Publishers versus everyone 2012-05-21


“Following on from yesterday’s rant, I’m moved to write this one by Stephen Curry’s report on the latest Finch Committee meeting.  (For anyone who’s not been following along, the Finch Committee is a high-powered group that’s been convened by the UK government to come up with recommendations on the way forward for scholarly publishing.) Stephen reports the following, from the minutes of the meeting, concerning the maximum six-month embargo period recommended by the recent RCUK draft policy: ‘Publisher members of the Working Group were unhappy about this, and were perplexed about the rationale specifically for a six-month period, which did not appear to be based on any analysis of the half-life of articles. RCUK’s view, however, was that the six-month span had been suggested because it was deemed right and appropriate.’ And there you have it in the nutshell...‘   There can be no doubt whatsoever that the six-month maximum on embargoes is a benefit to researchers, to students, to concerned citizens, to ambitious high-school kids, to doctors, to nurses, to legislators, to amateur palaeontologists, astronomers and ornithologists.  In short, to everyone.  With one trifling exception: barrier-based publishers. Now we may as well admit that reducing Green-OA embargo periods will cut into those publishers’ revenues.  (It’s often been stated, and as far as I know it’s actually true, that no actual study has ever shown Green OA to harm publisher revenues; but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.)  When embargo limits are cut down, it may be that instead of climbing for a sixth consecutive year, Elsevier will not be able to improve ontheir 2011 profit margin of 37.3%.  Their profit margin might fall.  Just imagine the hardship if their profit margin was cut by a full third, all the way down to 24.9% — then they be only a little more profitable than Apple were in their record-breaking 2011.  Poor Elsevier!  You have to feel sorry for their shareholders! But here’s the point: it’s their problem.  Somehow, barrier-based for-profit publishing corporations have suckered us into thinking we have a responsibility to keep them in the style to which they have become accustomed — which has come to mean continuing year-on-year record profits.  We are not responsible for their businesses.  And it would be wrong and immoral of RCUK, who represent British taxpayers, to take publishers’ private interests into account at all in deciding their policy.  (To give credit where it’s due, they haven’t: the full minutes show them repeatedly standing up to the publishers.) ... So back in January when I wrote in the Guardian that Academic publishers have become the enemies of science, I now realise I was mistaken.  What I should have written is that academic publishers have become the enemies of us all.”



08/16/2012, 06:08

From feeds:

Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) »

Tags: oa.business_models oa.publishers oa.comment oa.government oa.mandates oa.elsevier oa.funders oa.profits oa.embargoes oa.rcuk oa.recommendations oa.finch_report oa.repositories oa.policies



Date tagged:

05/21/2012, 17:45

Date published:

05/21/2012, 20:37