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C2C Digital Magazine (Fall 2018 / Winter 2019)

Colleague 2 Colleague, Author

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Prestige vs. Open-Access Open-Source Publishing

Today at my university, the head of the libraries and some librarian administrators presented on an article titled “Death by 1,000 Cuts | Periodicals Price Survey 2018” ( The survey results apparently suggested that serial subscriptions are rising in cost at about 6% annually, which in combination with budget cuts at institutions of higher education, mean much less purchase power for content at libraries.

Why is it that academics provide their research work and writing and datasets for free to publishers that are making off with double-digit profit?

To address this, academic libraries are looking to freeze content subscriptions, collaborate in entities pushing for open access publishing, and getting into the publishing game themselves (and disintermediating the third-party content creators).

I had a few thoughts:

(1) Given how much of academia is about prestige, how can such open-access publishers win over a tough audience of researchers? Prestige comes from earned elitism and actual performance. Why would anyone give away advantage by going with lesser publishers than they can afford?
(2) Given how much academia expects to be paid for work, how can open-access keep low-cost? Or if such endeavors are kept low cost, how can the publishers attract researchers and data analysts? (I’m thinking of grants in which I’ve been co-PI…and even for open-access books, academics expect multiple years of pay…and perks. The costs are going up, not down, by having universities be their own publishers.
(3) Then, given people’s cognitive biases and their ego protections, how can up-and-coming researchers and authors hone their skills to the level needed with open-access publishing?

What I’m seeing is a two-track evolution…with high-end prestige publishers and low-end open-access open-source publishers that will take anything (virtually) and use free peer reviewers…and the problems will still continue with the rising costs of academic research contents. (In actuality, the costs of paying for contents is a small percentage of what the original research itself may have cost…because the U.S. government and private industry subsidize the research through grants.)
This page comments on:
Providing Peer Review for Top-Tier Academic Publishers (12 February 2019)
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