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Publish and pay or perish

Has academic publishing degenerated into a profit-making business? Why do the commercial publishers now have stranglehold over our research, and that we peons have at our very best, been doing too much for free?

Here’s a nice article I read from Times Higher Education by Mike Taylor, who summed up the entire process,

It’s a well-rehearsed truth that the government funds research; academics do the work, write the papers and give them to a publisher (often paying the publisher for the privilege); other researchers edit the papers, usually for no fee; other researchers provide peer review gratis; yet somehow the publisher ends up owning the result of the whole process – only to sell copies back to the researchers who did the work and the citizens who funded it.

This is a strange old system that seems to work until this day. Just decades ago, publishers complement the work of researchers by providing services for printing, compiling and binding into issues and sending them out to libraries across the world (who obviously, pay for them). With the Internet today, the dissemination of research is now much easier and faster. So if the publishers no longer print and ship books, journals and proceedings, why are they still charging papers (charges are per paper, if you know that) at exorbitant prices? How costly is the process and what are the value added by publishers when they continue to post record profits?

Interestingly, this other article about an archive of 18,000 scientific papers downloaded from JSTOR and uploaded as a torrent to PirateBay would be one cracker that we did not expect. Nevermind the papers, the accompanying “manifesto” had some really pinpoint remarks about academic publishing,

“As far as I can tell,” he writes, “the money paid for access today serves little significant purpose except to perpetuate dead business models. The ‘publish or perish’ pressure in academia gives the authors an impossibly weak negotiating position, and the existing system has enormous inertia.”

I say publish and pay or perish.

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to be posted on 25 January 2021, 19:28

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