Open Access Academic Publishing

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Open Access Academic Publishing

Postby sgtowns » 02 Mar 2019 18:54

Hello all.

I am not sure if you all have seen this or not, but I thought some of you might be interested. This week, the University of California system did not renew its $11 million per year contract with Elsevier because of the lack of open access in Elsevier journals. UC wanted to move to a pay-to-publish subscription instead of a pay-to-read subscription, but they were unable to negotiate a deal.

Unfortunately, Elsevier's revenue is about $25 BILLON per year (according to a quick Google search), so this is just a drop in the bucket. Or is it the first wave of a tsunami?

For more information: ... -elsevier/ ... -elsevier/

Any thoughts or comments?
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Re: Open Access Academic Publishing

Postby stevelouw » 03 Mar 2019 12:26

There is an interview on the Tefl training institute podcast with Stephen Krashen which addresses the difficulty and expense of accessing published material, especially for teachers without access to a well-stocked library. He feels the current system with publishers controlling access is not workable. Here's a link to this: ... en-krashen
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Re: Open Access Academic Publishing

Postby Richard » 04 Mar 2019 08:13

Academic publishing is a mess. The traditional free-to-publish pay-to-read model is increasingly under attack with most criticisms arguing for a move to a pay-to-publish free-to-read (i.e. open access) model. While the traditional model has problems, personally I don't think open access is the answer.

For the traditional model, most criticisms focus on researchers (especially in poorer countries) not being able to read the articles they need to read for their research. To me, this isn't too much of a problem. In an average year I probably cite 200-300 articles, but there are probably only 2 or 3 that I really want to read that I find it difficult to get access to (and this is without using the databases provided by the library). All publishers allow researchers to post their articles (in final draft format, but not finished article format) online one to two years after official publication (this is why we have the SoLA article repository). Many researchers make publisher's pdfs available through sites like Researchgate (not sure about the legality of this). In other fields, there are sites for pre-publication like Arxiv. All of these mean that a substantial proportion of research is available without having to go through the publishers (and in those rare cases where you really need an article but can't find it online, SciHub offers a solution). Not being able to read articles doesn't seem to me to be a particularly strong argument. The key problem with the traditional model is the greed of publishers like Elsevier. There is no standard charge for a university to get access to ScienceDirect; instead, each university must negotiate its own fee and a reduction is offered if the university agrees to sign a non-disclosure contract about the price they paid. No university then knows how much other universities are paying, allowing Elsevier to engage in price-gouging. Given that it's taxpayer money that's being used, this is inappropriate to say the least.

Open access, however, doesn't offer a clear solution. First, researchers have to pay to publish (for journals like PlosOne this can be $6000). This strikes me as a far greater barrier for researchers from poorer countries than the problems of access to articles. Secondly, open access journals have a clear motivation to accept articles for publication (since this is the source of their income) which suggests that quality control of articles (one of the main reasons we want to publish in journals) is compromised). This also links to the issue of scam journals, all of which are open access.

So what should be done?

In an ideal world, journals would be free-to-publish open-access (like LLT, CALL-EJ and rEFLections), but few people/organisations are prepared to subsidise this. However, if universities put the money they spend on subscribing to publishers like Elsevier to funding such journals, the problems would be solved. This is probably too difficult to manage (the usual issue of people taking advantage of common goods).

Another alternative would be for universities to form consortia to negotiate with the publishers which should greatly reduce costs of subscribing to the databases. Again, this needs high-level cooperation and is not easy to do.

For the moment, keeping with the traditional model but encouraging researchers to make their articles fully available as soon as possible avoids most problems and means universities could be more selective in choosing the databases they wish to subscribe to.
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Re: Open Access Academic Publishing

Postby daronloo » 06 Mar 2019 08:47

In light of what had been discussed, I'd like to bring into the discussion the social/professional concern, pertinent to the question of whether academic journals should be open-access.

An important issue that is gaining attention is how journals that require subscription may be a tool for the maintenance of exclusivity. There is this inherent need for academics to gain higher visibility in order to be employable (and to elevate the status of their employer). This is especially apparent in universities that intend to be on the top of world ranking lists. Faculty members will need to report information about their publications to university management. Articles that are published in respected journals (in terms of impact factor) or articles that are frequently cited will then be brownie points for the faculty members, and subsequently, for their employing institution. Through the traditional model (traditional in the sense explained by Richard), only a select few will be able to achieve such a feat. These few are those who have access to these journals (and access to financial means to carry out research work at the level of other studies published in these journals). While exclusivity is important as it may also be a gatekeeper to maintain quality, it will most probably work in the favour of those already well published in the field - creating a wider gap between those with experience and those just entering the field. Having an open-access model will definitely not support the need to maintain this sense of exclusivity, which seems to be current operational mode of universities today.

It should also be pointed out that the world ranking list, such as QS, feeds on data from Elsevier. Without such a huge database, the list will probably not work.
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Re: Open Access Academic Publishing

Postby sgtowns » 16 Mar 2019 13:40

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Re: Open Access Academic Publishing

Postby Woravut » 18 Mar 2019 08:04

Thank you. Let's see who else will follow...

At the end of the day, research is business. (However, I think research should be used for the betterment of humankind.)
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