The University of California system has said "enough" to the Nature Publishing Group, one of the leading commercial scientific publishers, over a big proposed jump in the cost of the group's journals.
On Tuesday, a letter went out to all of the university's faculty members from the California Digital Library, which negotiates the system's deals with publishers, and the University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication. The letter said that Nature proposed to raise the cost of California's license for its journals by 400 percent next year. If the publisher won't negotiate, the letter said, the system may have to take "more drastic actions" with the help of the faculty. Those actions could include suspending subscriptions to all of the Nature Group journals the California system buys access to67 in all, including Nature.
The pressure does not stop there. The letter said that faculty would also organize "a systemwide boycott" of Nature's journals if the publisher does not relent. The voluntary boycott would "strongly encourage" researchers not to contribute papers to those journals or review manuscripts for them. It would urge them to resign from Nature's editorial boards and to encourage similar "sympathy actions" among colleagues outside the University of California system.
Along with its letter, the California Digital Library included a fact sheet with systemwide statistics for 2010 about the university's online journal subscriptions. The system subscribes to almost 8,000 journals online, at an average cost of between $3,000 and $7,000 per journal, depending on the publication and the field. The current average cost for the Nature group's journals is $4,465; under the 2011 pricing scheme, that would rise to more than $17,000 per journal, according to the California Digital Library.