Sections

Services

Information

UK United Kingdom

The great publishing swindle: the high price of academic knowledge

One of the great outrages of academia in the modern age is the privatisation of the profits accruing to publicly-financed knowledge. One form is that of academic journals, a primary method of disseminating…

Academic publishing firms have been all too keen to monopolise a crucial public good: academic knowledge. giulia.forsythe

One of the great outrages of academia in the modern age is the privatisation of the profits accruing to publicly-financed knowledge. One form is that of academic journals, a primary method of disseminating scientific ideas and information among individuals and groups operating within universities, research and development (R&D) centers, knowledge-intensive institutions, and so on.

Some light was shed on this outrage recently with an article published in the conservative Economist magazine. It called the academic journal business “a licence to print money”, on the basis of the enormous profits that industry makes from providing licenses to access its depository of journals. The article noted that an annual subscription to a chemistry journal costs $US20,269, while a mathematics journal costs $US20,100.

The largest academic journal firm, Elsevier, made a staggering profit margin of 37% in 2011, up from 36% in 2010. This resulted in profits of £768 million from revenue of £2.1 billion. Even the hugely state-subsidised FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate) sector would be hard pushed to realise profit margins of this magnitude. Clearly, in terms of market returns, there is something seriously wrong with the way this industry operates, indicating excess levels of non-competitive profits.

The problem, however, is obvious to see. Academic journals, as with much of today’s R&D outputs and creative art, are protected by a medieval government monopoly created during the time of the feudal guilds: copyright. This is one of the elements of the umbrella known as intellectual property rights (IPRs), or as should be more accurately termed, intellectual monopoly privileges (IMPs). The latter terminology stems from the recognition that IMPs are a privilege granted by the state to some favoured party, in this case, the private sector.

IMPs restrict everyone except the license holder (and authorised parties) from creating and distributing copies of the protected item, thus bestowing a monopoly to the holder. Unlike traditional industrial monopolies, for instance, airports or telecommunications that exist due to economies of scale and thus lower prices, IMPs have the reverse (and perverse) effect. They can raise prices by several thousand percent about the cost of production, whether it be journals, medicines, or software.

Previously, universities provided subsidies to cover the cost of producing journals, but defunding, combined with incentives to relinquish journals to for-profit firms, has seen industry acquire the vast majority of market share.

Academic journals are a public good. What marks their importance is not the paper that comprises the journal, but the knowledge embedded within it. The vast majority of journal content is produced overwhelmingly by academics from the university sector. This sector is subsidised in a variety of ways by governments, as it is seen as another public good. Academics, however, are not paid to be the authors of papers, even though these papers represent the continual advancement of science and understanding of our world.

Some journals even require that potential authors pay a fee to have their manuscripts considered. The editors and reviewers are typically academics, usually unpaid like the contributors. One would think that considering that the scientific knowledge embodied in journals is a public good, produced within a university sector subsidised by taxpayers, edited and reviewed without charge, and can be reproduced at zero cost electronically on the internet, they should either be made available for free and/or for a nominal charge to cover the cost of printing.

Clearly, the opposite has occurred. Tens of thousands of academic journals are owned by a handful of corporations that set onerous terms for licensing. The worst, of course, is the monopolistic pricing. Bundling is another perverse practice: for instance, if a university library needs access to a single journal, it can’t be purchased individually, but rather as part of a bundle of journals, which radically increases costs. This is simply a method of extracting as much revenue - and hence profit - from universities. There are no substitutes for individual papers and journals; if someone needs to gain access to a specific article, they can’t make do with another that is similar in content. Also, those who use journals are not the ones who purchase them; consumers are accordingly price-insensitive.

As industry has undergone merger and acquisitions activity over the decades, prices have invariably increased as firms wield ever more market power. It should come as little surprise that journals cost as much as they do. Unfortunately, there is little data about the cost of access to journals in Australia.

