Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's Publishing and Funding Model: What it Means for Open Access and the Library Community

Presenter: Edward Zalta, CSLI/Stanford University
Time: 9:40 AM - 10:40 AM, 12 July 2007

Location: SFU Harbour Centre, Fletcher Challenge Theatre, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Bio: Edward Zalta is a Senior Research Scholar at the Center for the Study of Language and Information (CLSI) at Stanford University and principal editor of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) began in 1995 as a new model of academic publishing. The SEP was designed, by Zalta, as a dynamic, up-to-date reference work and online encyclopedia responsive to new research for philosophy students and professors.

Current Numbers:
Editorial Board: 106
Authors: 1,186
Entries: 911
Average Length of Entry in Words: 10,100
Commissioned Entries: 1,308

- But remember, this is a process not a product and the numbers are always in state of flux

-Accessed up to 700,000 times a week
-Entries showing up in course syllabi
-Entries read by students and scholars in other disciplines
-Can be top hit on Google (voluntary euthanasia, Gottlob Frege, animal consciousness, feminist ethics)
-Unexpected readers: Vatican computers looking at “paraconsistent logic”, CNN looking at “holes” and interviewed author)

Publishing Model:

-A password-protected web interface for authors: can download en
try templates, submit private drafts for review, remotely edit/update their entries and compare version
-A password-protected web interface for the subject editors: can add new topics, commission new entries, referee unpublished entries and updates (Every entry and revision is refereed and approved before publication)
-Conversion from HTML from Word/LaTeX - SEP produces valid XHTML
-A secure web server for the principal editor
-A tracking/reminder system (logs the actions on web interfaces, monitors entries, determines who owes work and when, automatically sends email reminders, and provides a summary to the principal editor)
-Software which cross-references the SEP when new entries are published, and checks for broken links
-Software which automatically creates an archive every quarter (creates basis for citation)
-Mirror sites at universities in other parts of the world (faster access worldwide, access when the Stanford server is down for maintenance, and safeguards the digital content as extra backups: Australia Mirror, Netherlands Mirror, UK Mirror)

-The model operates on a budget of $200,000/year with 1.7persons (2@75%, 2 @10%)

So how is all this paid for (the SEP’s annual budget in $200,000) and yet, open access maintained?

Funding Model:

-Stanford University and the world-wide library community partnered to raise $4,125,000 endowment
-Stanford University agreed to raise $1.125 million from private donors
-The library community (under the auspices of

ICOLC, SPARC, SOLINET and others) agreed to raise $3 million via one-time membership dues to the Stanford -Encyclopedia of Philosophy International Association (SEPIA), which has SOLINET as its fiscal agent
-Money collected by SOLINET is transferred to a special escrow account in Stanford University's endowment under a contract vetted by the
NEH, which stipulates that -Stanford shall manage the money and use the annual payout only for the support of the SEP
-Stanford provides free money management services, and since it typically earns 8-10% on its endowment and pays out 5% to the project, the library money is not only being protected but is also growing as an investment
-Stanford agrees to return library money if project terminates

Funding Success!

-Grants received from NEH/P&A, NSF/DLI, Mellon Foundation, Hewlett Foundation (total $1,344,128)
-NEH endorsed with $500,000 challenge/matching grant
-Stanford raised its share
-Libraries worldwide have pledged $1,650,000 in membership dues to SEPIA (collected 2/3)
-Adding to $500,000 from NEH, libraries need only $850,000 more to reach their goal

Advantages of SEP Model:

-Broad access
-Reduced distribution costs
-Quality assurance through peer review
-Gives scholars and library community control rather than publishers
-Preservation through back-up and mirror sights for long-term future use plus library downloaded archives
-Fair use copyright for authors
-Gives libraries a means to help bring about change
-Serves as example to other professions by fair and reasonable costs for benefits of membership
-Gives libraries a method to address budget crisis through 1 time payment that is protected and return on money – (invested and doesn’t disappear annually, don’t need to continually reassess membership)


-Foundations don’t like to contribute to endowments but will give grants for expenditures and fund-raising
-Some libraries remain free-riders using SEP without becoming members
-Some librarians complain the model is forcing them to operate outside their mission by assessing business models and become venture capitalists (the counter to this is to rely on the judgment of their consortial leaders)
-Issue of setting membership dues: Currently Canadian universities are required to pay the same dues as American universities whereas the dues are reduced in Australia and the UK. Only 5 Canadian universities offering doctoral degrees in philosophy (1/4) currently hold full membership (University of Toronto, Dalhousie, York, the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta) whereas over half of the equivalent university institutions in the U.S. have full membership. Zalta mentioned this discrepancy as a point of re-assessment.

Can Model Generalize?
Generalization requires:
-A well-established resource with a good reputation, high academic standards and measurable impact
-The interest of large library umbrella organizations to help get top down access to librarians
-A sizeable volunteer workforce of authors and editors to support plan and advocate to librarians
-Location at a well-established university
-Moderate and attainable fundraising goals

Related conference presentations:
"A Professional Reading Environment, Modeled for a Renaissance English Knowledgebase", "PKP and its Digital Humanities 'Readership'"

Blogger’s Blurb:
Wow! Philosophers designing their own software and beating out Wikipedia on Google searches! An encyclopedia being read not only by students in multiple disciplines but by CNN and the Vatican! Pretty impressive. The SEP model shows the power of online publishing to reach a broad and diverse audience. The SEP’s funding model is also adaptable to other disciplines as Zalta explained with a university’s support and library cooperation. The SEP model puts power in the hands of scholars and libraries, as opposed to publishers, and brings these two groups together in a way that seems so natural and yet is all too rare. The SEP model highlights the power and potential of the Internet. It has transformed philosophers into computer programmers and economists and moved their scholarly work from dusty library shelves to a forum available to anyone simply curious enough to do a simple Google search.

1 comment:

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