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The crisis in academia stems from its exponential growth. The "publish or perish" philosophy created by funding policies have deluged the academic world whilst simultaneously (as a reaction) fragmenting it as more and more scientific journals are created to accommodate the increasing specializations (Elliott, 1997). This has resulted in InformationOverload.

Only after the Second World War, did publication rates significantly increase, with the sciences and the social sciences leading the way (Elliott, 1997). More than 30 000 new journals were created in the 1980s alone (Thatcher, 2000). This growth matched Cold War government investment in the sciences as well as the growth of library budgets. While this system worked well for decades, library budgets could no longer absorb price increases at double the rate of inflation or more along with the ever more rapid proliferation of new journals (Carrigan, 1996; Cox, 1998; Thatcher, 2000). Consequently, they had to scale back on the journals offered.

The ease of electronic publishing might suggest that electronic journals would alleviate this problem dramatically. First, many academics are not used to electronic journals. In one survey (Swan and Brown, 2003), 83% said print versions were important, 70% said electronic versions were important, while 68% wanted both. Second, and more distressingly, in the past 15 years the electronic journal industry has consolidated (O'Connor, 2000). For instance, Elsevier and Pergamon are now owned by Reed. Information Access Company (IAC) and the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) are now owned by Thompson. Carfax and Academic Press are now owned by Routledge. And that is only a small sample. Consolidation has led to a dramatic increase in SubscriptionFees, not to mention a reduction in service. Libraries no longer own copies of the journals to archive, but only subscription access; thus, a given issue of a journal no longer has a fixed price, but an ongoing maintainenance price as yearly subscriptions are renewed.

Publishers have responded in a number of ways (Cox, 1998), such as offering individual subscriptions at discounted prices; generating additional revenue from advertising, supplements and special editions; and cost reductions afforded by word processing software. Some libraries have responded by grouping into consortia to license journals as a collective (Kohl, 2003; Rowse, 2003). Nonetheless, neither of these adaptations benefit the authors or the production of scientific knowledge.

Between the high cost of the journals and the complications of using them, many universities, librarians, and scholars have begun to question the assignment of copyright and reprint rights to the journal publishers. For the university to pay for the professor and his research, only to have to buy back the results of his research from the journal publisher at an exorbitant rate is ludicrous. How far are we now from Newton when he said to Hooke (February 5, 1676), "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants"? If the problem is the publishers, perhaps the Internet as a medium of self-publishing and self-distribution might be useful.



Carrigan, D. P. (1996). Commercial journal publishers and university libraries: Retrospect and prospect. Journal of Scholarly Publishing 27(4), 208-221.

Cox, J. (1998). The great journals crisis: A complex present, but a collegial future. Logos, 9(1), 29-33.

Elliot, R. (1997) The impact of electronic publishing in the scientific information chain. IFLA Journal, 23(5/6). Available from http://www.inasp.info/psi/ejp/elliot.html

Kohl, D. (2003). Consortial licensing vs. tradition: breaking up is hard to do. Learned Publishing, 16, 47–53.

O'Connor, S. (2000). Economic and intellectual value in existing and new paradigms of electronic scholarly communication. Library Hi Tech, 18(1), 37.

Rowse, M. (2003). The consortium site license: is it a sustainable model? Health Information and Libraries Journal, 20, 104–107.

Swan, A. and Brown, S. (2003). Authors and electronic publishing: what authors want from the new technology. Learned Publishing, 16, 28–33.

Elliot, R. (1997) The impact of electronic publishing in the scientific information chain. IFLA Journal, 23(5/6). Available from http://www.inasp.info/psi/ejp/elliot.html

Thatcher, S. G. (2000). Fair use: a double-edged sword. Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 32(1), 3-8.


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