Hot water research database as China’s top science academy suspends services over high subscription fees

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China’s leading national research and information publishing institution, the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) is in hot water on Chinese social media platforms after the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced on Monday the suspension of its services due to the website’s high subscription fees and “extremely harsh” subscription terms.

An email from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) went viral on Chinese Twitter Sina Weibo on Monday, condemning the subscription fees charged by the CNKI data center, which reached more than 10 million yuan (1 $.6 million) last year, adding that the cost has become a “giant burden” on CAS resources.

The email says that after many tough rounds of negotiations this year, the CNKI insisted on its millionaire membership renewal fee and put forward “extremely tough” requirements. As a result, the CAS can no longer access the CNKI database and the academy is considering other institutions to replace it, he said.

A CAS library staff member confirmed to the media on Monday the suspension of service. However, the CNKI said the message “is not true”.

The CNKI has already faced an angry backlash from Chinese universities for frequently raising its prices. Wuhan University of Technology suspended CNKI’s services in January 2016, saying subscription renewal fees “have skyrocketed”, adding that such behavior has been boycotted by many universities.

According to the university, the annual increase in fees by CNKI has exceeded 10% since 2000. Between 2010 and 2016, fees increased by 132.86%, with an average annual increase of 18.98%.

However, the university resumed use of the CNKI database one month after the suspension.

Peking University also suspended its cooperation with CNKI in 2016, saying it would not compromise in the face of soaring prices.

The topic soared to the top of the trending list on Weibo in just a few hours and netizens urged authorities to look into possible monopolistic practices involved in the case while others said that although it is understandable that the company has to charge operating costs for the database, there is no sense in raising the bar every year to a point that even the best scientific research institute in the country cannot afford .

In the first half of 2021, CNKI’s main business revenue reached 496 million yuan ($77.7 million), with a gross profit margin of 51.30 percent, according to the company’s financial report.

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