Harvard Challenges Academic Publishing Cartel

Mark Perry
updated | Author's Website
The Guardian — “Exasperated by rising subscription costs charged by academic publishers, Harvard University has encouraged its faculty members to make their research freely available through open access journals and to resign from publications that keep articles behind paywalls. A memo from Harvard Library to 2,100 teaching and research staff called for action after warning it could no longer afford the price hikes imposed by many large journal publishers, which bill the library $3.75m a year.
The extraordinary move thrusts one of the world’s wealthiest and most prestigious institutions into the center of an increasingly fraught debate over access to the results of academic research, much of which is funded by the taxpayer. The outcome of Harvard’s decision to take on the publishers will be watched closely by major universities around the world and is likely to prompt others to follow suit.
The memo from Harvard’s faculty advisory council said major publishers had created an “untenable situation” at the university by making scholarly interaction “fiscally unsustainable” and “academically restrictive”, while drawing profits of 35% or more. Prices for online access to articles from two major publishers have increased 145% over the past six years, with some journals costing as much as $40,000, the memo said.
More than 10,000 academics have already joined a boycott of Elsevier, the huge Dutch publisher, in protest at its journal pricing and access policies. Many university libraries pay more than half of their journal budgets to the publishers Elsevier, Springer and Wiley.”

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