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The situation is changing fast, and we're watching closely to analyze and help you respond.


  • Potential Institutional Responses to Elsevier’s Acquisition of Interfolio

    As the pace of market concentration continues to accelerate across the research enterprise, the academic community will be best served by adopting a proactive approach that considers, in advance, the potential for future consolidation and begins to build the case for regulatory intervention before the next merger or acquisition is announced.

  • Executive Summary

    Elsevier recently completed its planned acquisition of Interfolio, the leader in a rapidly emerging category of products known as Faculty Information Systems (FIS). This deal exemplifies many of the worrying trends described in SPARC’s ongoing market analyses over the past four years.

  • Appendix: The Industry Response

    Most of the leading publishers strengthened their digital and data analytics offerings in 2019, and have continued to do so into 2020.

  • Appendix: Courseware

    Can digital revenues return the courseware business to growth or will they be insufficient to compensate the accelerated decline of print revenues?

  • Appendix: Scholarly Journals

    The scholarly journals business is still on a path to raising its profitability, but pricing pressures will intensify and we see substantial stagnation of subscription revenues.

  • Appendix: Intro

    Underlying market trends highlighted in 2019 continue unabated.

  • A Time for Radical Change

    Use this opportunity not just to reopen the current academic system but also to make substantive progress toward building a more equitable and open one.

  • Update to the Roadmap for Action

    Acting in conditions of high uncertainty is particularly difficult. These are actions that libraries, in particular, and academic institutions, in general, could take regardless of the current situation.

  • Emerging Concerns: The Bigger Deal

    Novel agreements like the Elsevier/Dutch Institution deal are highly problematic and concerning. Institutions and consortia should consider and robustly debate the ramifications of these decisions, before pursuing what may prove to be partial and short-lived benefits.

  • Three Subtle Trends Present Emerging Concerns: Intro

    1. Aggressive expansion of scholarly publishers into research assessment 2. Publishers pooling research dissemination through collective distribution channels 3. Attempted bundling of data analytics tools with publishing tools into "bigger deals."

  • Publicly Listed Companies

    The companies that are fully or partially owned by private equity (PE) companies (Springer Nature Group, McGraw-Hill Education and Cengage), all have significant debt.

  • Background

    What does the landscape, and path to action, look like one year after our initial analysis?

  • Executive Summary

    In the year since our initial analysis major companies have shifted away from research publishing and towards research assessment; from individual research distribution to consolidated models and the emergence of a “Bigger Deal,” where institutional content licensing is directly linked to the purchase of data analytics services.

  • In pursuit of open science open access is not enough

    The healthy functioning of the academic community, including fair terms and conditions from commercial partners, requires that the global marketplace for data analytics and knowledge infrastructure be kept open to real competition.

  • Q&A: Cengage/McGraw-Hill Merger, One Year and Counting

    It's been a year since publishing giants Cengage and McGraw-Hill announced plans to merge. After facing mounting opposition, the merger is still pending regulatory approval. We provide an update on where things stand and what it means for higher education.

  • Leaked Dutch Contract with Elsevier Raises Significant Alarm Bells

    Elsevier is discussing a contract to provide Dutch universities with access to its journals at no extra cost. Institutions and consortia should pause to consider and robustly debate all the ramifications of these decisions, before pursuing what may prove apparent and short-lived benefits.

  • Acknowledgements

    We would like to acknowledge that the development of this publication was generously supported by grants from the Open Society Foundations and Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.

  • Community Actions: Collectively Implement Strategic Practices

    Broad adoption of common terms and conditions will have a market effect that favors products and services that are in the best interests of the academic community. This includes advantaging Open Source software over “black-box” algorithms and leveling the playing field for community-owned tools to compete with commercial options whenever available.

  • Community Actions: Intro

    A third category of actions for the community to consider focus on leveraging a strength in numbers approach, and targeting “big picture” actions institutions to regain and maintain control of their data infrastructure. This category includes a broad range of possible structural solutions to foster an open, competitive landscape for data and data analytics that is aligned with the interests of academic institutions and the communities they serve.

  • Strategic Choices: Intro

    The second category of actions is more complex, since it relates to decisions that will need to be made specifically based on each individual institution’s mission, culture and values. It also involves the establishment of an explicit process to determine the position that each institution wants to take in regards to specific issues posed by the collection of data and the deployment of data analytics tools.

  • Risk Mitigation: Engage in Open Procurement Practices

    An important area when institutions can assert control of data is through purchasing and procurement processes. These processes should be revisited and revised to ensure that they are transparent, competitive, and fully coordinated across the institution.