The arguments for the privatisation of journals are flimsy at best. Perhaps some may say that journals need to be privately owned (courtesy of government intervention) to ensure innovation and creation of new market niches and that business and technical expertise are lacking within universities. The real innovation in this context, however, is the content, not the method of delivery. Printing hardcopy journals has existed for ages and can be carried out by publishers, whether in the public or private sectors. Creating electronic copies to be put on the internet is hardly innovative.

After all, universities are the locus of innovation in our economy, and have a veritable army of business, management and IT academics and specialists who can help provide the necessary expertise. Many universities already have their own book publishing presses, so it is a minor step to include journal publishing.

The current arrangement is utterly perverse. Those who do the productive work get nothing in terms of monetary compensation, yet firms reap massive profits (economic rents). Economic efficiency requires that consumers be charged the marginal cost, but have no choice but to accept monopolistic pricing.

There is no natural law that ensures this state of events. In a rational system, those who do the work should get paid directly for their efforts. Accordingly, a system of public financing should be set up to pay a lump sum to all authors who have a paper accepted in a journal, and perhaps a small prize fund to provide rewards to those who have authored scientifically important and/or popular papers. Editors and reviewers should be paid the prevailing market wage for their work, along with those who publish the journals, whether in print or electronically online.

Instead of having to access journals online through a myriad of security features, they should be made available for anyone to access and make copies if they so wish. This achieves two outcomes: consumers are charged the marginal cost (in this case, nothing) and scientific knowledge is freely available to all.

It is quite possible that with the aggregate amount of money that Australian universities and other institutions spend every year on financing access to privately-owned journals, it could be used to finance a far more efficient system of journal production - rewarding authors, reviewers, editors, and publishers, without gouging consumers and end-users, while promoting a more effective dissemination of scientific knowledge.

Join the conversation

49 Comments sorted by

  1. Grendelus Malleolus

    Senior Nerd

    *Loud Applause*

    As a student currently needing access to journals AND studying economics I thank you deeply for this dismemberment of an egregious market failure.

    report
  2. Ken Young

    logged in via Twitter

    This is a very important issue for the charity and not-for-profit sector. We need access to current journals to improve service delivery, research emerging issues and treatment modalities and to make effetive submissions to funders by including latest research findings. Without access to research journals we are behind the 8-Ball. Thankyou for this article.

    report
    1. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Ken Young

      Good point Ken - unless organisations have staff actively engaged in tertiary studies, and thus with online access to resources, there is no way that small organisations can affort to purchase journal access.

      report
  3. Financial Freepress

    logged in via Twitter

    Well done Philip for pushing this issue to the fore. The privatisation of the public good is a common problem - having just witnessed first-hand how far a non-profit like Choice has drifted from its mandate. It is time for the pendulum to reverse course.

    As an aside, happened to be looking for a particular 'Yes, Minister' quote and stumbled upon this - it seemed strangely relevant:

    "The surprising things about academics is not that they have their price, but how low that price is."

    regards
    Rohan

    report
  4. Gillian King

    logged in via Facebook

    It's nice to see a description of the problem. Will someone follow up with an analysis of possible solutions?

    I understand that some grants require that any research be published in open journals with free access. Is this a growing trend?

    What are some funding sources for new open-access journals? Govt? Universities? Philanthropists? Can we just let the old ones wither on the vine, even if they are prestigious names with fine histories?

    Where are the leverage points in bringing change?

    report
  5. Robert Richardson

    logged in via Facebook

    Perhaps the Conversation and it's founding members can take the site to the next logical step and publish research from various disciplines, from its member institutions, as free to download PDFs. As an external post-grad student it is a constant headache to find just the right article online and then have access restricted unless costly subscriptions or fees are paid. Especially when one requires information across various disciplines. If as the article indicates researchers receive nothing except their grant or funding to produce the research 'why not' is the only conclusion. The Conversation's partner institutions are large enough to start a cascade away from the journal publishers toward a freer flow of scientific information and greater exposure for the researchers work.

    report
    1. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Robert Richardson

      Yes, I do agree with you, Robert, it's no big deal. Most of my work for years was external, field research requiring reliable Internet access. To achieve that as far back as 25 years ago I simply built my own custom systems.

