Tuesday, November 19, 2019 News

SPARC Releases Roadmap for Higher Education Institutions to Counter Industry’s Growing Control Over Academic Data and Analytics

Open Access   ·   Open Data   ·   Open Education


Ranit Schmelzer
[email protected]

SPARC Releases Roadmap for Higher Education Institutions to Counter Industry’s Growing Control Over Academic Data and Analytics

Washington, DC (November 19, 2019) – Today, SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), released a new report: Academic Community Control of Data Infrastructure – A Roadmap for Action, to help academic institutions combat the publishing industry’s increasing control over academic data and data infrastructure.

“The academic publishing industry is undergoing a major transition, adding data analytics to its traditional content-provision business. This trend has profound implications for higher education institutions, potentially deeply affecting their finances, core missions and ability to control crucial information,” said Claudio Aspesi, a market analyst with more than a decade of experience covering the academic publishing market for international investors, and lead author of the Roadmap. “There are significant hidden and negative consequences to these changes that must be addressed, and the time to take action is now.”

The Roadmap for Action outlines individual and collective actions that institutions can use to maintain and regain control of their data and data infrastructure. Recognizing that solutions are not one size fits all, the framework offers a range of possible options that can be adapted to each institution’s local culture and needs. Developed by SPARC in consultation with experts and stakeholders, the proposed solutions are organized into three categories:

  • Risk Mitigation. Actions that can be executed relatively quickly, require a varying but manageable amount of investment and expense, and achieve a tangible impact on how data is treated within institutions. Examples include the establishment of data coordination mechanisms, revision of data policies, and the adoption of open procurement policies.

  • Strategic Choices. Actions in this category require a thorough debate of issues that do not have easy answers. Questions such as what metrics to use, the extent to rely on artificial intelligence, and the extent to which to prioritize IP exploitation require a deep analysis of both pros and cons, as well as a realistic assessment of what is culturally acceptable in terms of actions.  Individual institutions will have different responses to these choices according to their values and missions, and will need to engage a wide variety of stakeholders.

  • Community Actions. The community-based, structural actions in this category are possible end-game solutions to enable groups of institutions to retake control of their data infrastructure. They include different scenarios ranging from shared investment in building new infrastructure, to the collective acquisition of existing infrastructure, to the creation of new governance and ownership models for infrastructure providers.

“It is critical for academic leaders to acknowledge that data plays a central role in the future of their institutions and take steps to manage it as a strategic asset,” said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC. “Our goal is to ensure that academic institutions retain control over data infrastructure to ensure that it serves higher education’s values and goals first. We hope that the academic community will find this Roadmap for Action a useful additional resource to inform discussion of these issues on campus and to serve as a catalyst for taking considered action.”

“We do not oppose the use of data or data analytics. These tools are becoming increasingly present in research, teaching, and campus life, and there are actions that each institution can consider taking toward data infrastructure that is transparent, open to competition, and fully aligned with the values of the academic community,” said Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education for SPARC.

The Roadmap for Action follows an in-depth Landscape Analysis of the academic publishing industry, released by SPARC earlier this year.

For more information, or to request an interview with Heather Joseph, Nicole Allen or Claudio Aspesi, please contact Ranit Schmelzer at 202-538-1065 or [email protected].


SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, is a global coalition committed to making Open the default for research and education. SPARC empowers people to solve big problems and make new discoveries through the adoption of policies and practices that advance Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education. Learn more at sparcopen.org.

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