  • Risk Mitigation: Intro

    These actions are designed to be concrete, practical steps that any institution can begin taking immediately.

  • Three Categories Of Action

    The purpose of this document is to build on the Landscape Analysis by offering a roadmap of potential actions that stakeholders can use to chart both individual and collective responses.

  • What Do We Mean By Data And Data Infrastructure

    We talk about two types of data. The first is Research Data, which refers to the data academic institutions generate through their research activities. The second is Grey Data, which refers to the vast amount of data produced by universities outside of core research activities.

  • Background

    Until now, commercial publishers were – at worst – seen by institutions as an annoyance for selected communities within academia. Their move into the core research and teaching missions of colleges and universities, with tools aimed at evaluating productivity and performance, means that the academic community could lose control over vast areas of its core activities.

  • Executive Summary

    Academic publishing is undergoing a major transition as some of its leaders are moving from a content-provision to a data analytics business. This shift is still in its early days. There are actions and strategies that institutions can consider adopting, both individually and collectively, to mitigate the potential risks posed by this trend, and to leverage potential benefits.

  • SPARC Urges Department of Justice to Block Merger Between Cengage and McGraw-Hill

    SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) submitted a detailed filing to the U.S. Department of Justice urging federal antitrust enforcers to block the proposed merger between college textbook publishing giants Cengage and McGraw-Hill Education. The merger would create the largest publisher of college course materials in the United States and the world’s second largest education publisher overall.

  • Q&A: Cengage/McGraw-Hill Merger

    As opposition mounts to the merger between two of the largest textbook publishers, SPARC has answers to common questions and an update on what we're doing to stop it.

  • About the Report

    Commissioned in response to the growing trend of commercial acquisition of critical infrastructure in our institutions this report provides a comprehensive look at the current players in this arena, their strategies and potential actions, and the implications of these on the operations of our libraries and home institutions.

  • Preliminary Recommendations

    Actively formulating and implementing solutions to these problems is complex but critically important, and something SPARC intends to work closely with the community on. It is worthwhile to recap of some of the options for action.

  • Education Companies: The Products

    Anecdotal evidence suggests that these systems built and maintained by publishers capture massive amounts of data about student and faculty behavior that go beyond what is necessary for accomplishing their core objectives (i.e. improving student outcomes). Institutions, faculty and students should think about the accumulation and use of data collected and retained by schools and commercial vendors.

  • Education Companies: Cengage

    Cengage is a pioneer in inclusive access and Cengage Unlimited, its full catalog subscription, was the first full offering of this kind. Cengage was also the first major publisher to offer a product branded as open educational resources (OER), although the content is still purchased by students enrolled in a course.

  • Education Companies: McGraw-Hill Education

    McGraw-Hill is owned by Apollo, a private equity company. Apollo has hoped for a long time to IPO the business to exit the investment. The company exited the assessment business in 2015, effectively going in the opposite direction of Pearson.

  • Education Companies: Pearson

    Pearson is the only leading textbook publisher that is publicly listed. The company aims at education sectors that it expects to transition to full digital delivery, positioning itself to add data analytics products on top of content.

  • Education Companies: Background

    The continued decline of the higher education courseware business in the U.S. is driven by the interplay of three factors; student enrollment, pricing, and participation rates.

  • Research Companies: The Products

    Compiling a map of all the products and services that the three leading research data analytics vendors (Clarivate, Digital Science, Elsevier) market outside libraries is inherently a best effort exercise.

  • Research Companies: Other publishers

    We view any publisher below the size of Wiley as unlikely to have the financial resources to mount a major challenge to the research data analytics businesses of Elsevier and Clarivate.

  • Research Companies: Clarivate

    Clarivate is the name the new private equity owners gave to the assets previously owned by Thomson Reuters. The company’s strategy is to be a neutral data analytics supplier to researchers and librarians.

  • Research Companies: Wiley

    Wiley is the smaller of the three main journal publishers. It publishes about 2,300 journals, so – in terms of titles – it is very close in size to Elsevier.

  • Research Companies: Background

    The paradox of the STM publishing industry is that because of multi-year contracts there is very high visibility over its revenues for the next two to three years, but very little beyond this time frame.

  • Executive Summary

    Academic publishing is undergoing a major transition. Some of its leaders are moving from a content-provision to a data analytics business. This shift is still in its early days. There are actions and strategies that institutions can consider adopting to limit the potential harms, and leverage potential benefits.