[open-science] Data expedition idea - scholarly publishing income

Jenny Molloy jenny.molloy at okfn.org
Thu Nov 21 22:42:42 UTC 2013

Hi Carl and all

[Cc'ing the open-economics and data-driven-journalism lists in the spirit
of fostering some cross working group collaboration. Please let me know if
this is too off-topic for your lists!]

Thanks for your responses, I agree these are all interesting questions and
we definitely seem short of expertise in economics so I have copied in the
open-economics list where hopefully some economists reside who might be
able to help us in responding to your comments.

Does anybody know of someone doing academic work on this already? The data
expedition format lends itself more to an investigative journalism type
approach, finding what data one can and building a narrative, so my initial
suggestion was not really around an academic study but I think both
approaches would be worthwhile.

If anyone on the ddj list would be interested (or has a contact who would),
please do come and join the discussion on the open-science list - we would
love to hear from you.


On Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 9:07 PM, Carl Boettiger <cboettig at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi Jenny,
> I'm not an economist, but I would definitely be curious to understand how
> an economist interprets these observations (along with a bit more digging
> of the type you suggest).
> My understanding is that an efficient marketplace is supposed to erode
> profit margins (not revenues). A single company can make large profits as
> the result of innovations that put them well ahead of the competition, at
> least for a period of time.  But it seems particularly unusual to see
> sectors in which every major player is making a large profit margin. It
> seems this would suggest to the economist that the marketplace was not
> efficient, and thus not spurring innovation.
> I'd be curious to hear from a more expert opinion if economists view this
> as evidence of an inefficient market?  If so, how it has come about
> (nondisclosure of prices? bundled subscriptions? something else?) What
> would restore an efficient, competitive, innovative marketplace?
> Beyond an academic study, I've also wondered if this issue would interest
> investigative journalists such as the NPR Planet Money Team?
> Cheers,
>  Carl
> On Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 7:46 AM, Jenny Molloy <jenny.molloy at okfn.org>wrote:
>> Hi All
>> I wondered about a potential collaboration between School of Data and the
>> Open Science/Open Access working groups on a Data Expedition<http://schoolofdata.org/category/data-expeditions/>around scholarly publishers and their income.
>> The bottom line is some make a lot of profit, much of it from public
>> funding of higher education and research and possibly pay very little tax,
>> but there's not been much exploration of this beyond some figures on
>> profits which appear in blogs and a few articles and mostly in text and
>> tables.
>> It would be great to try and draw a more comprehensive dataset together,
>> visualise it and tell some stories.
>> Some figures:
>> THE Summary: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/421672.article
>> Full article: https://lra.le.ac.uk/handle/2381/9689
>> From Mike Taylor
>> http://svpow.com/2012/01/13/the-obscene-profits-of-commercial-scholarly-publishers/
>>  :
>> "Here they are again: profits as a percentage of revenue for commercial
>> STM publishers in 2010 or early 2011:
>>    - Elsevier: £724m on revenue of £2b — 36%
>>    - Springer‘s Science+Business Media: £294m on revenue of £866m — 33.9%
>>    - John Wiley & Sons: $106m on revenue of $253m — 42%
>>    - Academic division of Informa plc: £47m on revenue of £145m — 32.4%"
>> Similar figures are also in Heather Morrison's thesis:
>> http://pages.cmns.sfu.ca/heather-morrison/chapter-two-scholarly-communication-in-crisis/
>> A few questions:
>>    1. Do you think this is a suitable topic for exploration?
>>    2. What are the thoughts of those who have run data expeditions or
>>    spending stories type projects before?
>>    3. Does anyone feel strongly about this and would like to coordinate
>>    the project?
>>    4. Would anyone like to help out? (could you host a workshop, are you
>>    organising an event or conference where this could run as a session, are
>>    you a data wrangler, visualisation expert, journalist, coder, accountant,
>>    researcher or anybody just interested in digging in?)
>> Reply to the list and sign up on the pad if so!
>> http://pad.okfn.org/p/scholarly-publishers-data-expedition
>> Thanks very much :)
>> Jenny
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> --
> Carl Boettiger
> UC Santa Cruz
> http://carlboettiger.info/
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