Clarivate To Acquire ProQuest

On May 17, Clarivate announced a definitive agreement to acquire ProQuest from Cambridge Information Group for $5.3 billion. Pending regulatory approvals, the transaction is expected to close during the third quarter of 2021.

Clarivate and ProQuest logos on a wavy backgroundOn May 17, Clarivate announced a definitive agreement to acquire ProQuest from Cambridge Information Group for $5.3 billion, including approximately $4 billion in cash and $1.3 billion in Clarivate stock. Pending regulatory approvals, the transaction is expected to close during the third quarter of 2021.

The deal marks another significant consolidation of companies serving libraries and academia. Clarivate was formed in 2016 when investment management and private equity companies Onex Corporation and Baring Private Equity Asia purchased Thomson Reuters’ Intellectual Property and Science businesses. The company operates services for researchers including Web of Science, Converis, InCites, Publons, EndNote, and Kopernio; the ScholarOne workflow management system for scholarly journals, books, and conferences; pharmaceutical industry intelligence provider Cortellis; and intellectual property services including CPA Global, Derwent, CompuMark, and MarkMonitor. ProQuest has grown significantly through acquisition during the past decade, buying ebrary in 2011, EBL (Ebook Library) in 2013, Coutts Information Services and Ex Libris in 2015, Alexander Street in 2016, and RapidILL and Innovative Interfaces (both through its subsidiary Ex Libris) in 2019. Innovative had acquired Polaris Library Systems and VTLS in 2014.

In a conference call with investors, Jerre Stead, executive chairman and CEO of Clarivate, said, “This proposed acquisition will create a global leader in academic, government, and research content with enhanced software and analytics capabilities. With our highly complementary products, we will be in an even better position to serve the evolving needs of researchers, learners, and innovators in academia, government, corporations, schools, and libraries around the world. The combination will enrich our value chain across the research lifecycle with products that largely serve different needs. It will enhance our capabilities to offer customers a unique value proposition across content, analytics, and workflow solutions.”

ProQuest CEO Matti Shem Tov said in an announcement that “Through this combination, ProQuest will be enabled to better serve the evolving needs of our customers by providing end-to-end solutions to our customers faster than we could on our own as well as expanding our global reach beyond our current capabilities.”

In an analysis of the deal published on the website of the American Library Association’s American Libraries magazine, library technology consultant Marshall Breeding wrote that the acquisition “will not substantially affect the products and services purchased by libraries [through ProQuest] since Clarivate’s products and services do not typically compete in the library market. As part of Clarivate, ProQuest and its technology businesses Ex Libris and Innovative Interfaces potentially gain access to resources that will strengthen its capacity in product development and support.”

In addition, Breeding noted that academic libraries have been “increasingly interested in being involved in earlier stages of research, such as offering services that can strengthen institutional research capacity,” and that the combination of the companies could potentially give libraries a stronger position in these efforts.

In a post on The Scholarly Kitchen Roger Schonfeld, director of lLibraries, scholarly communication, and museums for Ithaka S+R, noted that the Ex Libris Alma platform “provides a strong foundation for additional products and services” and that “it will not come as a surprise to see [Ex Libris and ProQuest’s product teams] influencing the development of the Web of Science suite of services in the coming years. I expect to see service improvements and integrations for products for researchers and the research enterprise, anchored by a continued effort to seek additional revenues outside the library.”

However, Schonfeld added that “While the parties put on a strong game face about the opportunities to provide researcher services from K–12 on up, it is not clear that the content and services that ProQuest provides for school and public libraries really fit into Clarivate’s vision for its Science business,” the division of Clarivate that ProQuest will presumably join. 

In addition, he noted that the two companies have “different corporate mindsets” which could potentially pose challenges during integration. “ProQuest’s main customer base is the library, its products are optimized around library practices and needs, and it has built sales and customer service organizations that engage this community effectively. By contrast, in what was its Web of Science group, Clarivate has been more aligned with scholarly publishing and academic science, has introduced relatively few products to the library market, and has faced some challenges in global sales for new products, for example Converis.”

Clarivate is anticipating $100 million in savings, which Schonfeld believes will come partly through consolidated sales operations. But the company is also forecasting revenue growth based on cross-selling opportunities. “Achieving this objective, across two different approaches to sales while reducing sales operations, is no easy task,” he wrote. 

Several librarians and researchers responded with concern about both consolidation and other repercussions for the field.

Dale Askey, vice provost, library and museums, and chief librarian at the University of Alberta, tweeted that “This cannot lead to good outcomes for us as customers of both, sorry. We (libraries) created one of these monsters and fed the other, so what are we going to do to end this absurdity?”

On Common Place, a publication of the Knowledge Futures Group, Gabriel Stein, Travis Rich, Zach Verdin, and Catherine Ahearn contend that the deal is another troubling sign about the direction that academic publishing, analytics, and research are headed.

“These days, Elsevier and other major publishing companies operate more like Clarivate, an analytics company that not only mines data from their own products and services, like Web of Science, but also privatizes open data sets to their advantage,” they wrote. “Soon enough, most research will be ‘open,’ but it won’t be without cost. If the academy becomes evermore intertwined with the business of selling analytics for profit, our decisions as researchers, archivists, and publishers will become even less aligned with the needs of knowledge production and more aligned with the needs of appeasing commercial algorithms that have different definitions of ‘success.’”

Stein, Rich, Verdin, and Ahearn added that changes to traditional academic publishing processes during the COVID-19 pandemic present a rare opportunity for academia to shift toward new models that are “open, flexible, and resistant to the corporatization of knowledge…. Preprints, once marginalized in all but a few disciplines, are now flourishing in traditionally resistant fields. Researchers across the globe and disciplines are demanding shorter and shorter review times on work that’s evermore timely and, in many cases, making do with informal and rapid evaluations of preprints conducted independently of a traditional journal submission process. At the same time, this rapid sharing of knowledge is being picked up by journalists and news outlets in their mission to inform an increasingly concerned and curious public, demonstrating the value and impact of open science like never before…. This emergent model, often described as Publish, Review, Curate (PRC), is shifting the Overton window on what constitutes a valuable contribution to knowledge.”

While his post does not directly engage with the article advocating for the PRC model, Schonfeld notes that the library field has long “tried to resist or decouple from what many see as an increasingly corporatized landscape. But, as the research enterprise takes on a larger role in university strategy, the requisite platforms and tools will only grow in scale. Providing for increasingly sophisticated platforms at scale requires a substantial investment of capital. Organizational forms and business models that can provide for these needs will continue to win out.”

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Matt Enis

menis@mediasourceinc.com

@MatthewEnis

Matt Enis (matthewenis.com) is Senior Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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