Cambridge University Press is launching a content-sharing pilot on its Cambridge Core platform, which will allow users and authors to share read-only versions of journal articles via a link.
The pilot will include 120 subscription and hybrid journals across the STM and HSS fields, including the flagship Journal of Fluid Mechanics. The plan is to roll out the scheme - called Cambridge Core Share - more widely in 2018.
CUP is the first University Press to build a sharing service on its own platform. The development comes a year after the launch of Cambridge Core.
Mandy Hill, managing director of Academic Publishing at CUP, said: "As content sharing is such a vital part of research, we’re thrilled to be launching Cambridge Core Share which will provide the academic community with an easy sharing solution. With the needs of our users in mind, we will continue to explore and support responsible sharing in line with the sustainability of the high quality publications on which research and learning depend."
Matthew Day, CUP's head of Open Access, told The Bookseller: "The current situation is that people are sharing final published versions of journal articles, the published PDF, widely on the internet and we then lose visibility on the usage. We need a replacement that makes it as easy for people to share content as when they are sharing the PDF, and is as good an experience for the end users. So because of that, anyone who has access to the PDF - a subscriber, or an author - is going to be able to share that PDF, and we need to make it as easy as possible for them to do that. If they can see the PDF [on Cambridge Core], they will see a button, and they can click on that and immediately get a link which they can post anywhere. There's no limit to the number of times they can share it, once the link is created and posted, it doesn't expire and they can share the URL in the same way as any other."
He added: "The thing is, this content is being shared anyway - sometimes legitimately, sometimes it's outright piracy. But the reason it's being shared is that researchers want to do it and frankly they need to do it, it's a natural part of researchers' behaviour to be able to find stuff really easily within reach. If it happens outside any of our systems, we lose all visibility on the usage - if a university subscribes to a journal, and the researchers at the institute views journals they subscribe to, we report back to them on how much usage of that journal has been. But if they are accessing these journals on a social sharing site or a piracy site, we don't record that usage and the institution doesn't have the complete picture of how important that journal is to researchers. Usage is certainly a key way for an institute to decide how important a subscription journal is to its researchers."
Asked of the likely implication of such easy content-sharing on the subscription journals business model, Day said: "There's a short-term and a long-term calculation. In the short term, we've talked to librarians and if we can show a librarian that a journal is useful to the researchers, that definitely supports subscription. We've had conversations with some librarians where they have actually wanted to cancel a subscription because so much material is freely available and so they are seeing low usage - but researchers have then come back to the librarian and said, 'Continue to subscribe, it's an important journal to us and the fact that we are accessing it through sharing doesn't change that, so please continue to support it'.
"I think in the long term, whether that happens for all journals in all cases is open to debate. As content becomes increasingly freely available I think some librarians will raise the question of whether they want to continue to subscribe. But they are going to have those questions anyway [because there is so much unauthorised sharing] - we can at least head that off by giving them a really good picture of usage."
Day added: "We are adapting to a world in which content is increasingly either free or perceived to be free."
CUP's ability to develop its own sharing solution was one of the benefits of having invested in building Cambridge Core, he also said. "We are able to do it ourselves, we don't have to pay a third party, or integrate with a third party."
CUP said the new sharing service was "an important new part of the Press’s Open Research agenda – building on existing Green and Gold OA policies and activities – as well as part of a wider initiative to explore and support all sustainable forms of Open Research publishing." The Press will be monitoring user feedback on Cambridge Core Share in line with its philosophy of continued development and improvement informed by research into user needs, it said.
Springer Nature and Wiley both have content-sharing initiatives in partnership with Digital Science’s ReadCube. In October, Taylor & Francis announced it had completed a successful pilot of its Share More Easily programme with ReadCube, covering 600 STM and HSS titles. Alan Jarvis, global publishing director of the T&F Books division, said the pilot had given some “fascinating insights”, noting: “Ninety per cent of those who participated stated that the opportunity to share their work would impact their decision on where to publish in the future, and with academics under increasing pressure to demonstrate the reach and impact of their work, it is vital for us to continue developing strategies to support this”.
MIT University Press will begin to use the Kudos shareable PDF solution in the near future.