      For all those years I simply posted copies of my own conference papers and peer-reviewed journal articles to my own websites without any issue arising, with the original publishers or anybody else. Like most academics I am really only concerned with proper accreditation and…

      Read more
    2. Robert Richardson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Robert Richardson

      Hi Gil,

      I completely agree. As someone with web CMS experience I know how easy it is to set up an online download repository, and store.

      From what I can tell the major sticking point is reputation. As Chris Lloyd mentioned, "top journals have snookered the market in reputation and quality control". My argument, probably not clear enough, probably naive, is that this quality control process needs to be taken out of private (or commercial at least) hands, altogether. I find it hard to believe…

      Read more
  6. Fred Pribac

    logged in via email @internode.on.net

    From the point of view of an ex-scientist now working in local government on sustainability, energy efficiency and climate change adaptation measures, I can only applaud this article.

    There is an operational fragility (and often a downright failure) in transference of academic findings to application in governance. This happens for many reasons but it is definitely also hampered by the prohibitive cost of accessing published information.

    $30 for download of an article of as little as 2 PDF pages that may, or may-not, give useful insights is a criminal rip-off!

    report
  7. Chris Lloyd

    Professor of Business Statistics, Melbourne Business School at University of Melbourne

    I put all my research on bepress for free download. This is legal, provided the article is not identical to the published copy and does not carry the publisher logo. The problem is that people cannot find it easily. So what is needed is an electronic repository which a good search function – like SSRN. This strikes me as something the government could do.

    You have missed a key point though. Even with an electronic repository, I will still send my research to journals because I get judged on the quality of the article by the quality of the journal. Top journals, mostly private, have snookered the market in reputation and quality control. It is hard to break this, unless the electronic repository can start to judge quality as well. I have blogged about this issue here (http://blogs.mbs.edu/fishing-in-the-bay/?p=119). Only a big organisation like the Academy of Science could take on paradigm-breaking project like this.

    report
    1. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Chris Lloyd

      That's an important issue - when I read: "Academic journals are a public good. What marks their importance is not the paper that comprises the journal, but the knowledge embedded within it. " I thought that what marks their importance is the value they provide in giving their imprimatur to what they publish.

      Does the ARC still rate articles according to which journal they're published in? If so that's the kind of handy service academic journals provide. Would you rather be published by Elsevier…

      Read more
    2. Robert Richardson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris Lloyd

      If peer review entails academics lending their time cheaply, sometimes gratis, to review articles for commercial interests to sell on or back to the academic community, why support third wheel at all. Why not gather networks of academics, a few thousand are right here, on sites like the Conversation or the proposed site Jimmy Wales will put together, have a peer review function, and Bob's your uncle, convenient by area access, peer reviewed by communities, not for profit, or an iTunesish $0.99 an article (to go to the author?). Surely paper journals are something we should be looking at phasing out all together anyway.

      report
    3. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Chris Lloyd

      Hi Robert,

      I'm supposing that the reason what you suggest hasn't happened, despite the problem being talked about for 10 years, is that, in fact, it isn't easy to reinvent all that organisation and expertise built up by the commercial publishers.

      The academic journals don't need to be paper, they can email you an ebook version instead, but the benefit is that you don't need to worry about the quality and it's the time honoured way for professionals to keep up-to-date: to subscribe to the main…

      Read more
    4. Robert Richardson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris Lloyd

      Hi Russel,

      I sort of anticipated your reply and should have stated above that I do appreciate exactly what it is you are saying. I also agree that the library cataloging route would be the fastest way to reduce the clout or IMPs of the publishers. Surely though infrastructure can be built up, we can uncover facts about the state of the universe, but can't organize a process for review? Maybe not in a year or five but by the end of another decade sites like this one, should be able to transfer…

      Read more
    5. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Chris Lloyd

      You could be right Robert - people younger than me would probably like to get a tweet every few minutes about some new article being added to some website or other ....

