An International Update on Policy and Research Shifts: The Friday Plenary Session

by | Jun 8, 2013 | 0 comments

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International panel (L-R): Simon Bell, Abel Packer, Mikiko Tanifuji, Tarek el-Elaimy, Toby Green (moderator)

This panel featured representatives from the UK, Latin America, Japan, and the Middle East answering questions on policy shifts in their regions and emerging opportunities for publishers.  Toby Green, the moderator, from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), presented some fascinating background data from OECD’s databases (which are freely available), with charts showing who is spending money on research, who is working with whom, how research is becoming more international, the number of people working in R&D, and entry rates into university-level education in various countries.  

Green then posed 3 questions, which the panelists answered.  This is an edited summary of their replies.

1.  Where is the money?

On June 26, a new government comprehensive spending review will be released in the UK; how deep will cuts be?  The British Library had a 20% cut 2 yeas ago and is anticipating 8-10% this time.  In Latin America, expenditures for research average .7% of the GDP except for Brazil where they are 1.1%. The way to sell journals in Latin America is through portals because funding for journals is very distributed. 

Total research funding in Japan is slighly increasing and has reached $73 trillion. Government is funding research on specific fields of importance such as structural engineering and green science. People not working in those areas are still struggling for funding.

Some researchers are happy to pay for golden open access, but this money does not come to the libraries. Libraries are facing decreasing budgets. Journal purchase prices have increased 25-30% because of currency fluctuations which has a heavy impact on libraries. All libraries in Japan are unhappy about this.

Middle East funding for research has risen from 2% to 4% which is still very small. There are some bright spots; Turkey has more than tripled its research output, and Iran has increased its from 0.2% to 1.9%. The Arabian Gulf countries have made huge investments in building universities and research facilities. Countries spending the most are the most authoritarian, so there might be some censorship and creativity issues.

2. What is the impact of growth in China?

The growth in research output is exponential, and more results are being published in English. An increasing number of Chinese publishers and researchers are visiting the British Library. Submissions of articles from China to Latin American journals is growing. Many publishers are surviving on gold open access, and the Chinese effect is very important.  A similar effect is being seen in Japan, where there are a large number of Chinese articles submitted to journals.  However, growth of Chinese article submissions has not reached the Middle East so much. No Chinese universities have established campuses there.

3. What is happening in publishing for the education market?

In several Middle Eastern countries, there is a big effort to develop digital textbooks. Tablets are being provided to school age children in public schools in Turkey, and they will be used to access e-books. Similar effects are happening in Saudi Arabia. But these devices are lacking in content in both English and Arabic.

Text publishing in Japan is struggling because many younger people do not read books any more.  Many universities have started e-learning courses.  E-textbooks are a realistic market in Japan.  Because the Japanese language reads from top to bottom on a page, e-book production is very challenging for book publishers.

In Latin America, e-books are being distributed through national portals similarly to printed books, and in the U.K., iPads are used for homework but not so much for content access.

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