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 Leslie Eager, Director of Publishing Services for Project Euclid at Duke University Press about the project and her position.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your position.
I became the director of publishing services for Project Euclid just over a year ago and before that worked in marketing and sales for about five years, focusing on the academic library market. Project Euclid provides online hosting services for mathematics and statistics scholarship. I was attracted to the job because I believe in the mission, and I love that it’s a small shop where one person gets to operate in many sectors of the scholarly publishing business. I studied literature and did actually minor in math and physics without expecting it to ever come up again. But here we are! Not that my college background remotely equips me to understand new mathematical research–sadly, it doesn’t, and I don’t!–but I deeply admire the field and am glad to support it.
Euclid is a quite interesting project that is jointly managed by Cornell University Library and Duke University Press. It was started at Cornell in the early 2000s when journals just started going online. Folks at the library recognized the growing demand for online publishing suddenly required small publishers to confront a whole new set of technical skills and requirements. For math journals specifically, the need to get online prompted many formerly independent and inexpensive journals to sign up with the big commercial presses like Elsevier and Springer. The journals went online, but subscription prices rose dramatically. The Library, which has long been very innovative, had a great idea that they would provide an alternative way for small, non-profit, or society publishers to get their literature online while remaining independent. The solution was Project Euclid, an online content platform for mathematics and statistics scholarship that is easy-to-use and affordable but powerful enough to be competitive.
Duke University Press joined Cornell in running Euclid in 2008, and now the folks at the Library handle the technical side of the site, and the team at the Press handles the business: publisher relations, acquisitions, marketing and sales, customer relations, finances. It means my team, that works exclusively on Euclid, also collaborates with people in the marketing and sales department, the IT department, and other staff at the Press to make the program work. We partner with about 30 publishers located all over the world, and we host about 60 active titles. Some of the titles are subscription based, some of them are open access titles, and some of them are part of collections we sell to libraries. Every publisher controls their own business model and we try to provide the most functional and affordable hosting services possible.
What is the new direction for Project Euclid?
Over the last few years, our new partnerships have been more and more focused on open access models. I think mathematics is an especially idealistic and activist community, and mathematicians are speaking out forcefully against those publishing practices that tend to be very expensive and throw the entire ecosystem of library subscriptions out of whack. As a result, more and more journals are trying to cast off all those old subscription costs and operate as open access publications. Euclid tries to support this effort by providing low cost but still truly excellent hosting services to those journals. We also think it’s beneficial to be a part of the Euclid publishing community, even if you’re independent. Associating your publication with similar titles makes your open access journal more discoverable, and our specialization in mathematics and statistics allows us to make your content as compatible with other math research tools or library systems as possible. We are also trying to garner our resources to make as much material on the platform openly available as possible. Most subscription-based content on the site is governed by some kind of moving access wall determined by the publishers that makes the literature freely available after three, four, or five years. The Euclid Prime collection we sell to libraries is composed of 28 titles and after five years all of that journal content becomes open access. All told, over 70% of the articles on the site are freely available to anyone with internet access.
What are your top priorities for Project Euclid?
One of my top priorities is to communicate as effectively as possible what value Project Euclid can bring to the publishing ecosystem. Publishers have a lot of options these days. If they want it to be open access, there could be a strong temptation to sign up for a WordPress site and start throwing articles up there. This is quick and really inexpensive, but at the end of the day, they’re losing out on the kind of functionality that will actually make their journal influential and competitive with all the other big publishers that have tons of resources. So I want to communicate the practical value Euclid is providing in disseminating scholarship. I want us to be affordable but still realistic about what it means to operate a sustainable project in the current market.
Another one of my top priorities was acquiring new content for the platform, and it’s been incredibly encouraging and rewarding because we were able to add 11 new journals to the platform in 2017. That’s a combination of open access, subscription-based, and collection-based content. It feels really energizing that what I thought was going to be the most challenging piece of my job—forming new partnerships—is actually the thing that has been by far the biggest success in the very first year. It suggests there are still a lot of journals out there that could benefit from Euclid’s services.
How is the project financially structured?
Publishers join Project Euclid under a couple of different publishing hosting models. If they want to control all of their own marketing and sales, and they only want Euclid for hosting services, they just pay us a straight set of hosting fees based on the amount of content they publish and whether they’re open access or subscription based.
On the other hand if you’re a publisher that wants hosting services but also wants support in marketing and sales, then they can join our Euclid Prime collection. This is the collection we sell to libraries on behalf of publishers. At the end of the year, the revenue we generate from those sales is divided, and part of the money supports Euclid’s operations, and part of the money is paid out to publishers as royalties. We’re really happy the revenue from Euclid Prime sales is part of what makes it possible for us to offer these really affordable hosting fee prices to open access titles. Overall we like to think there’s balance: we hope the collections we’re selling to libraries provide good value for the library but also contribute to our mission to make as much as much of the content freely available as possible.
What are the goals you have for Project Euclid?
One of our projects for the next year is to do an exploratory audit of what is available out in the world when it comes to hosting platforms. Right now our platform is entirely homegrown and based at Cornell, but we always want to make sure we’re offering the most relevant and affordable functionality we can so we’re planning a request for information process to see what other kinds of technical solutions there are in the market and whether they would serve our customers any better.
I continue to be really focused on building new partnerships, especially trying to bring new partners into the Euclid Prime collection. We think this is a really, really good way for publishers to generate sustainable revenue streams while still being really good citizens of the mathematics community and not over burdening libraries with excessive costs. I’m always in talks with new partner publishers and trying to help them make a decision to join our collection.
Our biggest new product for 2018 is our new joint partnership with MSP and Duke University Press to offer MSP on Euclid, a collection of seven journals available to libraries. MSP is a fine organization with a similar size and mission, and we hope that cooperating in a competitive marketplace will generate new opportunities for all three partners.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The most rewarding part of being on the Project Euclid team is that we are a truly mission-driven operation, and our only goal is to provide services that can help make content as available and excellent and discoverable as possible. There’s a really committed group of librarians and scholars and publishing professionals who are invested in that mission, and they come up with lots of creative ideas to push it forward. I’ve enjoyed learning from them and developing new strategies for being the best possible citizen of the scholarly publishing community.