The Sloman Economics News Site » Research, publications, pricing and incentives
[Use the link to access a list of additional readings and a series of discussion questions related to the following blog post.] “Periodically university research in the UK is publicly assessed. The latest assessment is known as the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and will be completed in 2014. Most research that will be considered by the REF is published in peer-reviewed journals. Most of these journals are subscription based. Universities pay large amounts of money in subscriptions. In recent years there has been much criticism by both academics and universities about the high cost of such subscriptions. In a movement dubbed the Academic Spring, pressure has mounted for journal articles to be made available free of charge – i.e. on open access. The government too has been concerned that the results of publicly-funded research has been disappearing behind ‘paywalls’ and hence not available free to people outside the universities which subscribe to such journals. Indeed, no single university can afford licences for all the 25,000 peer-reviewed journals currently being published. As a result, the government set up a committee under the chair of Professor Janet Finch to examine alternative ways of making research more accessible. The committee has just published its report. It advocates an expansion of open-access journals... Under this model, universities would essentially pay to have their academics’ articles published rather than paying to purchase the journal. Alternatively, research councils could fund the publication of articles based on research already funded by them. Many people go further. They argue that authors ought to be able to have their published research in any journal made freely available, after an embargo period, through their university’s website. So is the current pricing model the best for encouraging research and for disseminating its findings? Or is open access a better model – and if so, of what form? Or would it discourage publishers and lead, in the end, to less being published or to a less rigorous peer review process? The questions are ones of pricing, incentives, choices and investment – the questions that economists are qualified to consider.