Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The real cost of academic publishing - Wed, 31 Aug 2011 20:00:00 GMT

George Monbiot (The knowledge monopoly racketeers make Murdoch look like a socialist, 30 August) makes some very valid points about the financial exploitation of publicly funded science by academic publishers. However, he only described part of the problem.

For most articles in high-impact scientific journals the publisher also charges the scientists (or their funders or university) up to several hundred pounds per page published, with additional charges for the inclusion of images such as data from microscopic investigation of cells. Some publishers also charge a non-refundable handling charge for considering the article, even if they reject it. This is in spite of the fact that the time-consuming work of peer review is done by scientific experts on an unpaid and voluntary basis.

In addition, the development of publication software has allowed the publishers to transfer much of the work of preparing a paper for publication to the scientist, so valuable research time – funded out of public sources or by medical charities – is now diverted to learning to use software to do work that was previously undertaken by employees of the publisher.

Jenny Clemens

Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex

• George Monbiot's analysis is as perceptive as ever, but the academic community has begun to respond. While Monbiot is formally correct in stating that "academic papers are published in only one place", in fact a growing number of funding agencies and universities require researchers to deposit copies of their published papers in institutional or subject repositories and many more academics choose to deposit their publications voluntarily.

Using a web search tool such as Google Scholar quickly shows that anyone can gain access to the vast majority of scientific literature. The OpenDOAR project based at Nottingham University lists more than 2,000 repositories, and the number is growing. Thanks to the so-called open access movement, scholars are reclaiming control of their research.

Prof Derek Law

University of Strathclyde

• If subscriptions to academic journals in Britain consume 65% of library budgets, and three giant commercial publishers from Europe and the US control 42% of scientific journals, imagine what this means for libraries and institutions in developing countries. Not only can it be prohibitively expensive to gain access to the results of research but such practices also accentuate a "knowledge divide" between the global north and south.

Addressing such a divide was one of the reasons for the Geneva-based Foundation setting up a digital library on ethics, which has more than 750,000 full-text articles and books available free of charge. Such initiatives offer a modest but determined attempt to redress the balance in global knowledge transfer. Fair publishing models by commercial publishers and open access efforts are needed to promote benefit sharing in knowledge production between north and south.

Prof Christoph Stueckelberger

Dr Stephen Brown

• I am a member of the group Sociologists Outside Academia. Our major problem is access to materials. The advent of the internet has worsened the situation because many libraries subscribe to online versions of journals only. So whereas in the past a vacation ticket issued by a sympathetic librarian might enable you to catch up on your reading, it now does not because the relevant journals are not on the shelves, and nobody will give a visitor an electronic log-in. Anyone who is not a member of a university is excluded from academic debate.

Dr Patricia de Wolfe


• The whole journal rating system has just become a function of publishers being able to charge more money for their journals, as academic administrators (more so than researchers) play a silly game about research ratings, rather than concentrate on good research. The journal rating system, too, needs debunking.

Professor Sam McKinstry


◦Peer review and scientific publishing

◦Higher education

◦Research funding


◦Academic experts

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