January 18, 2022

David Lewis on “The Role of Subsidy in Scholarly Communication”

A new column in EDUCAUSE Review by David Lewis, Dean of the IUPUI (Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis) University Library

From the Column:

Although there is significant concern about how to sustain open access and how to preserve monographic publishing in the face of declining sales for academic books, the simple fact is that the money exists. There is sufficient subsidy in the system. The challenge is in moving the subsidy around. First, the subsidy needs to be taken from someone who will not want to give it up. Then, a new system with appropriate incentives will need to be devised. In most cases, the end of the process is easy to imagine, but how to get from here to there is not at all clear. To take one example, if all scholarly journals were “gold” open access—that is, all of the articles are available at the time of publication—everyone would have access to all of the world’s scholarly journal articles for free, and libraries would no longer need to pay for journals. Universities could then channel the money that was once spent on the purchase of subscription journals to fees for article processing or to direct subsidies for open-access journals published by their university presses. But as demonstrated by the recent debates in the United Kingdom over the Finch Report and how government funding should support the publication of research results, deciding on the path to reach this end can be quite contentious.


Librarians, publishers, and scholars face many challenges as the scholarly communication system is reshaped, but one fact should provide hope: lack of money is not the problem. The money to do what is required exists in the system. The disruptive new systems will be cheaper than what we have today, which is based on practices and institutions designed around paper, printing, and the post office. The problem is that all of this money is committed to the old system. Libraries continue to build large book collections and subscribe to as many journals as possible.

Read the Full Text

Also, congratulations to David Lewis.

He recently became President of the Academic Libraries of Indiana.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.