Equal Chances for Scientists and Scholars from Central and Eastern Europe. The University of Silesia Press Initiates the Establishment of an International Consortium of Academic Publishers

Wolters Kluwer, Walter de Gruyter, EBSCO, Elsevier... all scholars recognize these world-renowned brands. However, as it seems, not all scholars realize that the business model adopted by these (and similar) institutions involves serious costs which the author, editor – or, as it is the case with public universities -- the institution needs to pay to have a publication placed in databases and thus made available to the readers, and to have it indexed and registered in bibliometric services.  Although some western universities can afford to bear such costs, in the case of academic institutions from Central and Eastern Europe placing works in databases administered by big commercial companies absorbs most of the budget earmarked annually for academic publications.


Deans, Directors of Institutes and Departments, and Faculty Committees for Academic Publishing face difficult choices: they can only afford to place some texts in the high-rated journals, there is not enough money to pay for the placement of all of them in high-visibility services.And yet, the financing of particular academic  institutions depends on parametrization results, which are, in turn, the function of an algorithm where both the citation index and impact factor play a central role. Furthermore: correctly or not, the IF and the Hirsch index often serve as indicators the individual achievement of a particular scholar and constitute a determining parameter in many tenure-related or professorial procedures. And all of the above is clear and unproblematic as long as academic institutions are financed at a different level than is the case with Central European universities: in Germany, universities receive about 2% GDP, in Scandinavia - about 3%. In Poland... 0,29% GDP.


Despite the fact that, theoretically, all scholars understand the financial restrictions of the system, academic publishing houses in Central and Eastern Europe function under constant pressure. Authors and editors, as well as the whole universities, expect from their presses to provide visibility and accessibility of publications similar to that enjoyed by colleagues in the West, although without sufficient financial means such an effect is simply untenable.


To address and solve the problem, the University of Silesia Press, together with Central and Eastern European Online Library, decided to invite academic publishers from various countries to a conference in Katowice with a view to establishing the Consortium of Central and Eastern European Academic Publishers. Such a consortium would apply for a grant in the Horizon 2020 program and create a common brand, thus strengthening their position in the academic book market. But perhaps even more importantly, such a tight collaboration would also make it possible for researchers representing universities in Central and Eastern Europe to achieve the goals measurable in terms of IF and Hirsch index, which now only big commercial institutions are in the position to warrant. 


The essential difference between CEEOL and other companies lies in the business model created by Wolfgang Klotz, the initiator, ideologist and the director of Central and Eastern European Online Library. In his model, the publisher feeds material into the CEEOL database and receives a percentage of the income generated by institutional and individual library subscriptions. CEEOL, which has been a strong presence in the academic book market for several years now, is a referential database with subscriptions of several hundred major libraries in Europe and North America. Therefore, it constitutes a realistic alternative for the commercial publishing companies whose service the academic publishers from Central and Eastern Europe simply cannot afford.


The conference of the Consortium of Central and Eastern European Academic Publishers gathered representatives of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences Press in Vilnius, Palacky University Press in Olomouc,  Central European University Press in Budapest,  Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences Press, „Śląsk” Academic Publishing, The Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library of the University of Silesia and publishers from Bulgaria, Romania and former Yugoslavia represented by proxy in the persons of Wolfgang and Bea Klotz of CEEOL. The debate allowed the publishers to reach an agreement in terms of a shared need for the common application for the EU grant, which would make it possible to create a common software system facilitating the document flow and warranting seamless integration of IT systems implemented in each of the institutions participating. It would also allow the Consortium to create a common system for sales and data access, standardized quality control, standardized license documents and contracts, and, on the part of CEEOL – the expansion of the database to include Environmental and Life Sciences. Finally, such a grant would help solidify the connection between the CEEOL bibliometric system and the institutions able to provide visibility and accessibility, measured with citation rates and impact factor: parameters essential to scholars of today.


Although formally the conference lasted two days – 6th and  7th of February 2015 – it continues virtually even now, since communication between participants is supported by an IT system with the help of which individual task packages (necessary for the project documentation), are being created and shared. Understanding the ancillary role that the publishing houses play in the system of academic research, the participants of the future Consortium already do their very best to render research by scholars and scientists from Central and Eastern Europe not only visible and available, but also recognized at the same level as works of their colleagues from the West. Such recognition requires visibility, accessibility and high parametrization indexes: the attainment of such a goal would certainly warrant that publishing houses of Central and Eastern Europe, producing thousands of valuable texts annually, will no longer seem "provincial" to anyone.


The University of Silesia Press and Central and Eastern European Online Library – as the co-initiators of the project – jointly extend their cordial invitation to all academic publishers from Central and Eastern Europe to enter into the collaboration on the project. All institutions interested in becoming one of the partners in the project are nkindly asked to contact the University of Silesia Press till mid April 2015, by sending an email to: monika.kowalczyk@us.edu.pl