Posted by: bluesyemre | August 30, 2020

#BigDeals survey shows that Latin America spends a little over USD $100 Million per year on information resources

  • 11 Latin American countries participated in the survey
  • 82% of the surveyed countries say their expectations of Big Deals negotiations have been transformed by the importance of the Open Access movement.
  • 79% of the expenditures (a little more than USD $81 million) are directed to 5 large publishers.

The First Regional Big Deals Survey 2019 showed that 11 Latin American countries spend a little over USD $100 million on information resources (journals, databases, and ebooks). This data does not include pays per APC (Article Processing Charges) either subscriptions hired by universities and other institutions that require this kind of resources.

María Soledad Bravo-Marchant and Alberto Cabezas-Bullemore, authors of the study, explain the aim was “(…) to  quantify the expenditure our countries make in subscriptions to academic journal packages through contracts and licenses” (p.4) 

This work dates back to Segunda Reunión de Consorcios de América Latina y El Caribe, held in October 2018 in Santiago, Chile. The research focuses on Big Deal contracts with five major publishers: American Chemical Society, Elsevier, Springer-Nature, Taylor & Francis and Wiley.

The authors note that the Big Deal must be understood as a subscription to a set of hundreds of journals, sometimes all of the publisher’s journal titles, without the buyer being able to suppress some titles or even select a collection based on local needs” (p.7). 

The authors explain “we face a failure in a market that must be intervened with specific public policies because, in the market of scientific communication, the “price” does not perform the role which the economy has always assigned it as a regulator of supply and demand” (p.6).

13 countries were invited to participate in the study with 11 countries responding to the survey: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panamá, Perú and Uruguay. 


According to the study, national governments are the main entities in charge of Big Deals’ negotiations in Latin America (46%), followed by universities consortium and other organizations (36%).

55% of the participating countries say they have a committee which oversees policies related to licensed electronic resources. These committees are usually composed of information sciences specialists and representatives from members of the consortium or the national program.

55% of the countries indicated that universities played some role in the negotiation processes, with majority (84%) having a role as a lead negotiator, and 36% as funders of the licenses.

In terms of contract negotiations, countries major concerns were: cost reduction, integrity of the collections that are contracted, and cost control.

73% of the surveyed countries explained that they have a national open access policy or strategy. However, (…) 91% of the Big Deal contracts that were taken into account in this research, do not include a clause reflecting this aspect” (p.17).

In order to support open access, several countries say that in future negotiations they want to include clauses about open access, especially concerning Green open access. 

82% of respondents indicated that their expectations about the negotiation and contracting processes have changed because of the importance of the Open Access Movement. For example, it was mentioned by one respondent:

“We have introduced this topic into the negotiation process, in spite of the indisposition of some publishers. We were successful in including clauses of Green Open Access in some of the contracts (Springer, Wiley). We have seen marginal discounts because of some titles in open access format (OUP, Wiley, Annual Reviews, Elsevier with the SCOAP3)” (p.18).

In terms of Gold Open Access, the survey asked whether the national access programs had some kind of monitoring system capable of collecting data about funds directed to pay APCs (Article Processing Charges), and just one of the countries said it collects this information. The  survey also asked whether subscriptions and pay-to-publish (APC) were included in the same contract, to which all countries answered no. 

Countries reported a total of 139 contracts, but this number is just an estimation as 73% of the countries said that there is not an organization at a national level responsible for collecting and processing information about all contracts in that country. 

Huge costs

The eleven respondents reported an approximate total annual spend in electronic resources (journals, databases and ebooks) of USD $102.788.847. This amount excludes payments for APC and subscriptions contracted by individual universities and other institutions, so the reported amount underestimates the regional spend” (p.25).

Predominantly (55%), these funds come from universities and government agencies.

Survey participants reported a total of 31 contracts with the five major publishers mentioned above, amounting to USD $81.343.894, representing 79% of total expenditures.

Regarding each publisher, 62,06% goes to Elsevier, followed by Springer-Nature (22,62%), the last spots are occupied by Wiley (7,80%), Taylor & Francis (3,85%) and American Chemical Society (3,68%). The eleven surveyed countries consider that Elsevier is the publisher that is the most difficult to negotiate an agreement with.

Another aspect addressed was the duration of the contracts. A few more than 33% are for less than a year, 26% of the contracts are for 2 years, and just 13% are for 5 years. The authors think: “the disparity speakers to a region that lives in a permanent process of contract negotiation with all the pressure that this implies both for national and institutional budgets, as well as for the teams in charge” (p.40).

Finally, the authors make a call to strengthen the scientific communication in the Latin American region and identify some efforts that have been made in recent years:

“There are relevant actors at the region like SciELO, started in Brazil in 1997, and other initiatives like LA Referencia, which connects repositories in ten countries, and that works with international standards with the aim of making more visible Latin America scientific production “ (p.45).

Find the report here (spanish version)

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