May 22, 2022

Publishing: “Scholarly Journals: A Modest Proposal”

From an EDUCAUSE Review Article by ProfessorSchool of Information Studies, Syracuse University:

Despite rising costs, open hostility to the practices (and pricing) of academic publishers, and OA advocacy movements, little has changed since the 1990s. Although there is widespread support for OA in the academic community, the large for-profit publishers have remained in charge and did not fade away in the face of new ways to distribute information freely on the Internet. In fact, they seem to be thriving. The “brand” quality and integrity, real or perceived, that established publishing houses bring to the table are hard to replace solely through volunteer efforts, even when aided by new electronic collaboration tools.

That is not to say the movement toward OA died—quite the contrary. Journals labeled as OA have increased substantially in number, but most are not truly free and open in the way that Harnad first proposed (now called Green OA). While some notable and successful free OA peer-reviewed journals came into the picture (e.g., First Monday), these were exceptions. Many journals labeled as OA, even nonprofits such as PLOS journals, might best be described as a compromise (usually called Gold OA) between the publishing and research communities. These OA journal approaches all have two things in common.


…I am instead suggesting that colleges and universities strategically invest directly in the publishing process and industry through various forms of sponsorship, partnership, or even outright ownership. Today, with outsourcing and partnerships becoming the norm, why shouldn’t scholarly output follow suit? Why not expend campus resources in ways that give institutions more control over costs and modes of distribution? Doing so could begin to erode the commercial publishing conglomerates’ stranglehold on scholarly output and put at least some of that control back into the hands of those who produce this output. Perhaps this could be characterized as extending the Diamond approach of institutional funding to underwrite free and open access in a strategic way that provides more direct benefit to the funding academic institutions and, just as importantly, increased power in the marketplace.

A significant number of institutions are already paying extra to make their faculty publications OA. Why should these institutions waste funds on up-front fees that fail to move us any closer to universal OA and that keep commercial publishing monopolies in control of the marketplace? If more colleges and universities were to take up the charge and invest in at least one high-quality OA journal through sponsorship, partnership, or ownership, the academic community could begin to take charge of its own intellectual property and change the scholarly journal marketplace.

Direct to Full Text Article (3429 words)

See Also: Paul Gandel Bio (via Syracuse University School of Information Studies)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( 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, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.