Open access or daylight robbery?

Thought this Guardian article by George Monbiot was interesting. Scientific publishing is a rip-off. Monbiot writes:

The model was pioneered by the notorious conman Robert Maxwell. He realised that, because scientists need to be informed about all significant developments in their field, every journal that publishes academic papers can establish a monopoly and charge outrageous fees for the transmission of knowledge. He called his discovery “a perpetual financing machine”. He also realised that he could capture other people’s labour and resources for nothing. Governments funded the research published by his company, Pergamon, while scientists wrote the articles, reviewed them and edited the journalsfor free. His business model relied on the enclosure of common and public resources. Or, to use the technical term, daylight robbery.

Daylight robbery? What do folks in Academia think?


Yes, it is.

It is my impression that university libraries are finding that the cost of access to these journals is becoming too high a proportion of their total budget.

As an old song says: When an irresistible force meets an immovable object, something’s got to give.

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Basically yes. But it’s widespread and largely official “robbery”, so it’s much harder to do something about.

For instance, the American Chemical Society is the largest scientific organization in the world with 158,000 members (myself included) and a $528 million budget. It also is a massive publisher with 54 peer-reviewed journals and makes most of its money off the Chemical Abstracts Service, a massive database of chemical information. Chemists are very much tied up both in the system of “daylight robbery” and in the benefits, and it’s not clear how to exactly get out.

Open access journals may help, but right now they are mostly for scientists who can afford the burden of the publishing costs. Publishing an article in an open access chemistry journal may cost me as much as the research itself. In the end, the publisher is gonna get paid, either by readers or by scientists.

Completely agree with you. It’s ridiculous how if you’re not part of a university subscription, you have to basically pay $30 or so to download one paper of a few pages. Especially since scientists write the articles, peer-review them, in fact sometimes even pay for them to get published. It seems just to cover the fees for the full-time editors who facilitate the process, but I think publishing companies are charging way more than that.

I think even Harvard, the richest university in the world, a few years ago canceled their full subscription to some journals and switched to a pay-per-download model. It was too costly.

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Yep, as far as scientific journals go, I have access to Science and Nature and that’s about it through my library. I personally pay for my own subscription to one journal in my field, but that’s about as good as I can do.

Note to R1 faculty: being able to have adjunct/research associate or some other title that gets you journal access at a research university is a tremendous asset to PUI faculty.

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