Saturday, January 5, 2019

Open Access and the Piratical Journals

Adam Liter sent me this piece a while ago. Sybaritic pursuits over the New Year period kept me from posting it earlier (sorry, hiccup!). At any rate, the piece describes a fight that the U Cal system is about to have or is currently having with Elsevier (E) over open access to the articles that it publishes. It seems that E has a way of double dipping charging for access to the journals and then charging again for access to the articles. The ins and outs are complex but it basically relates to how and when we move to a fully open access system. From where I sit, U Cal is fighting the good fight and we should hope that they succeed.

There is something quite interesting about academic publishing. The content it receives it does not in any way pay for. The curation of this content (selection, editing, improving) is largely also unpaid for by them. In fact, both are effectively paid for by public bodies like the NSF, NIH, Wellcome Fund, SSHRC etc. yet the public that funds it does not have free access to it. Not surprisingly, this system has generated enormous profit for the relevant academic publishers (here). The profit margins are enormous (36% for E) and it is not incidentally tied to the fact that most of the content is freely provided. I am sure that E provides a service. What I am also sure about is that this service is vastly overpriced. At any rate, the days of this kind of monopolistic parasitism might be numbered. One can only hope.

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