Responding to change in scholarly communications: fight, face-off, fix and faff
Responding to threats
- Fight - lobby - consult - become indignant.
- Flight - sell (who to?) - close.
- Face-off - pretend it's not happening; ignore the problems.
- Fix - big deal, better terms, enhanced products
- Follow - accept that alternatives are needed
- Faff - make small changes without a real strategy.
There are 3 places where value is created and costs are managed in a networked business.
- At the periphery (libraries operate here) - close to the user with specialist expertise.
- At the core - where the shared infrastructure and expertise is (where the researchers are).
- In the middle - the distribution part - which is always most vulnerable to commoditisation, and is a hard position to defend. Libraries are partly here, as are publishers.
There are no simple answers
The issues are all about transition - many of these models could work, and the problem is the disruption involved in getting there. None of us really understand how that's going to work, and it can only be managed on a system-wide basis (it can't be managed by individual entities). It may not even be a solvable problem. Potentially we're part way through a long cycle and we don't yet understand the beginning and end of it. We have to live with high levels of uncertainty which will lead to a lot more short-term Face-off (a great shame - waste of time and energy) and more Fix (because we haven't yet worked out what the Follow strategy is). "Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens" (Schiller - against stupidity, the Gods themselves struggle in vain) - deeply and painfully true, and at the root of most of our problems. We are only going to work this out with a lot of communication and some serious applied intelligence - there are no simple answers.
During questions, John Cox points out that it's very difficult for us to communicate well and to act as a system because of anti-trust laws. The only way out is for libraries to decide what they will demand of publishers and see what the response is. John also raised the idea of a telecoms style subscription model for scholarly publishing. I think it was Peter Burnhill who then noted the gap between funding for research and funding for libraries which have not risen commensurately.