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Held each year in the culturally-rich coastal city from which it takes its name, the Charleston Library Conference is an annual gathering of librarians and other professionals with an interest in book and periodical acquisition. It’s a time to mingle, discuss, and debate the latest issues impacting access to academic and scientific research.

Reprints Desk had the privilege of attending, with members of our team contributing their insights as both panelists and moderators. We came away with a deeper understanding of the challenges we all face as we work together to support science’s progress by enabling researchers to share and communicate their most valuable findings.

This year’s conference highlighted a number of pressing issues for librarians, publishers, and the community of consultants and vendors that work with them. It’s no secret that research librarians’ roles are evolving rapidly, and unsurprising that the costs and benefits of open access to scholarly research weigh heavily upon the minds of stakeholders in libraries and the publishing industry.

But perhaps the most frequently discussed topic in sessions this year was one that’s near and dear to our hearts here at Reprints Desk: the question of affordability. Like us, the majority of industry professionals are invested in exploring publication and literature access models that maximize access to the highest quality research findings while continuing to support scholarly publication and advance the process of scientific discovery.

The Hidden Cost of Pirated Access to Scientific Research

Our content management director, Sharon Büttiker, was a panelist in the session, “Should You Pay for the Chicken When You Can Get It for Free? No Longer Life on the Farm as We Know It.” In this discussion, industry experts explored the valuable contributions that each stakeholder in the publishing ecosystem (including publishers themselves, as well as researchers, content aggregators, and libraries) makes to the sensitive process of scientific discovery and publication.

Panelists also discussed the pressures and challenges to which the publishing ecosystem is currently subject. Chief among these is the widespread use of illicit sharing sites providing pirated access to scientific content.

Despite their unreliability and the security risks they pose, illicit sites or content sharing services are used by a growing number of academic researchers in order to quickly and easily obtain content. While some researchers do so to avoid the rising costs of scientific literature, others with legitimate paid access routes use illegal channels purely out of convenience.

For librarians, this poses a major difficulty: usage of such sites cannot be tracked, and as a result, libraries’ budgets increasingly fall out of line with the research needs of the populations they’re intended to serve. For publishers, it means that the value they provide by validating, curating, and aggregating the most trustworthy research findings isn’t being leveraged by researchers.

The ultimate consequence of illicit access to scientific content isn’t that researchers lose the funding that enables them to sustain their work, or that subscription costs rise as publishers take protectionist approaches to access. It’s that science itself suffers.

Because the operators of sites providing pirated access to scientific literature have no stake in the advancement of research or the progress of science, they make no investments in supporting or developing future research. It’s the duty of all of us in the publishing ecosystem to develop better ways of providing affordable access to literature—ones that support and contribute to the researchers who are doing their best work.

New Acquisition Models Enable Access to More Content for Less Money

Reprints Desk COO Scott Ahlberg moderated the panel, "Twelve Danishes for the Price of One: The Benefits of Bulk Acquisitions for Libraries," which touched on similar issues surrounding literature access and affordability. The panel’s discussion centered around ways publishers, librarians, and content aggregators can work together to create innovative new models for access to reliable and trustworthy peer-reviewed research—models that are more affordable for libraries and better enable them to meet their patrons’ needs.

Given the budget constraints that libraries face, it’s essential for publishers and aggregators to be creative in their offerings. Vendors that support librarians by helping them save time with add-ons like catalog-ready metadata—or academic price breaks or discounts for bulk article orders (versus the traditional title-by-title approach to access)—can make all the difference when it comes to maximizing the value of the library’s human and technological resources.

To see how Reprints Desk is helping academic and corporate libraries minimize costs,  improve literature access—and succeed in their missions, visit https://info.reprintsdesk.com/customers.