      But I like the old structure of academic journals - I would walk along the racks of the latest issues, knowing the titles I wanted to look at, and could browse the titles of the articles on the front cover of each journal. So, for example,I would know that I'd look at the Journal of Popular Culture because it reliably published…

      Read more
    6. Robert Richardson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris Lloyd

      Your description of walking along the racks takes me back to a time when I had access to a library - irresistible. I guess my perspective, living working and studying in a non English speaking country, but requiring access to quality journals, is affecting the way I look at the situation. I certainly hope both of our experiences can be accommodated, first by your suggestion and then later when those thousand flowers bloom and access tweets in on a daily basis.

      report
  8. Dominic Dwyer

    Neuropsychologist & Experimental Neuroscientist

    What a great article. The analysis and solution proposed here is far better than the commercial "open-access" (i.e. PLoS One) idea of charging authors exorbitant fees to publish their articles. The PLoS One model only passes the cost to the academics who can least afford it because of ongoing financial stress, increasing competition, and shrinking grant funding. Open access journals are the enemy of early career scientists.

    report
  9. Daryl Deal

    retired

    Is this the same "Elsevier", who supported SOPA or "Stop Online Piracy Act"(replaced by CISPA, which is effectively SOPA on super growth steroids)?

    Is this the same "Elsevier" that printed fake journals as covert advertisement for drug companies? link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/09/bad-science-medical-journals-companies

    Is this the same "Elsevier" that ran Military Trade Shows, demonstrating the latest in killer technology, in direct conflict with publishing medical journals?

    Is this the same "Elsevier", where all peer reviewers, selected are treated as unpaid slave volunteers and not paid for their work.

    Is this the same "Elsevier", that Harvard University told them, we can no longer afford your price gouging ways. Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/apr/24/harvard-university-journal-publishers-prices

    report
  10. William Bennett

    Lecturer in Environmental Chemistry at Griffith University

    I agree that it would be great if scientific research was freely available for anyone and everyone, but I don't know why Elsevier is being singled out. There are many other publishers that charge the same amount for their articles.

    I also think this article simplifies the problem far too much... I'm not sure about Philip Soos' field of research, but in my field of chemistry, the journal that an article is published in is an assurance of quality. It costs money to run a high-quality journal, which…

    Read more
  11. Diane Lester

    logged in via Facebook

    This article fails to mention the digital age Open Access business model (ie Gold Open Access), which is challenging the print age Toll Access model in which the publishers gains ownership of content. Open Access journals release ‘content’ under Creative Commons Licence, thus making research literature a public resource and enabling it to be centrally archived. It elegantly solves the problems mentioned in this article and makes research publication leaner in operation as well as financially transparent. There is no conflict with academics providing free labour to create a public resource. In biomedicine, the Open Access model is becoming so successful, traditional highly commercial publishers are launching new journals which use it. My essay ‘Unshackling basic knowledge’ Policy magazine 2011/12 27(4) 48-52 http://www.cis.org.au/publications/policy-magazine
    gives a good overview.

    report
  12. Toby Burrows

    Manager, eResearch Support

    "Unfortunately, there is little data about the cost of access to journals in Australia."
    The Council of Australian University Librarians produces annual statistics of expenditure by university libraries:
    http://www.caul.edu.au/caul-programs/caul-statistics

    In 2010, the total expenditure on serials by Australian university libraries was A$180.8 million. The members of the GO8 spent A$76.8 million between them.

    report
  13. Dave Smith

    Energy Consultant

    Philip,

    I understand your outrage at the current situation, but your analysis of the underlying economics is flawed. Elsevier and others certainly do NOT have a monopoly in academic publishing. Anybody could set up a rival journal tomorrow along the lines that you propose and there is absolutely nothing that Elsevier could do to stop them.

