OLH authors Stuart Lawson and Jonathan Gray have published an article in the Guardian about their research into the cost of open access publishing. The piece is based on the recent article, “Opening the Black Box of Scholarly Communication Funding: A Public Data Infrastructure for Financial Flows in Academic Publishing,” which was published on the Open Library of Humanities on 11 April 2016 (and co-authored with Michele Mauri).
‘Public access to publicly funded research,’ as the authors write in the Open Library of Humanities, “has been one of the rallying calls of the global open access movement. Governments and public institutions around the world have mandated that publications supported by public funding sources should be publicly accessible. Publishers are experimenting with new models to widen access. Yet financial flows underpinning scholarly publishing remain complex and opaque. In this article we present work to trace and reassemble a picture of financial flows around the publication of journals in the UK in the midst of a national shift towards open access. We contend that the current lack of financial transparency around scholarly communication is an obstacle to evidence-based policy-making – leaving researchers, decision-makers and institutions in the dark about the systemic implications of new financial models. We conclude that obtaining a more joined up picture of financial flows is vital as a means for researchers, institutions and others to understand and shape changes to the sociotechnical systems that underpin scholarly communication.”
As Lawson and Gray write in their Guardian piece:
It may seem like an administrative afterthought, but the issue of how research is communicated in society raises questions that cut to the heart of what academics do, and what academia is about. The scale of the entanglement between academic research and big publishers may well lead us to ask: who is serving whom? Does our scholarly communication system put the needs of researchers first? Or does it prioritise the uninterrupted profitability of a handful of publishers? […]
Thanks to hundreds of freedom of information requests, we have a window into how higher educational institutions spend more than £180m every year on journal subscriptions. The lion’s share of this (just over 42%) goes to four of the largest publishers. Data about article processing charges is much more difficult to get hold of. Thanks to the valiant efforts of a few librarians and institutions we now have partial information for a selection of institutions, but this is still only a very small part of the picture. From what we can tell so far, the same big publishers who receive most money from subscriptions also take home the most money from article processing charges.
Click here to read the Open Library of Humanities article in which Lawson, Gray and Mauri analyse the financial flows of scholarly publishing.