oklahoma, and University of Texas at Austin.