    What Elsevier and others have established is extremely strong BRANDS. So strong, that not only will serious consumers of written research buy their journals…

    Read more
    1. Philip Soos

      Deakin University

      In reply to Dave Smith

      A copyright is clearly a monopoly, and Elsevier has one - you're certainly not the first (or last one) to claim this.

      Anyone can set up a journal, this much is true. But as I noted, there are no substitutes. If a researcher needs access to a specific article, they can't make do with a similar one, they need that one.

      Branding has nothing to do with pricing in this case. Both Microsoft and Pfizer are considered strong brands, but it is IMPs in the form of copyright and patents that make their software and medicines expensive, not branding. Elsevier and other journal firms are no different.

      report
    2. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Dave Smith

      This is not a helpful analysis. The owner of 1 Moorabool Street has a 'monopoly' on the use of that land and there is no substitute for the particular characteristics of that land. What you are calling a 'monopoly' is just the nature of property as conceived by capitalism.

      Elsevier charges more for Nature than for a lower ranked journal not because it has a particular article, but because of the general quality of its articles as indicated by its high impact factor. This is indeed a reflection of its brand broadly conceived.

      report
    3. Dave Smith

      Energy Consultant

      In reply to Dave Smith

      Philip,

      On your analysis, BMW is "clearly" a monopoly because, if you want to buy a BMW car, you have to buy it from BMW.

      report
    4. Philip Soos

      Deakin University

      In reply to Dave Smith

      There is no requirement that a person has to live in a specific property at a specific address if it is already occupied. There can be plenty of close substitutes in terms of property size, dwelling characteristics, etc.

      The same is not true of journals, specifically the papers that comprise journals. While there may exist plenty of journals with similar content, researchers/academics/whoever needs access to the exact articles. They can't do with another that is similar - thus there are no real…

      Read more
    5. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Dave Smith

      Again, this is unhelpful.

      There is no copyright in ideas, only in a particular expression of them. So if one wants the results of an experiment one may gain a report of it in one of several forms and the copyright law or a publisher's ownership of 1 report is no obstacle to the dissemination of those results in other forms. Wanting a particular report of them - say, the first paper reporting the experiment - is like wanting to buy a particular car or block of land.

      report
  14. James Crawford

    logged in via Twitter

    Elsevier tried to charge me 41 EUR to access my own authored article (good to have a properly formatted journal version) - something which I refused to do. I had to ask an aquaintance at a university to send me a pdf copy. As a non-university affiliated researcher/consultant I routinely spend about 1000 AUD/month on Elsevier/Springer articles.  Frequently content is very underwhelming relative to overblown claims in abstract, although this is impossible to screen for beforehand.  Article references can only be viewed after purchase, often meaning very significant & unneccessary costs just to chase down an original primary reference. This really irks me. AGU is somewhat better vlaue at 9 USD/article, although this can add up over time too.

    report
  15. Alex Cannara

    logged in via Facebook

    It certainly is a problem to have public funds develop knowledge which then becomes a protected source of profit for certain private organizations.

    One other development, documented in AAAS Science last year, is that the more successful the journal, the more retracted articles appear in it. Retractions a quite linear with each journal's article count over a year. It was both a prideful and bemused moment for us AAAS members to see how far up the retraction line Science stood.
    ;]
    Maybe a solution is to have folks like the Murdochs & Kochs pay an Earth-use tax to fund research publications, so that all are free?

    report
  16. Tim Mazzarol

    Winthrop Professor, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Marketing and Strategy at University of Western Australia

    Thank you Philip for a good article and one that is part of a much wider debate about the nature of the academic publishing business model and why it is fundamentally flawed. The academic publishing business model was developed to provide sharing of knowledge with colleagues via a community of practice. Blind peer reviewing is a key component that ensures quality control by experts. The foundation of this business model was volunteer labour. Academics provided their labour to write the articles…

