academic publishers

copyright,Uni — 28. Nov 2010

have you ever wondered how academic publishers operate? phdcomics has an enlightening drawing:

phd comics
source: phdcomics
(click on image for original comic. )

so why can they get away with that? the truth is that it works simply because the scholars depend on them. for the scientists it’s “publish or perish”, and they need to publish in well-known journals in order to be noticed and make their name known to the scientific community.

this means that the scientific communities depend on the publishers in two ways: on the one hand, they depend on the publishers’ benevolence in order to get their research published, while on the other hand, they need access to the resulting journals, which means they (or rather: their libraries) have to shell out a lot of cash for the subscriptions. at the same time, the general public, who paid for both the salaries of the scientists who did the research and for the subscriptions bought by the libraries don’t even get free access to the results.

now, of course i don’t want to suggest that the publishers don’t do any valuable work. they certainly do, as is also mentioned in the second part of the phdcomic:

phd comics
source: phdcomics
(click on image for original comic. )

still, the scientific communities should in my opinion think closely about whether or not the current situation is beneficial for them, and the tax payers should give it some thought, too. open access could play an important role in this, even if it’s just to create some competition for the established publishers. in addition, i have noticed with satisfaction that even in the old-fashioned humanities, some scholars have started to voluntarily make (some of) their work freely available on the internet. of course i strive to make my own publications available online, too, whenever legally possible.

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