Trinity University

Trinity University
Trinity University is a private, primarily undergraduate, liberal arts college in midtown San Antonio, Texas, US with an enrollment of ~3,000.
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Trinity University wanted its faculty to stop worrying about the economics of APCs

In mid-2013, Trinity University entered into an Institutional Arrangement with PeerJ in which they purchased a PeerJ Membership for every one of their (relevant) faculty members. In this Case Study, they talk about why this arrangement was important to them.

What are your issues with the current system of publication?

Our complaints aren’t unique, they’re the same ones driving the Open Access movement generally. Trinity, like other universities, subsidizes the cost of research by providing material support and funding to teacher-scholars. But when those researchers assign their copyrights to restrictive commercial publishers, Trinity, through its library, must purchase that research back. We are effectively paying twice for scholarship, an unacceptable waste of tuition dollars at a time when families are finding it harder than ever to send their children to college. Meanwhile, journal subscriptions, which have been rising out of all proportion with the rate of inflation, contribute to towering publisher profits. In 2010 Elsevier posted an operating-profit margin of 36%, more than twice that of ExxonMobil, the biggest energy company in the world.

Now consider that in 2011 nearly 70 percent of research in the biological sciences was funded with taxpayer dollars. Much of the fruit of that research is locked behind publisher pay walls. Shouldn’t the public have access to the research it purchased? We think so, and we’re not alone.

Why is Open Access important to your institution?

Trinity’s students, staff and faculty should have access to the information they need in order to learn, work, and teach, regardless of the library’s ability to purchase it. Open Access provides us with the means to make available vastly more of the world’s information than we could ever obtain on our own, through consortium arrangements or otherwise. By encouraging Trinity authors to retain their copyrights, to deposit their manuscripts in our Digital Commons, and by redirecting library funds to support OA-friendly publishers, we’re doing more than whistling in the dark.

What is it about the PeerJ model that interests you?

As David W. Lewis has noted, "Subsidy exists in the established [scholarly communication] system, but we often do not see it because the channels the subsidy travels are long-standing and familiar." Lewis advocates using money already in the system to support the publication of refereed scholarship, which is then made available to everyone as a public good. PeerJ’s business model is just one in the emerging Open Access space, but it’s one enabled by Lewis’s basic premise: use institutional subsidies to make research more impactful.

What kind of arrangement have you entered into with PeerJ?

Trinity purchased a bloc of lifetime memberships for any faculty members interested in publishing with PeerJ. Today the journal specializes in the biomedical and biological sciences, but we’re hoping more of our faculties come to PeerJ as its publishing areas expand.

What problem does the PeerJ Arrangement solve for you?

Despite the prominent success of some Open Access publishers, PLOS foremost among them, article-processing charges (APC) remain a point of confusion. Some Trinity authors want to publish in Open Access journals but aren’t sure why they’re being charged, or else they didn’t write the cost into a grant application. While Trinity has an Open Access equity fund, a rarity for an institution of our size, the amount is small, politically difficult to maintain, and its first-come-first-serve nature shuts out latecomers. The wide variability in APC costs only aggravates this problem. Our PeerJ membership neatly obviates these obstacles by enabling authors to simply publish their research without consideration of the economics. We manage the membership on their behalf, just as we’ve always done with other library resources.