    Read more
  17. Graeme Martin

    Winthrop Professor at University of Western Australia

    Bravo! I have been campaigning on this front for years and doing my bit by ensuring that my team (25-odd PhD students plus several postdocs over the years) choose non-Elsevier journals if they can. Elsevier has successfully bound CSIRO and universities into a $20-30m annual drain on our science funds. In addition to forcing our libraries to subscribe to unwanted journals (wrapped in a 'package') they are now beginning to hit us with page charges in some journals. Can you believe that? Back in the…

    Read more
  18. Graeme Martin

    Winthrop Professor at University of Western Australia

    Ended my rant before I was finished. I will be brief: the answer is not to be easily found in "Open Access" ... this fundamentally good idea is now fertile ground for scams ... OA "journals" and "publishing houses" with little scientific cred are springing up almost daily. They canvas the unwary, with a particular eye on the young scientist and struggling scientists in the developing world, for their data and for reviews. Little quality control and pay to publish. I urge you all to spread the word of caution to your friends and colleagues. Similar scams abound also as "invitations" to conferences. We do we fall for this? well, apart from pressure to publish, we are all victims of our egos.

    report
    1. Tim Mazzarol

      Winthrop Professor, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Marketing and Strategy at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Graeme Martin

      Hi Graeme,

      I agree with you that there are currently many dubious open source publishers out there that are of dubious quality. Yet this is no reason to be fearful of a new business model for academic publishing.

      I direct you to the link in my post above where the UK Government is working with Jimmy Wales from Wikipedia to see if they can create a free to the public online publishing system for publicly funded research.

      When Wikipedia first emerged there were serious questions about its…

      Read more
    2. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Graeme Martin

      Tim,

      What I don't like about your idea about publishers paying royalties to universities is that it still keeps the information locked up inside universities - as a taxpayer I should have access to it. Do academics think their alumni will never need to read widely across their professional literature after graduating?

      What I don't like about devising new places to publish/store academic info is that it's reinventing the wheel - which works perfectly well, apart from profiteering because of…

      Read more
  19. Roxane Paczensky

    Registered Nurse

    I'm not an academic, nor am a currently enrolled in a formal education course of study. I am, however, a member of the public doing my best to push back against climate denialists and religious fundamentalism.
    Some who I debate these issues with make claims that are sometimes frustratingly difficult for me to refute. These people quote "studies" in their arguments and often the only response I can give is to question the validity of their cited study because is has not been subjected to peer review…

    Read more
    1. Graeme Martin

      Winthrop Professor at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Roxane Paczensky

      Roxane, I get your frustration. However, as we saw with the ridiculous TV program on global warming featuring Nick Minchin, the rules differ between your side and the other side. Politics is driven by balance of opinion, science is driven by balance of evidence. Todays pathetic journalistic standards (a rash generalisation but certainly applicable to the rags taken seriously in politics) means that all articles have to be 'balanced' ... on opinion, not evidence.
      Of course, even without Elsevier et al, there would still be a "paywall". Journals are expensive to produce and subs are a major cost for all university libraries. So, what to do? well, you can find a partner at a university, or you can become an adjunct academic (most universities have such systems and they offer library access for a pound of flesh).

      report
  20. Anthony Kaye

    Retired Vet. Surgeon

    Rather ironic that the first founder of a newspaper dynasty to be branded "unfit to have the stewardship of a public company" was Robert Maxwell. He made his initial millions by buying out the publishers of esoteric scientific and cultural journals in the 50's and 60's and promptly doubling their prices. Universities and other organisations simply had to pay up.
    He went on to ruin the old age of his employees by looting their pension fund, and ended up falling-or jumping-off his yacht when discovery was imminent.
    Old Murdoch is a really nice guy in comparison!

    report
  21. Philip Soos

    Deakin University

    Good to see lots of interesting ideas being exchanged here. This system of public subsidy, private profit, has gone on for far too long.

    While there are some good initiatives taking place, they are too small and atomized to become serious competitors to the journal corporations that own the bulk of academic journals. It isn't just the matter of ensuring that newly published papers are openly accessible; the output of the last 100 years or more of journals all needs to be made freely available.

