Leveraging analysis in journal negotiations: The work of the Data Analysis Working Group (DAWG)

Librarians’ responsibility to steward collections requires continuous assessment of materials budgets, especially when most library budgets are flat or decreasing. A significant portion of materials expense is derived from the recurring costs associated with access to subscription journals and databases. Subscription price increases have greatly outpaced library budgets. To remain sustainable, libraries need to reevaluate their collection practices, and that requires gathering and interpreting data. Careful data analysis is critical in making decisions that best serve stakeholders, as well as in planning negotiations with collection materials vendors.  

Considering the importance of data analysis in planning and conducting journal negotiations, the Data Analysis Working Group (DAWG) was formed as one of four working groups initiated to begin intense work on topics raised within SPARC’s Journal Negotiation Community of Practice in early 2020. 

DAWG was charged with “examining existing and novel data assessment techniques used for journal negotiations.” The work of this group, which is composed of volunteers from throughout the academic librarian community, is to develop resources that make librarians aware of various analyses to support evidence-based decision-making in preparation for negotiations for new materials and renewals of current subscriptions, as well as to examine subscription models including the value of the “big deal,” i.e., large vendor packages, and the benefits of transformative agreements. 

The first activities of the working group were to brainstorm various assessment methods, identifying “numbers to know” and more advanced techniques. Subgroups then developed compilations of helpful resources, examples, and basic instructions.  

When it comes to analysis to support journal negotiations, we understand that information professionals within libraries will approach this with varying levels of proficiency. The members of DAWG did their best to orient all resources so that those new to the topic would be able to use them. However, there are some articles that are more geared toward getting started with journal analysis, while others are more advanced. Below we classify articles based on level of proficiency:

Getting Started – These are back-to-basics articles and where to start when first approaching journal analysis. These articles and tools can serve as a primer for journal analysis and are a good reference point for information professionals of all skill and experience levels.

Intermediate – These articles are the middle ground, the next steps taken after creating a foundation of journal analysis and assessment using the strategies outlined in GettingStarted.

Advanced – These articles and tools discuss methodologies that are often the most difficult to conduct, perhaps due to externalities such as needing stakeholder cooperation. However, these articles and tools are very valuable as they help ascertain value at an institutional level and can shift the bargaining power of the negotiation back to the academic institution.

What is published to date to support the data analysis within journal negotiations is only the beginning of the work that needs to be done. We foresee, while membership and leadership within our group will evolve over time, the work will continue to evolve to remain relevant as the scholarly communication landscape changes. Moving forward, DAWG will be looking to further connect data analysis to the work being published by other SPARC Journal Negotiation Working Groups: Campus Planning and Partnerships, Journal Cancellation Impacts, and Journal Cancellation Reinvestment. 


Katharine V. Macy, Indiana University Purdue University – Indianapolis (2020–2021)

Sian Brannon, University of North Texas (2020)

Robert Heaton, Utah State University (2021)
Co-leads, SPARC Data Analysis Working Group

A subcommittee of the SPARC Journal Negotiation Community of Practice

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