Nature Publishing Group (NPG) has accused the University of California of bullying after the institution’s library threatened to boycott the publisher over its charges.
California Digital Library (CDL) wrote to UC staff on 4 June, claiming that the publisher was planning a 400 per cent increase in the price the university pays for digital licences to its journals.
The letter says that the proposed increase is of “unprecedented magnitude” and would cost the university more than $1 million (£685,000) a year.
The letter adds that NPG, unlike other publishers, had been “singularly unresponsive” to the library’s “economic distress”.
“[It] has employed a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy that directs major price increases to various institutions in different years,” it says.
The library states that “capitulating” to the publisher is not an option, and adds that it is prepared to cancel all NPG subscriptions and call on UC’s academic staff to boycott it.
But in a statement, NPG says it is shocked and disappointed that the library has “resorted to using misinformation in inappropriate contexts to create publicity with the threat of a boycott, as part of a negotiating tactic, when NPG’s intention has always been to reach a fair agreement”.
It adds that annual increases to the cost of its licences are capped at 7 per cent.
“The complication with CDL is that [it has] been on a very large, unsustainable discount for many years, to the point where other subscribers, both in the US and around the world, are subsidising [it],” the statement says.
“The origins of this discount can be found in the lack of clear definitions around consortia and ‘single institute, multisite’ subscribers, as well as previous accommodations of CDL’s budget limitations.”
It says the library currently enjoys a discount of 88 per cent.
“After several attempts, we are now trying to bring [it] close to a 50 per cent discount,” it adds.
“We sincerely hope that no boycotts will occur, not least because it is detrimental to the advance of science, but we will not be bullied into continuing CDL’s subsidy.”
The NPG statement: