Friday, June 24, 2011

Elsevier profits and faculty priorities

According to this article in the Economist, last year Elsevier made $1.1 billion in profit last year, for a profit margin of 36%. Most of Elsevier's revenue, and hence profit, comes from academic library budgets.

Faculty have largely been shielded from the economic impact of this profit-taking from my academy, and to date most discussions about faculty publishing choices have focused on the academic freedom of faculty to publish where they please.

Is it timely to bring the economics home to faculty in a more direct way than pointing out the impact on faculty budgets? If a university were to cancel a $2 million a year Elsevier contract, this money could be redirected, couldn't it? Why not redirect $1 million a year to affordable / sustainable options such as open access publishing, and the other half to academic salaries? $1 million a year could fund 10 academic positions at $100,000 a year - or give 1,000 faculty a $1,000 a year raise.

If faculty were to see things this way, I wonder how many would agree with me that a flourishing open access scholarly publishing system is actually the optimal system for academic freedom?