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Releasing research results from Japan to a global audience!

2022.05.30

Four universities concluded memorandums of understanding with John Wiley & Sons, Inc. to make all journals accessible

Typically, researchers are no longer using their own research funds to cover open access (OA) expenses. The head librarians of four universities (Tohoku University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, the Graduate University for Advanced Studies, and Tokyo University of Science) have signed memorandums of understanding for the publication of papers with Wiley, one of the top three university journal publishers in the world. Researchers from each university have become able to read all of Wiley's journals as of April this year and publish OA articles in hybrid magazines for free.

Agreements that incorporate OA publishing expenses into journal subscription agreements exist for universities and research institutes throughout the world, but this is the first time that multiple universities have entered into such agreements with major publishers. Increasing OA for research papers has become a global trend because it not only fulfills accountability to taxpayers but also triggers cross-disciplinary joint research by enhancing the visibility of research results. However, as the cost of submitting papers to major journals, including OA expenses, amounts to 100,000s of yen per paper, it has become necessary to forgo publishing in such journals when it comes to basic research C, which is funded by Grants-in-Aid for Young Scientists.

Consequently, universities and research institutes in various countries are entering into subscription and OA publishing agreements with major publishers. However, the bargaining power of one organization versus a major publisher is overwhelmingly weak; thus, multiple organizations must enter into agreements with major publishers to ensure favorable terms.

The German projekt DEAL and Springer Nature signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in August 2019 and entered into a four-year umbrella agreement in January 2020. This allows all researchers and students from more than 700 public and private academic and research institutions participating in Projekt DEAL to publish 13,000 OA articles annually in most of the journals published by the company (about 2,500 hybrid journals and full OA journals). Further, they can read all content in these journals in issues dating back to 1997. Like Projekt DEAL, this MoU between the four universities and Wiley is revolutionary in that it converts agreements from April onward to include not only access to journals but also the submission of OA papers. This success was largely attributed to a shared awareness of the problem with a view toward strengthening the research capabilities of libraries and university management.

Kazuhiro Hayashi, the director of the Research Unit for Data Application at the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy (NISTEP), said, "It is momentous that Japanese universities with such different attributes have signed a memorandum of understanding that takes into account capacities for communication as well. We look forward to the progress of OA and the enhancement of each university's presence through conversion agreements at each organization in the future. Moreover, I hope that not only the four universities but also many other Japanese universities will work to increase OA so that the results of research in Japan will have an even greater impact on the world."

Meanwhile, major challenges make it difficult for universities and research institutes in Japan to form such agreements with major publishers. Project Professor Amane Koizumi of the Research Enhancement Promotion Headquarters at the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) pointed out, "The overcompartmentalization between the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), funding agencies, and universities, which sees the reading and publication of academic journals as separate processes, so that journals are read in libraries and OA publications are the responsibility of individual researchers, is an obstacle. To promote conversion agreements with publishers in the future and smoothly proceed with more OA for Japanese papers, it is necessary for universities and organizations to reconsider the cost of publishing OA papers, which is something researchers have been saddled with, and integrate the viewing and publishing of papers." Professor Koizumi also said that it is necessary to establish a system for collective bargaining and cooperative agreements that transcends university boundaries. "Since the incorporation of national universities, as a result of excessive competition among individual universities, there has been a loss of institutional means for universities to work together to negotiate with external companies and conclude agreements as consortiums. Each university negotiates individually and concludes individual agreements, which results in a waste of funds due to redundancies. For example, Projekt DEAL has succeeded in finalizing favorable agreements with publishers by taking advantage of economies of scale. In Japan, the government and MEXT need to establish institutional mechanisms for multiple universities to work together in collective bargaining and joint agreements."

There is a need for a collective bargaining framework. In recent times, there has been increasing attention on a number of stories about cuts in library funding that make it difficult to access journals that were available. On the other hand, research groups that have secured ample funding publish many OA articles. To improve the research capabilities of Japan as a whole, it is necessary to immediately work on the establishment of a collective bargaining framework and review the funding system as proposed by Professor Koizumi.

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd.(https://sci-news.co.jp/). Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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