The following email, dated 14 June 2012, has been forwarded to the Lounge. It contains several details on the plan for AGU publications:
From: AGU President
To: (recipients' email addresses redacted) CC: AGU-Directors Subject: Update on Publications Partnership Evaluation To: Board, Council, Publications Committee, and Editors Our thanks to all of you who have emailed, commented on the secure web site, and participated in phone-in sessions regarding AGU's exploration of a publishing partnership. We wanted to share with you common themes in several of the concerns raised as well as our responses to them. Before getting into specifics of the issues raised, we'd first like to acknowledge that several people posed questions about roles, responsibilities, transparency, and participation in process. The elected leadership of AGU - Board of Directors and Council - continues to break new ground and chart new territory with the authority matrix and decision tree that were adopted as part of AGU's change in governance. We recognize this new structure is still unfamiliar to many members and that this has led to some confusion about the process. However, the decision to seek a publishing partner and the subsequent solicitation of input to guide criteria for selection are consistent with how our governance structure is intended to function. Many of the comments built upon the criteria noted in the online criteria discussion forum. Overall, there is significant concern surrounding conflicting goals of AGU and any potential partner publisher. This is a key concern of the members of the working group, as well. They will assess this issue thoroughly both through the publishers' responses to the RFP, their presentations, and their personal commitments, as well as through contract language if a partnering approach is chosen. Drilling down one level deeper, following are the major common threads we have seen and heard in the forum, conference calls, and emails received and our responses to them. 1. Cultural Fit: AGU's focus is on collaboratively advancing and communicating science. Publishers may not share these same values and support initiatives such as journal access for scientists in economically challenged nations. Response: Cultural fit, and even the personal relationship fit with key partner staff, is of the utmost importance. Keeping confidentiality agreements in mind, all finalist publishers have mission statements which are very similar to AGU's. Assessing the degree to which each publisher lives that mission is a key responsibility of the working group. Contractually, AGU will have decision rights for key publisher staff interfaces with AGU volunteers and staff. All finalist publishers participate in HINARI and AGORA - initiatives focused on supplying low-cost or free journal content access to scientists in economically challenged nations. 1. Ongoing Quality: While the publisher may promise and initially deliver high quality production and support processes including copy editing, once the contract is signed, these services will degrade to the lowest cost model for the publisher in order to maximize profit. Response: The finalist publishers all have decades-long experience producing many of the world's foremost journals including several in Earth and Space science fields - positions earned through high quality, high and growing impact factors, and strong relationships with their editorial teams. Revenue growth, which drives profitability far more than expense reduction, is directly driven by journal quality and impact. So it is fundamentally in the publisher's best interest to continually bring the highest quality science and journals to market. Contractually, publishers will be committed to minimum guaranteed returns to AGU, further reinforcing the need to maintain high quality and resulting revenues. 1. Open Access and Pricing: Dissemination of science is at the core of AGU's mission. Exploration and support for Open Access (OA) models and ensuring fair pricing of the current institutional subscription model must be continued by AGU. Pursuit of these goals would be compromised through a third party publisher relationship. Response: AGU will continue to pursue ways to support OA in a manner that ensures access to the science while balancing the financial aspects of the business model. All finalist publishers have existing programs for OA, publish full OA journals, and provide options for AGU to experiment further with OA through new journal titles and other concepts. At the same time, given the uncertainty over OA government mandates, a third party partnership mitigates the financial risk to AGU. Accessibility can also be impacted by pricing schemes which bundle AGU products into "mega-deals" or dramatically increases the pricing of our publications. In any agreement, AGU publications would remain a stand-alone product suite, with any bundling with other publications strictly optional and subject to AGU approval. Price increases are subject to joint decision making between the partner and AGU and are informed by market data on the institutional and publishing environment. 1. Editorial and Author Support: Significant progress has been made between the partnership of the editorial teams and AGU staff over the last few years including stabilization of staffing support provided, streamlined processes, and system improvements. Changes to third party support for these functions may cause this interface to regress. Response: Any assessment of changes to this area will be focused on a clear demonstration of superior service, support, and technologies by a partner publisher. Ensuring a high level of continuing support for our editors is critical to the success of this venture. 1. Transition / Exit Strategies: If quality, responsiveness, financial results, or technological proficiency decline over the life of the contract, AGU must be protected and able to continue the important work of the journals. Response: We recognize that despite best efforts and planning, sometimes results do not meet expectations, and it is prudent to ensure that clauses exist in the contract to protect AGU under such circumstances. These types of clauses are routine in third party publisher contracts and often have mutual components, which means that AGU has to deliver on its commitments also. Furthermore, all finalist publishers have signed the Transfer Code of Practice adopted by UKSG, a standards group for the scholarly publishing community. This code sets expectations and standards for orderly transfers of scholarly works such as journals from one publisher to another. Please continue to send in any additional thoughts and comments. Our intention with the responses above is to provide recognition that your input is being received, that it impacts the decision making process, and, if we are to move forward with a third party, the input will be woven into the fabric of any agreement. Based on all input received, a criteria matrix is being developed for endorsement by the Council at their upcoming 21 June 2012 call. Thank you again for your comments and for your commitment to the excellence of AGU journals. We will keep you apprised of the evaluation process as the working group completes its evaluation. Best regards, Michael J. McPhaden President Carol Finn President-elect ____________________________________________________________ AGU galvanizes a community of Earth and space scientists that collaboratively advances and communicates science and its power to ensure a sustainable future.