[Taxacom] Monbiot editorial on academic publishing

iczn-em iczn-em at nhm.ac.uk
Wed Aug 31 13:05:07 CDT 2011

This opinion piece seems to have hit an unusual level of agreement in the
doch-socialist ). Usually Monbiot is a lightning rod for controversy (he
writes a lot about green issues and social justice, which pulls in the
trolls), but unusually almost all of the 340-and-counting comments support
his perspective. Everyone agrees that 36% year-on-year profit by Elsevier
sounds like way too much, especially wrung out of content gifted to them.
One commentator champions an e-only journal that is completely free for both
authors and readers (but presumably the work put in to editing and
formatting is done on some other employer's dime). But a few people raise
the problem that Nadia mentions (but then puts to the side) which is that
self-funded researchers would be severely disadvantaged if the whole system
went for the OA, pay-by-authors model. Physics wouldn't suffer in that
situation, but taxonomy would.

Below is a comment from the UK records management listserver that shines
some light on the scale of the issue:

'Yes, it was an excellent article that pulled no punches in a completely
justified attack on the incarceration of publicly funded scholarship and
research behind profiteering paywalls. As Monbiot says, "... monopolising a
public resource then charging exorbitant fees to use it. Another term for it
is economic parasitism."

The scale of the unpaid labour extracted from academics in the peer-review
process is also revealed in the recent House of Commons Science and
Technology Committee Report on Peer review in scientific publications:

>In 2008, a Research Information Network report estimated that the unpaid
non-cash costs of peer review, undertaken in the main by academics, is £1.9
billion globally each year. In 2010, a report commissioned by JISC Collections
brought together evidence from a number of studies. It concluded that it costs
UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), in terms of staff time, between £110
million and £165 million per year for peer review and up to £30 million per year
for the work done by editors and editorial boards. The BMJ Group pointed out
that ³peer reviewers are rarely paid by publishers, and their work is often done
out of hours² (Vol I, p.19).<

Clearly, an even better game than banking: not only is the gold of
taxpayers' money transmuted into the lead of excessive corporate profits,
but the system is beautifully designed so that the producers feel compelled
to work on the product in their own time and without pay!'

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