    As I see it, this is a job for the state and university sectors to deal with: 1) establishing a new system to reward academics as noted above, and 2) undo the privatization of journals, probably through eminent domain or another mechanism.

    The biggest pirates here are Elsevier & Co. The only difference between them and thieves is that they know how to game the system in such a way that its all legal. In the modern information age, copyrights are a joke.

    report
    1. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Philip Soos

      Philip - I think you're being unrealistic: we recently kowtowed to the U.S. and toughened our copyright laws, so we're unlikely to see any relief from government. Forcibly acquiring the data from the companies would be unprecedented, would it not?

      Building an entirely new system of academic publishing, peer-reviewing, establishing reputations etc would be expensive and take a long time. Really, you just want to stop the commercial publishers from profiteering from the monopoly that universities…

      Read more
  22. Toby Burrows

    Manager, eResearch Support

    A few clarifications:
    1. All Australian university libraries already have repositories for research publications. But the amount of freely-available content in these repositories is relatively limited, for the following reasons.
    2. Most researchers sign over their copyright to the journal publisher when their article is accepted (or give the publisher exclusive rights to use the article). This allows the publisher to control access to the article.
    3. Most publishers' contracts do actually permit researchers to make copies of their articles freely available in university repositories - but the published PDF version cannot normally be used. A pre-publication version (e.g. in Word) is usually OK.
    4. In Australia, only QUT has a policy which obliges researchers to deposit copies of all their articles in the University's repository.

    report
    1. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Toby Burrows

      Hi Toby,

      So the big problem is your No 2 point. No 3 is not a satisfactory answer because people (in and outside universities) want to read the article as cited, not one with a lightly different title or something. And all it needs is for all the top universities to make their staff use a standard contract with the commercial publishers which offers the article to them and not any other commercial publisher, but allows a copy of the article to be available via the university's library catalogue (and thus to the world).

      report
    2. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Toby Burrows

      I doubt whether collective action by the 'top' universities is achievable even were it to be effective.

      Collective action is much more easily obtained and I suggest it will be much more effective if organised by the important national research funding bodies. Hence the importance of the strong open access policies of the US National Institutes of Health, the UK Wellcome Trust, the moderate policy of Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council and the weak policy of the Australian Research Council.

      report
    3. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Toby Burrows

      Gavin - OK, the universities can use the same contract the national research funding bodies make their staff use. But, where are you going to put the articles so that they are permanently organised and findable by those who need to find them, yet doesn't break the business model of the commercial publishers?

      report
    4. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Toby Burrows

      Research funding bodies don't precisely make their own staff sign open access publishing contracts, but make green open access publishing a condition of their grants awarded to university researchers.

      At this stage the requirement is to publish a pre preprint in any venue freely accessible to the public within 12 months of first publishing the results of research funded by the grant - green open access.

      I don't care about commercial publishers' profitability. However, most commercial publishers…

      Read more
  23. Diane Lester

    logged in via Facebook

    Hello Philip,
    After reading your article and subsequent comments I conclude that you are unfamiliar with Open Access phenomenon in science.
    The journal PLoS One, which operates on the Open Access (Gold) business model and was launched in 2006, is the now largest journal by volume in the sciences with growth that is nothing less than exponential. Its publisher is thriving financially (the accounts are open for scrutiny), so much so, that the major journal corporations are furiously launching copycat…

    Read more
    1. Philip Soos

      Deakin University

      In reply to Diane Lester

      I am familiar with this type of model, and I certainly think it is a step in the right direction. I would like to see this type of system become more prominant, with authors and reviewers paid for their work. Some journals charge authors a fee, others are subsidized enough not to do so. In an ideal world, they should be funded well to the point where no author is charged a fee but rewarded instead.

      The problem, though, is that this type of system has no ability to deal with journals already owned under copyright by firms - which must be eventually made free (waiting 99 years notwithstanding). This requires a very different approach, given that these powerful firms are not going to relinquish their cash cows any time soon.

      report