Libraries and Publishers Working Together: An Interview with Project Euclid Co-Director Mira Waller

Project Euclid is a not-for-profit hosting and publishing platform for the mathematics and statistics communities, administered jointly by Cornell University Library and Duke University Press. We recently chatted with Mira Waller, Director of Publishing Services for Project Euclid at Duke University Press, to learn more about Project Euclid and its role in the mathematics and statistics publishing for our Journals Publishing Series.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

Project Euclid Co-Director Mira Waller

Project Euclid Co-Director and Director of Publishing Services Mira Waller

My name is Mira Waller, one of two co-directors of Project Euclid: the other co-director is David Ruddy of Cornell University Library. We have slightly different roles: my title is Director of Publishing Services, and I focus more on Project Euclid’s financial operationswhich involves making sure that revenues grow reasonably, that our expenses are appropriate, and that we share royalties fairly—and maintaining relationships with publishers, mathematicians, and libraries.

I came to Duke University Press in 2008 specifically to work with Project Euclid. Previously, I was the assistant director of the Archives at the Duke University Medical Library & Archives. In that role, I participated in management meetings where I learned about the difficult collection choices we had to make due to budget constraints. When I saw this position open at the Press, I really jumped at the opportunity, because it felt like I could actively do something about the problem by supporting high-quality academic publishing in an affordable and sustainable way.

What’s the story behind Project Euclid? How did it come about?

Project EuclidIn the 1990s there was a serials crisis, where journal prices were rising and library budgets dropping. During this period libraries were feeling crunched financially, so there was a lot of funding spent to build databases that would make electronic access to content simpler. Before the late 90s, mathematics journals were still mostly consumed in print, primarily because math was hard to read online. In addition, a large portion of math journals were (and continue to be) published by small, independent publishers and departments. So, while larger publishers were beginning to move online, the mathematics discipline was a little behind the curve.

At this time, Duke University Press and the Duke Mathematical Journal (DMJ) were looking to go online; at the same time, the Cornell University Library, which has a strong digital archive presence, was asked by mathematicians to look at help mathematics journals move online. So both Duke UP and Cornell Library were looking for ways to get math journals online in a sustainable way. The two parties were introduced through the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), which now is focused on open access, but at the time was about finding sustainable, affordable pricing models for both libraries and publishers. With input from Duke UP, Cornell Library wrote a proposal to study how to get mathematics journals online and received a Mellon grant to study the problem and then later to launch the results of that study. That started in 1999, and the next few years were spent investigating possible solutions and getting publishers on board. Cornell Library launched Project Euclid in 2003 with 19 journals, and from the beginning DMJ was on the platform.

Cornell Library continued managing the project, but they discovered that they needed to either replicate a publisher or partner with one: while very good at the technical infrastructure, it wasn’t equipped, as an academic library, to do sales and customer service such as the project required. Terry Ehling, who was in charge of the project at Cornell Library, began talking with Erich Staib (Senior Editor Duke UP) to explore a possible partnership, and with help from across the two organizations, they developed a plan to move the partnership forward. Duke UP and Cornell Library then hammered out a venture agreement which clearly defines everyone’s roles and makes the partnership workable.

How does it work, having a library and a publisher working together on a project like this?

Instead of having a single management group, there is a governing cabinet, which is made up of both the Duke UP and Cornell Library directors (Steve Cohn of Duke UP and Anne Kenney of Cornell Library), the Project Euclid co-directors, and Erich Staib and Oya Reiger (Associate University Librarian at Cornell Library). They meet once a year in person to talk through any issues. It was in 2008 that this venture agreement started, and my position was created at the Press just to run Project Euclid. So I have been here at Duke UP since 2008, and David Ruddy, at Cornell Library, has been with Project Euclid since its beginnings in 1999.

It says something quite wonderful about Duke UP that it can co-create and co-manage Project Euclid. It’s a very unique inter-institutional and inter-operational collaboration and we are able to make it work. It says a lot about who we are and how we operate, and that we can be good partners with libraries.

Project-EuclidWhat does Project Euclid do for academics, editors, and publishers?

We provide a single location for scholarship on mathematics and statistics; it may not seem like it, but one of the strengths of Project Euclid is its focus on one subject area, which is a service for scholars, editors, and librarians. It provides alternatives for those who are producing content to publish and have their work in a place that isn’t in one of four of five big commercial publishers: you don’t have to feel like you are giving up your identity. Around 70% of Project Euclid is open access—wide open access; we can’t make everything open, but we want to support those publications that really value that. We also provide a way for historical materials to be accessed reliably. Math is a discipline where the historical material is important, it doesn’t go stale—we support digitizing that material and making it freely available to anyone.

The Project Euclid mission statement shows the careful, strategic planning that underpins our continuing growth. It originally focused on the dissemination of mathematics research and helping independent, not-for-profit publishers get online, but now it focuses on the cooperation of three major segments of the scholarly communication ecosystem:

Project Euclid’s mission is to provide powerful, low-cost online hosting and publishing services for theoretical and applied mathematics and statistics scholarship worldwide. As a non-profit community-driven international partnership of academic libraries, independent and society scholarly publishers, and scholars, Project Euclid actively supports broad, sustainable access to this scholarship.

When crafting this mission statement, we wanted to make sure that all three of those different stakeholder groups were represented.

How has Project Euclid changed over the past few years? Where is it going?

One of the things that’s become clear to us is that as technology changes, so changes how scholarly knowledge is served to the community. We want to provide for the community an online mechanism for disseminating knowledge no matter what form it takes, so independent editors can focus on the scholarship and don’t have to feel forced to pick a commercial option to keep up with the pace of change.

Now that Project Euclid is self-sustaining, we really want to give back to the math and stats communities, so we are going to be investing more heavily in the digitization of old material that isn’t as accessible anymore, and make it available to future scholars.

We have had new members come onto our advisory board that will make it even more active, including international scholars, librarians, publishers, and both mathematicians and statisticians. Everyone signs a statement when joining the advisory board:

We as advisory board members will support Project Euclid in its efforts to provide powerful, low-cost electronic hosting and online publishing services to not-for-profit, independent, and society publishers of mathematics and statistics, we support Project Euclid in its efforts to provide broad sustainable and affordable access to the scholarship, and we support Project Euclid in its efforts to actively support the global creation and dissemination of mathematics and statistics.

These are our stakeholders, and we want to continue to improve our understanding of what they want.

All of Duke University Press’ mathematics journals are hosted on Project Euclid. You can learn more about Project Euclid on its website, and more about the history of Project Euclid by reading “The Coefficient Partnership: Project Euclid, Cornell University Library and Duke University Press” by Terry Ehling and Erich Staib. Make sure to connect with Project Euclid on Twitter and Google+.

Interested in publishing in mathematics? Read our previous post, “Publishing in a Discipline: All About Math Journals with Senior Managing Editor Ray Lambert.”

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