Electronic scientific databases are some of the main resources for researchers and students, publishing and storing scientific production: e-journals, books, pieces of research, statistics and other kinds of information. Starting from the 1st of April, once the EU-funded project which covered most of the subscription fees ends, Vilnius University community will have to content themselves with fewer databases. Subscriptions to more than 30 databases will have to be cut short, which means that researchers and students will no longer be able to access hundreds of thousands of electronic scientific information resources through the VU library.
Project was helpful for more than 10 years
eMoDB: Elektroninių mokslo duomenų bazių atvėrimas Lietuvai (Opening the electronic scientific databases for Lithuania), the project which ensured database (DB) subscription, has been financing most of the DBs, which were used not only by VU, but by other universities, colleges and research institutes of Lithuania, too, from scientists and researchers to students, for more than ten years. The total budget of the final stage of the project, which has been underway for the last four years, was €31.5m, of which more than €26m were covered by the EU fund and the remaining €4.7m were allocated by the participating science institutions themselves. VU’s contribution of €1.2m was the biggest in this stage.
When the EU structural funding comes to an end, the saved funds of the project (€2.7m) will be used to buy some of the licences (for 11 DBs) in 2021. Unfortunately, when the project is over, no university in Lithuania is, nor will probably ever be able to pay the hundreds of thousands of euros in subscription fees alone without government support, Irena Krivienė, managing director of VU library, says.
“Depending on the database, the price of a yearly licence can range from a few thousand to several hundred thousand euros. For instance, the yearly subscription to one of the most popular databases at VU library, Science Direct Journals, costs VU library about €270,000 (the total for all Lithuanian science institutions amounts to €1m). We need dozens of different databases in order to meet the needs of all the researchers engaged in science,” says Mrs Krivienė. The financing issue, she says, was discussed at the Education and Science Committee in the Seimas, but as additional funding was not found, the VU community will have to come to terms with the new situation and a considerably lower number of DBs.
VU library users currently have access to 90 DBs, which host about 616,000 titles. Once the project is over, the total number of accessible DBs will drop to 58 (find the full list here).
Documents used in millions
That DBs are crucial sources of information for the VU community is attested by their very high usage metrics. Based on the library’s data, in 2020, VU researchers, teachers and students downloaded or read online over 1.7m full-text documents hosted on DBs, and the numbers are increasing every year.
Irena Krivienė claims that the trend in the growing demand for electronic resources used in research and studies is the same for academic libraries all around the globe; it has also been observed at VU library for almost ten years now. “The use of DBs has escalated in recent years. For example, compared to 2019, the number of full-text document downloads in 2020 increased almost 26 per cent,” says director Krivienė.
This sharp rise in e-resource usage in recent months could be associated with the pandemic, when work and studies went remote and convenient, quick access to e-documents, unlimited by space or time, has become more important than ever before.
The biggest numbers of downloads are recorded in multidisciplinary, or universal, DBs, where users gain access to scientific information of various domains. Statistics show that VU students and teachers last year downloaded an impressive 330,000 full-text documents from Science Direct Journals alone, followed by almost 280,000 documents from Academic Complete (ProQuest) and more than 100,000 from SpringerLink Journals and Wiley Online Library each.
Some of the DBs are especially important to researchers due to research assessment metrics provided there, which serve to help analyse the achievements of researchers and science institutions, as well as the quality and prestige of science journals. One of them, Scopus, which provides citing information, will no longer appear on the subscribed resource list for the VU community to use after 1 April.
Indispensable in scientific processes
Even though subscriptions to the most used databases will be retained thanks to the university funding, the loss of others may negatively affect researchers’ work. According to Dr Nerija Putinaitė, an associate professor at VU Institute of International Relations and Political Science, the number of databases the university has been subscribed to was already the minimum, and in countries where research is conducted, governments allocate funding for database subscriptions. For the scientists to be able to do research and do it well, databases are vital, says the researcher.
“It is [to us] what a screwdriver and screws are to a mechanic or a hammer to a nail driver. Without it, you canʼt do not only good science but any science whatsoever. No databases equal no scientific research happening,” remarked Dr Nerija Putinaitė on her personal Facebook account, in disappointment about the DB decrease.
That electronic resources are particularly necessary in the work of the researcher, is also indisputable to Professor Edita Sužiedėlienė, the pro-rector for research at VU. She believes that full access to these sources of scientific data has already become inseparable from research infrastructure and has a significant impact on the scientific process, its quality, researcher training and competences, international competitiveness of the research and development results.
“Sustainable long-term investment in access to electronic scientific DBs must become an obligatory part of the basic funding of scientific activity, ensuring that researchers have the chance to make use of the most recent scientific knowledge and data and creating the prerequisites for future research and development,” says the pro-rector.
Lack of DBs will also affect the students, for whom e-resources have already become some of the most important tools, used in preparation for lectures or doing graded projects. “Access to various scientific publications and electronic databases is very important to us students, in the study process,” says the president of the VU Studentsʼ Representation Justas Kvederavičius. According to the studentsʼ representative, the diversity of learning resources, their quality and accessibility are an indispensable part of quality studies, as it provides the foundation for a studentʼs individual work.
Under these challenging circumstances, usage, relevance and quality of the content of the databases evaluated, a list of the most important databases has been compiled and their subscription has been renewed within available means, thus saving the access to the vital e-resources.
To find out, which subscriptions are continued and which are cancelled from 1 April, please check the full database list here.