Scientist meets publisher: the video

Academic knowledge is boxed in by exclusive, expensive journals.

Scientists – myself included – are increasingly frustrated by the outmoded academic publishing system.

The situation as it stands made sense in the pre-internet era, when one needed a printing press to distribute articles, but here in 2011 our antiquated approach looks absurd.

Put simply, you shouldn’t have to pay to read research articles by academics any more than you should have to pay to read articles on this website. On the internet, the costs of publishing are low.

It’s an unfortunate legacy of the printing-press era that corporate publishers own the journals in which most research articles appear.

The subscription fees are sometimes exorbitant – more than US$11,000 per year for a subscription to Experimental Brain Research, or about $300 for a single issue of that journal.

For a university’s researchers to read such articles, the university must subscribe to these journals.

Few individuals or small businesses can afford such rates. And so a lot of knowledge remains locked away, which is just silly because the taxpayer funds most research, including my own.

And by paying my salary (through the government’s grants to universities), the taxpayer has also paid me, in effect, to write the articles.

There are remedies available, as explained by some of the articles already published on this topic in The Conversation, and things are (slowly) changing for the better.

A large part of the problem is that many researchers don’t realise how silly the system is, and don’t know about the alternatives.

To illustrate how absurd the publishing system is, a colleague and I have put together a video called Scientist Meets Publisher. Enjoy!