Astrid Bovell on February 3rd, 2012
The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Maybe it’s to do with Wikipedia and others taking a stand against SOPA and PIPA inspiring others, or maybe 2012 is just going to be all about people fighting for what they believe in; but lately there seems to be what could be the beginnings of an uprising against academic publishing (or to be more precise – the economics of the academic publishing industry).
I’d like to say that it all started in one place, but it seems to be more of some spot fires sparking each other up. Largely, the arguments centre around the cost of access to published academic articles. The argument basically follows the line that the articles exist from the time and effort of academics (who do not receive royalties or payment for said articles) and the articles and research are largely funded by the public’s taxes, so why is it the academics and the public have to pay so much to access work they’ve produced and funded?
Throw into the mix of this, a little bill that has recently been introduced in the US to make it illegal to require researchers to make their work available for open access – and we have another battle on our hands.
Laura McKenna started off with this article born out of her frustration of trying to find some articles on autism research: Locked in the Ivory Tower: Why JSTOR Imprisons Academic Research (The Atlantic 20/01/12) and while there were aspects of her argument that were shared by the community, the errors in her article somewhat overshadowed her point. Nancy Sims posted a rebuttal Academic publishing is full of problems; lets get them right (Copyright Librarian 25/01/12) to help clear the errors while still highlighting the issues of how the system runs.
Meanwhile, a mathematician also fed up with the way academic publishing works, posted an outcry in his blog Elsevier — my part in its downfall (Gowers’s Weblog 21/01/12) explaining his reasons for boycotting Elsevier and calling others to join him. I’m not sure that Gowers was aware of just how much impact his blog post would have as more and more people have decided to come on board and their voices are being heard. Forbes heard the call and published this article Elsevier’s Publishing Model Might be About to Go Up in Smoke (Forbes 28/01/12) to highlight the very real possibility that this boycott could force Elsevier to change their model. Elsevier has heard the call too, but as The Chronicle of Higher Education reports As Journal Boycott Grows, Elsevier Defends Its Practices (The Chronicle of Higher Education 31/01/12), they’re holding firm in defense.
Interestingly enough, I saw this article A small bill in the US, a giant impact for research worldwide (The Conversation 27/01/12), which I would have expected to have ballooned into a huge battle, and yet all seems to be quiet on the western front…