Scholastica White Paper Calls for Democratized Journal Publishing

Guest Post by Danielle Padula, Community Development officer for Scholastica, email: dpadula@scholasticahq.com

It’s no secret that the cost of corporate-run academic journals is skyrocketing. A 2007 study found the average list price of for-profit journals to be four times higher than that of not-for-profit publications. Rising journal subscription prices have increased support among the academic community for publishing scholarship open access (OA), or free to read online. But on its own OA publishing does not address the issue of hefty journal publication fees being extracted from the academic community. Article Processing Charges (APCs) for OA articles have been climbing at an alarming rate as well, increasing by 6% over the past few years according to Jisc.

What’s causing rising journal prices, and how can the academic community address the issue to facilitate sustainable OA publishing? “Democratizing Academic Journals: Technology, Services, and Open Access,” a new Scholastica white paper, collates key literature and insights from 5 expert OA advocates to explore the underlying triggers of the journals crisis and propose a solution. The paper argues that in order to achieve sustainable OA publishing, the academic community must upend the corporate publisher paradigm by democratizing  journal publishing.

Scholastica’s white paper overviews the history of academic journal publishing, current alternatives to the corporate model, and how despecialization of journal publishing will lower costs in the future. The white paper explores how widespread adoption of new publishing technologies and services will facilitate the democratization of journal publishing and foster transparency and competition in the marketplace.

The paper brings together insights from the following contributors:

  • Björn Brembs, Professor of Neurogenetics at the University of Regensburg and OA advocate
  • Dan Morgan, Digital Science Publisher at University of California Press
  • Roxanne Missingham, Chief Scholarly Information Officer at Australian National University and Australian OA Support Group Deputy Chair
  • Stevan Harnad, Professor in the Department of Psychology at Université du Québec à Montréal, Professor of Web Science at University of Southampton, Green OA advocate
  • Ulrich Herb, OA expert at Saarland University and State Library and member of multiple OA working groups

Since the 1960s corporate publishers have been infiltrating the academic journal market. Today, five corporate publishers control the majority market share of journals, with profit margins from subscriptions and OA publishing fees exceeding 30%. As corporate publishers have gained greater market share of journals, particularly titles with high journal impact factor, they’ve pushed institutions to pay more for key research only available in their titles.  While the academic community has tried to work with publishers to lower journal prices, publisher profit incentives have continually brought negotiations to an impasse.

Corporate publishers have tried to justify rising journal costs as necessary to support the services they provide. However, today examples of online only nonprofit journals operating at a fraction of the price are challenging corporate norms and leading many to question if mounting journal costs are going towards article production or publisher profits.

Scholastica’s white paper explores the true cost of journal publishing. It argues that by moving journal publishing back to the nonprofit sector and publishing digital-only using online services the academic community will regain control of research production and be able to substantially lower the cost of journals. You can access the full paper here.

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