Thursday, 1 September 2011

Do academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist?

George Monbiot discussed the policies of academic journals on yesterday's edition of The Guardian. The piece is delightfully (or tragically) titled "Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist"

Mombiot's piece reminded me of many things I have always known, but I always take for granted. For example, I don't know anybody who has ever been paid a penny for writing for an academic journal. However, accessing these journals can be really expensive if you are not affiliated to a university. I did not know though how profitable academic journals  actually are. So, where does the money go? 

"...publishers claim that they have to charge these fees as a result of the costs of production and distribution, and that they add value (in Springer's words) because they "develop journal brands and maintain and improve the digital infrastructure which has revolutionised scientific communication in the past 15 years". But an analysis by Deutsche Bank reaches different conclusions. "We believe the publisher adds relatively little value to the publishing process … if the process really were as complex, costly and value-added as the publishers protest that it is, 40% margins wouldn't be available." Far from assisting the dissemination of research, the big publishers impede it, as their long turnaround times can delay the release of findings by a year or more."

Unsurprisingly, Monbiot's piece generated numerous comments from the academic community, most of them elaborating on yet even more sordid details of this profitable business.  See more here. Don't miss the comments. 

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