Tim Buckley Owen Pricing - time to end the poker game?
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By Tim Buckley Owen

Abstract

A new survey from LinkedIn shows over a third of professionals are hesitant in dealing with financial transactions, some likening the process to a poker game. Information professionals seem more confident in this area and their superior negotiating skills have trumped Elsevier leading to a potential boycott of the company. Readers and researchers want open access.

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Many professionals are surprisingly shy about negotiating, says a new survey from LinkedIn. In a poll of more than 2,000 professionals in eight countries, 35% of people reported feeling anxious or frightened about negotiating to ask for a salary rise or close a business deal.

Over a fifth of the respondents compared negotiating to a poker game, where players are forced to make moves based on incomplete information. It’s an interesting analogy, and one that will resonate with information professionals.

If the findings are accurate, then the results should show up in salary surveys. We’ll have to wait till later this year for the Special Library Association’s next survey – but the last one, in 2009, actually showed healthy increases for information professionals in the United States and Canada, despite the credit crunch (LiveWire comment from Anne Jordan here). Not much anxiety about negotiating there then, it seems.

What’s more, a survey carried out at the same time by the SLA and Shore Communications led LiveWire to speculate that tough purchasing decisions might be one of the characteristics of information professionals that employers would be willing to pay for. If so, FreePint’s confidential benchmarking service on pricing might help, providing as it does insight into how individual content contracts compare with industry norms, and into the variables that go into vendor negotiations.

If LinkedIn’s poker game analogy applies anywhere it’s to pricing negotiations, where vendors routinely slap on a confidentiality clause prohibiting customers from discussing how much they’ve paid. That’s certainly the case with big academic publishers like Elsevier – and it seems that, at last, researchers and librarians have said enough is enough.

Elsevier is currently facing the risk of a boycott of its journals, in a campaign called The Cost of Knowledge, to which almost 10,000 researchers have signed up so far. It’s recently gained weight from the respected medical research institute the Wellcome Trust, which has said in a position statement that it now expects all the research it funds to be made available through open access sources.

But British academic librarians are actually ahead of the curve on this. Around a year ago Research Libraries UK (RLUK) set up the Affordable Subscriptions for Periodicals Initiative and instructed the Joint Information Systems Committee, which negotiates big journal deals on its behalf, to impose tough terms on the largest publishers.

In the last round, in 2011, JISC did indeed secure better terms from both Elsevier and Wiley-Blackwell. Welcoming the results, RLUK said that it was now looking for the removal of the confidentiality clauses that LinkedIn suggested turned the whole process into a poker game.

If it gets bad enough, it seems that we can all shed our negotiating inhibitions.

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