Open Access | Scholarly Communication |Academic Journals | Research
To democratise scholarly publishing, individual academics need to take action
by Jason Schmitt |
Academic and scientific research needs to be accessible to all. The world’s most pressing problems like clean water or food security deserve to have as many people as possible solving their complexities. Yet our current academic research system has no interest in harnessing our collective intelligence. Scientific progress is currently thwarted by one thing: paywalls.
Paywalls, which restrict access to content without a paid subscription, represent a common practice used by academic publishers to block access to scientific research for those who have not paid. This keeps £19.6bn flowing from higher education and science into for-profit publisher bank accounts. My recent documentary, Paywall: The Business of Scholarship, uncovered that the largest academic publisher, Elsevier, regularly has a profit margin between 35-40%, which is greater than Google’s. With financial capacity comes power, lobbyists, and the ability to manipulate markets for strategic advantages – things that underfunded universities and libraries in poorer countries do not have.
Furthermore, university librarians are regularly required to sign non-disclosure agreements on their contract-pricing specifics with the largest for-profit publishers. Each contract is tailored specifically to that university based upon a variety of factors: history, endowment, current enrollment. This thwarts any collective discussion around price structures, and gives publishers all the power. Read more…