Thursday, 29 December 2011

"Academic Publishers: Suicide Bombers Against the Academy"

There is a really thought-provoking article here "Academic Publishers: Suicide Bombers Against the Academy" by Daniel Shoup on his Archaeopop blog.
This system can’t last forever (though its pernicious effects might). The big four will eventually see revenues drop as they squeeze the last drops of blood out of the world’s universities. But even as they undermine their own business model, they will destroy the power of universities to generate knowledge for the betterment of society. (Yes, I’m old-fashioned that way.) Meanwhile, universities, governments, corporations, and ordinary citizens will turn to other sources of information – which they can get for free, or at least affordably – undermining the relevance of public scholarship.

For-profit academic publishing is a suicide bombing mission against the academy. In pursuing their doomed business model, the big publishers risk turning the work we do as scholars into a giant echo chamber. Students take on a lifetime of debt, partly to pay for journal subscriptions that enrich a few corporations. Scholars are turned into serfs who must feed the beast new product for it to sell, or risk losing their already tenuous livelihoods. Institutions bankrupt themselves paying for ever more expensive journals without which they cannot compete. Fewer and fewer people can read the rapidly increasing number of scholarly articles.
One other thing is not mentioned, those "enterprising" publishers from developed countries scamming authors from the less fortunate countries into paying to publish their articles in "Western" e-journals which (in the business model) other people are then expected to pay to access. I have seen several such "offers" floating around recently.

The situation described here deserves attention from academics as well as those amateurs who claim to be producing history by their collecting activity. Surely this is an opportunity for them since they are not hindered in their publication activity by the need to get their work into a fixed range of journals. The situation described by Dr Shoup however certainly restricts THEIR access to cutting-edge literature.

Vignette: who controls academic publication?

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