The Economist On Open Access and Scholarly Publishing
Publishing obscure academic journals is that rare thing in the media industry: a licence to print money. An annual subscription to Tetrahedron, a chemistry journal, will cost your university library $20,269; a year of the Journal of Mathematical Sciences will set you back $20,100. In 2011 Elsevier, the biggest academic-journal publisher, made a profit of £768m ($1.2 billion) on revenues of £2.1 billion. Such margins (37%, up from 36% in 2010) are possible because the journals’ content is largely provided free by researchers, and the academics who peer-review their papers are usually unpaid volunteers.
Open access to research funded by taxpayers or charities need not mean Armageddon for journal publishers. Some have started to embrace open access in limited ways, such as letting academics post their papers on their own websites or putting time limits on their pay barriers. But a strongly enforced open-access mandate for state- and charity-funded research would spur them to do more. The aim of academic journals is to make the best research widely available. Many have ended up doing the opposite. It is time that changed.
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About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.