Thursday, October 03, 2013

Scholars: let's keep our jobs and ditch the commercial scholarly publishers high profit margins

The University of Alberta is just one of many universities that has gone through (or will go through) deep cuts in recent years. The U of A's recent cost-cutting exercise has resulted in 121 voluntary severance packages, including: 83 Faculty, Faculty Service Officers, and Librarians, and 38 Administrative Professional Officers.

Meanwhile the scholarly publishing industry which benefits from the free work of scholars as authors and peer reviewers are so enjoying an inelastic market (one that does not respond to market conditions like your customers facing such deep cuts) that they are acting like things are business as usual. For the scholarly publishing business, this means price increases year after year - in this case serials subscriptions agent EBSCO is reporting that libraries should expect increases in the range of 6 - 8%. Not only that, but cheerfully double-dipping: pocketing cash for open access article processing fees which are meant to cover the cost of publishing articles so that they can be made open access. 

It is time for scholars, university administrators and research funders to wake up and realize that creation of new knowledge is done by researchers, not publishers. Don't give up your job or or let your colleagues give up theirs without demanding that the large commercial scholarly publishers give up their 30-40% profit margins. 

The economics of scholarly publishing is a topic covered in my dissertation

This post is the first in a new scholars jobs not publisher profits series.


  1. so, should we stop peer review article submitted to high profit margins publishers?

    1. L'anglais suit ~

      bonjour Eric,

      À mon avis, oui, les lettrés devraient arrêter de soumettre des articles aux éditeurs avec de hautes marges bénéficiaires. Nous devrions aussi exiger que des bibliothèques universitaires annulent des abonnements aux "big deals" et divisent les économies entre l'assistance pour les nouvelles approches de publier, par exemple soutiens pour les journaux locales ou "institutional repository peer-review overlay" et des fonds pour soutenir des salaires universitaires.

      hi Eric,

      In my opinion, yes, scholars should stop submitting peer reviewed articles to publishers with high profit margins. We should also demand that university libraries cancel subscriptions to the big deals, and divide the savings between support for new forms of publishing (local journal hosting and support services, peer-review overlay on repositories) and redirecting funds to support academic salaries.


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