January 24, 2010

University Library Seeks Financial Support for Its Repository Website

Print More

Cornell Libraries announced last Thursday that they will seek voluntary financial support to help pay for their repository site, arXiv.org. The library is responsible for the site’s operation, maintenance and funding.

Professor Paul Ginsparg, physics and information science, created arXiv in 1991 as a means to share research prior to publication. At first, arXiv was used primarily by the high energy physics community, but has since expanded to serve those conducting research in mathematics, nonlinear sciences, computer sciences, quantitative biology, quantitative finance and statistics.

arXiv will remain free for users, but the library is seeking contributions from the institutions that use the site most. The library has compiled a list of 200 institutions that account for more than 75 percent of activity on the site. Most of the top 25 users have pledged their support for the new initiative.

“Paul Ginsparg … secured initial start up funds for the project,” said Oya Rieger, associate University librarian for Information Technologies, “but since 2006 the site has been funded solely through the library’s budget.”

In order to ease the financial dependence of arXiv’s sustainability on Cornell, the library has developed a use-based business model, which can be viewed on the site. The plan categorizes institutions into three tiers based on how frequently they use the site. The library asks the site’s heaviest users to donate 4,000 dollars annually. The library will continue to provide 15 percent of the site’s operating budget.

“arXiv has become a poster child for open access initiatives being successful,” Rieger said.

But Reiger went on to explain how this raises concerns over the search for additional funds.

“We’re introducing business in the midst of scholarship,” Rieger said. After twenty years of open access to arXiv, suddenly being charged to use the site may upset some users. Nonetheless, the cost of maintaining arXiv has become too much for the library to bear.

As the site expands to cover additional fields of research and new domains begin to use arXiv and its mirror sites, operating costs are expected to rise, Rieger explained.

“The costs for operating through 2010 will be around 400,000 dollars,” Rieger said.

So far, the benefits that arXiv has brought to the research community appear to outweigh the cost the new business model will bring to institutions around the world.

“arXiv is a vital resource for scholarly communication on a global scale for researchers and students, across numerous disciplines,” said James G. Neal, University Librarian and President of Information Services at Columbia University, in a statement. “It is essential that the institutions whose users contribute to the database and consume its content provide an appropriate level of financial support.”

The model that the library has introduced may only be a temporary solution, as the site grows in use across countries worldwide. Over the next few years, the library will work with its partners in arXiv to find more enduring ways to secure funding Rieger explained.

“This plan is the first effort in a long process,” said Anne Kenney, Carl A. Kroch University Librarian.

Over the past twenty years, arXiv has continuously grown in importance to researchers worldwide. The 101,000 registered submitters on arXiv live in nearly 200 countries, according to the library’s statement.

“arXiv is a public good, used around the world, and scholarship should know no bounds,” Kenney said.

Original Author: Robert Merola