Academic journals too expensive for Harvard

Nieuws | de redactie
26 april 2012 | 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 andresearchers urging them to publish their academic work open access.”Many large journal publishers have made the scholarlycommunication environment fiscally unsustainable and academicallyrestrictive,” it says in the notice.

Unaffordable journals – the answer is openaccess

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

Harvard Library director, Robert Darnton, talked to the Guardian about this issuescalling upon other universities to follow suit: “I hope that otheruniversities will take similar action. We all face the sameparadox. We faculty do the research, write the papers, refereepapers by other researchers, serve on editorial boards, all of itfor free … and then we buy back the results of our labour atoutrageous prices.”

“The system is absurd, and it is inflicting terrible damage onlibraries. One year’s subscription to The Journal of ComparativeNeurology costs the same as 300 monographs. We simply cannot go onpaying the increase in subscription prices. In the long run, theanswer will be open-access journal publishing, but we needconcerted effort to reach that goal,” Darnton commented.

This development may blow further wind in the sails of openaccess advocates. 2012 started with an uproar by a Britishscientist criticizing efforts by major publishers likeElsevier 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 onacademic publishers and the open access debate.

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