George Monbiot has just published a piece in The Telegraph berating for-profit academic publishers that will surely be castigated by some as over the top hyperbole and praised by others as a trenchant criticism of the state of academic publishing*. Starting off with the, perhaps, ever so slightly, contentious title of Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist Monbiot proceeds to fire zingers like
Murdoch pays his journalists and editors, and his companies generate much of the content they use. But the academic publishers get their articles, their peer reviewing (vetting by other researchers) and even much of their editing for free. The material they publish was commissioned and funded not by them but by us, through government research grants and academic stipends. But to see it, we must pay again, and through the nose.
and backs up his position with a recent analysis by Deutsche Bank
The publishers claim that they have to charge these fees as a result of the costs of production and distribution, and that they add value (in Springer’s words) because they “develop journal brands and maintain and improve the digital infrastructure which has revolutionised scientific communication in the past 15 years”. But an analysis by Deutsche Bank reaches different conclusions. “We believe the publisher adds relatively little value to the publishing process … if the process really were as complex, costly and value-added as the publishers protest that it is, 40% margins wouldn’t be available.”
finally ending with a call to arms that even your, never shying away from a good fight, narrator would have toned down a bit**
The knowledge monopoly is as unwarranted and anachronistic as the corn laws. Let’s throw off these parasitic overlords and liberate the research that belongs to us.
Go read the whole thing. This is something that folks are going to be talking about, and I think it’s another good opportunity to ask ourselves whether the the group that contributes the least to the overall scientific process should the one that benefits the most financially. I take it as yet another sign that 2011 is the year that the war over academic publishing officially began.
*Yes, once I used the word “excoriation” in the title I got a little carried away with the big words.
**Though not for lack of agreement with the general sentiment; clearly.