Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Harvard slams the publishing industry racket

For those who haven't participated in scientific publishing directly, I'll describe it briefly:

A scientist, potentially funded by your tax dollars, has research he wants to publish. He writes a manuscript using data he's accumulated using this funding. That manuscript is submitted to a scientific journal (like Nature or JAMA) and undergoes a peer-review process of some sort (which may or may not be free for the author). Let's assume that manuscript is accepted for publication by the journal. The journal "publishes" the manuscript, at which point it is included in print and online versions. The manuscript can be accessed through a direct subscription to the journal or to a publishing house like Elsevier. These subscriptions are very expensive.

So the scientist pays to provide content and the reader pays to view it. What exactly does the publisher do?

This isn't meant to be exhaustive (I wrote about it a bit more here), but one definitely feels a little icky thinking about where all that money goes.

In today's Guardian, Harvard University notes that it can no longer keep up with the costs of maintaining a comprehensive database of journals. In real terms, this means Harvard students/faculty/physicians don't have access to all new information. If Harvard, with its multi-billion dollar endowment, can't keep up with rising costs, there's no doubt this system is in trouble.

We at OSK are glad to see Harvard is thinking progressively. We're disappointed it's only doing so for financial reasons. Such is life, I suppose.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 United States License.