Are the cracks appearing?
“I was recently doing some teacher training at a company in the South of Germany, and I wanted to give everyone a copy of a recent journal article as one of the handouts. I won’t embarrass the journal in question, (a well-known journal in the English teaching industry), but the prices quoted were well out of my league (or at least out of the league of the teachers in the workshop, who would have had to cover the costs). The result, of course, was that no-one got the article. The price of journal articles has been controversial for a long time. Universities have to pay large sums to have journals in their libraries and in my experience can normally only afford a few of the many available. Even worse, individuals hoping to download articles privately are asked to pay unreasonably high amounts of money. Basically access to research is restricted to those with deep pockets. The irony, of course, is that authors hardly see any of these profits, at least in monetary terms. They generally submit their work for free in order to earn recognition and move forward in their careers. Yes the publishers add value, and this should be recognized, but dissatisfaction with the system has been growing for some time, and cracks are beginning to appear. Recent articles in the Economist and the Guardian, for example, have focused on the huge profits being made by publishers. Whole movements have sprung up which encourage academics not to publish in journals which seem to be a bit too greedy. With names like the Cost of Knowledge and Academic Spring there seems to be a hint of rebellion in the air. But I am not sure how quickly this is going to affect those of us who work in business English and ESP. The rebellion seems to be aimed more at fields like maths and science, and not at language teaching and learning. Yes, there are some excellent open access journals available (see the Directory of Open Access Journals, for example), and also websites like TESOLacademic.org, which I blogged about a couple of years ago (see post here). But the reality is that options remain limited for those researchers in our field who need to publish, and most of us will continue to have to pay the high sums traditional publishers demand for some time to come. So yes, the cracks are appearing. But we all need to help them develop.”