University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

National survey begins today to gather data on academic journal usage

Faculty members encouraged to identify journals essential to their research and teaching to help shape future decisions on journal subscriptions
January 17, 2017
The deadline to participate in the Canadian Research Knowledge Network's online survey of faculty, doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows is Feb. 3, 2017. Photo by Pixies licensed under Pixabay Creative Commons

The deadline to participate in the Canadian Research Knowledge Network's online survey of faculty, doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows is Feb. 3, 2017. Photo by Pixies licensed under Pixabay Creative Commons

In light of a budgetary crisis that has forced post-secondary institutions across Canada to cancel a range of subscriptions to academic journals, the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN) has launched its first-ever national survey to gather data that will inform future decisions.

Faculty members are urged to dedicate a few minutes to answer the five questions included in the survey, which may be found here. Respondents will identify the journals they consider essential to their research and teaching activities. The deadline to complete the survey is Feb. 3. Participants remain anonymous at all times.

23 universities take part in Canadian survey

CRKN is a major library and research organization that undertakes large-scale acquisition and licensing of digital content, including electronic journals and research databases, on behalf of its 75 member institutions. President Elizabeth Cannon recently served as chair of the board of CRKN.

Data from the University of Calgary will be combined with information from 22 other Canadian universities taking part in the survey of faculty, doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

The survey is part of CKRN’s overall Journal Usage Project to identify trends in usage, citation, faculty perceptions of journal value and other factors at the institutional and national levels.

“Data gathered during this survey will help the University of Calgary and other Canadian institutions make evidence-based decisions when confronted with the need to cancel journals because of budgetary constraints,” explains Tom Hickerson, vice-provost (Libraries and Cultural Resources). “The priority for us and for our colleagues across the country is to provide the richest supply of material that our resources will allow in order to best support research, teaching and learning.”

Response to the soaring cost of scholarly journals

The survey builds upon the work of  Vincent Larivière, Canada Research Chair on the Transformations of Scholarly Communication at Université de Montréal, who spoke in Calgary last May about the crisis resulting from the soaring cost of scholarly journals. Larivière led a study into academic journal use at Université de Montréal and three other universities in Quebec that resulted in a significant shift in negotiations with publishers.

The academic publishing industry in Canada is dominated by five companies. A major challenge is that journals are sold in bundles, much like cable TV channels. A small number of titles in a package may be heavily used while the rest are rarely or never accessed.

Exacerbating the problem is the fact that most academic journals are purchased in American currency. A weak Canadian dollar has decreased the University of Calgary’s purchasing power for library resources by 25 per cent. Every one-cent decline in the value of the Canadian currency results in a $100,000 reduction in purchasing power. 

For the 2016–2017 academic year, Libraries and Cultural Resources had to cancel $1.5 million in subscriptions. Many of the cancellations took effect at the beginning of January. This was even after a contribution of $1.5 million from Provost Dru Marshall to prevent as many cuts as possible.

More information about CRKN’s Journal Usage Project, along with a list of participating universities, may be found here. Faculty may direct further questions to Content Development staff.