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  • Academic journals too expensive for Harvard

    - Harvard University urges its researchers to publish open access instead of submitting their work to major academic journals. The latter had created a “fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive” environment which the university library could no longer support.

    Harvard Library sent out a memo to the university's 2,100 lecturers and researchers urging them to publish their academic work open access. "Many large journal publishers have made the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive," it says in the notice.

    Unaffordable journals - the answer is open access

    By now, the library had journal related expenses of almost $3.75 million per year. Academic journals would exploit their copyright monopoly in order to extract high profits, the communiqué hinted: "Even though scholarly output continues to grow and publishing can be expensive, profit margins of 35% and more suggest that the prices we must pay do not solely result from an increasing supply of new articles."

    Harvard Library director, Robert Darnton, talked to the Guardian about this issues calling upon other universities to follow suit: "I hope that other universities will take similar action. We all face the same paradox. We faculty do the research, write the papers, referee papers by other researchers, serve on editorial boards, all of it for free … and then we buy back the results of our labour at outrageous prices."

    "The system is absurd, and it is inflicting terrible damage on libraries. One year's subscription to The Journal of Comparative Neurology costs the same as 300 monographs. We simply cannot go on paying the increase in subscription prices. In the long run, the answer will be open-access journal publishing, but we need concerted effort to reach that goal," Darnton commented.

    This development may blow further wind in the sails of open access advocates. 2012 started with an uproar by a British scientist criticizing efforts by major publishers like Elsevier to limit open access through the U.S. Research Works Act. In the end, this legislation did not gain enough support, yet a critical light was thrown on academic publishers and the open access debate.