Monday, 22 October 2018

Open Access Journal Articles

Access to academic journal articles is restricted due to the publication houses which own the journals. Where once the journals were owned by universities, the labour and editorial organisation required to run them was an additional cost and resource which most universities were only too glad to pass onto the professionals: not realising the jack-up in price that would lead to.

I have written about this before (here). Universities are given research grants from the public purse. Academics do the research, peer review each other's articles, form the members of the editorial boards on journals, and keep the standards up. Then each academic has to pay up to USD$95 per article to be able to read them: despite the fact that academics paid with the public purse have donated their labour, intellectual property and creativity. Worse, this is not the opportunity to use and keep the articles: this is a licence to use them for a year. Then academics have to pay again. And again.

Uni library journal and database access is a huge cost, hidden within tuition fees. Most libraries have to pay a fortune to get a bundle of access to lesser journals in order to get the one or two key journals which their schools require. Institutions are trapped: researchers need access to the best quality journals, and the best quality journals are now owned by for-profit publishing houses. Those publishers are making a killing out of tax-payer funded research where academics do most of the donkey-work. It not only doesn't reflect the true cost: they are charging prices that make your eyes water and put the research out of reach of the common person.

Needless to say, there is now a bit of a backlash against the for-profit publishing houses, which have been making very fine profits indeed, picking the flesh off the public purse and holding researchers to ransom. Earlier this year there was an article in the Scientist (Yeager, 16 May 2018) announcing that "Swedish universities and research institutions [would] not renew its [...] Elsevier [contract]" once it lapsed, reiterated by Havergal (16 May 2018). True to their word, Sweden did not renew in June. However, not only did Sweden take a stand, Germany did as well (Kulkarni, 8 July 2018).
“The current system for scholarly communication must change, and our only option is to cancel deals when they don’t meet our demands for a sustainable transition to open access,” Astrid Söderbergh Widding, president of Stockholm University and chair of the consortium, tells, a blog published by the National Library of Sweden. (Yeager, 16 May 2018) 
Springer Nature and Oxford University Press have agreed to more equitable access terms, which is positive. However, German negotiators are still seeking to make a deal with Elsevier publicly and transparently, so that  “any deal Elsevier does with them becomes the de facto deal for the entire world" (Kulkarni, 8 July 2018). 

Smart move, Germany. You are taking one for the team. 



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