A number of articles as well as some lively listserv discussions have commented on a recent open letter to the Harvard faculty encouraging them “to make their research freely available through open access journals and to resign from publications that keep articles behind paywalls.”
In fact, according to a recent post in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the library’s Faculty Advisory Council claims that “the rising cost of journal subscriptions has created an “untenable situation” for the Harvard Library.” The letter goes on to recommend actions like submitting papers to open access journals or institutional repositories, seeking more library friendly policies from scholarly associations and more transparent subscription contracts from publishers. In short, the traditional journal publishing model with its “financially untenable” subscription prices is being called in to question by one of the world’s most prestigious universities.
Something serious may be brewing. An article in the Guardian about this issue also comments on the recent Elsevier boycott supported by “more than 10,000 academics” and last year’s new contracts negotiated by Research Libraries UK (RLUK) with Elsevier and Wiley after “the group threatened to cancel large subscriptions to the publishers.” However, according to David Prosser, the Executive Director of RLUK “the better deals have given us a little breathing space, but they don’t solve the problem. There is a long-term structural problem with this market that isn’t going to be solved that simply.”
Is Mr. Prosser right? Is there a long-term structural problem in the journal market? Is open access the answer? Is there a larger role for institutional repositories? Are other options like the Pay only for Usage model part of the solution. And where do traditional publishers fit into the mix?
What is your take on all this? As always we are interested in what you think so feel free to reply with your comments.
(Image from the Harvard Library Facebook page.)