Friday, April 28, 2006

End of Week Five

It's the end of week five of our ten-week term. Work has overwhelmed me -- I'm feeling swamped and more behind than I like to be at this time of the term. I haven't had time to post much. So, in lieu of an actual entry, below is the abstract from a talk I gave last Tuesday. The presentation was part of COA's ongoing Human Ecology forum.


The Political Economy of Peer-Reviewed Academic Journals

I will begin this talk with an overview of the process of publishing
in academic peer-reviewed journals, highlighting the extent to which
journals rely on uncompensated labor; neither authors nor peer
reviewers are paid. Many academic journals are owned and operated by
non-profit professional societies, such as the Society for Human
Ecology or the American Physics Society, and hence pro-bono or donated
labor on their behalf seems is seen by many as a professional
obligation. However, there are also many journals that are owned by
for-profit companies such as Elsevier or Springer.

I will summarize a number of studies that show that journals owned by
for-profit companies charge between three and six times more per
article than non-profit journals, and that there is little difference
in quality between for- and non-profit journals. The extra cost of
for-profit journals is borne almost exclusively by non-profit
educational institutions and the tax-payer dollars and donations that
support them. The largest academic publishing group reported a profit
of 1.7 billion euros in 2004. The net result is that for-profit
journals limit access to information that rightly belongs in the
public domain while extracting huge profits from the academic
community.

I will argue that the issues around for-profit academic publishing
provide a useful case study that may help shed light on broader
questions concerning how costs and benefits are distributed between
the public and the private sector. In addition, I will suggest that
the persistence of for-profit journals can serve as an interesting and
somewhat subtle example of a market failure.

To conclude, I will put forth some ideas for individual and collective
actions that researchers can take to improve the situation, and will
briefly present several successful examples of such action.

2 comments:

theindicator said...

What's next? End of Week Seven? Some of us like even numbers, you know!

- Student

shiva polefka said...

i just saw this news article from May 19th-- out of date but still quite interesting especially in the context of this post-- Liebermann is proposing legislation for open access to a subset of journal articles stemming from federally funded research. As one who often does primary literature reviews at a non-profit organization (and so must commonly resort to begging authors for PDF's), I would love to see this occur.
http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2006/05/taking_aim_at_scientific_journ.php