Hagve 2020 Tidsskr Nor Legeforen

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Hagve M (2020) The money behind academic publishing. Tidsskr Nor Legeforen doi: 10.4045/tidsskr.20.0118.

» Open Access

Hagve M (2020) Tidsskr Nor Legeforen

Abstract: The academic publishing industry earns high profits and shapes how we undertake medical research. With the increasing demand for free access to articles, academic publishing is now changing, but is it changing for the better?

Bioblast editor: Gnaiger E

Selected quotations

  • Like 14 other countries, the Research Council of Norway has also approved Plan S. Under this plan, all research supported through funds announced by the Research Council of Norway after 2021 will be published in open-access academic journals (1–3).
  • The academic publishing industry has a large financial turnover. Its worldwide sales amount to more than USD 19 billion, which positions it between the music industry and the film industry (4). The market is largely dominated by five large publishing houses: Elsevier, Black & Wiley, Taylor & Francis, Springer Nature and SAGE, which control more than 50 % of the market between them.
  • Elsevier has a profit margin approaching 40 %, which is higher than that of companies such as Microsoft, Google and Coca Cola, and the curve is pointing upwards (4–6).
  • The government funds all stages of research production, but must then pay again to have access to the research results.
  • {public institutions pay for subscriptions ..} the figure for Europe as a whole has been estimated at EUR 420 million (7, 8).
  • Through the so-called DORA declaration, many have chosen to disregard the impact factor completely when evaluating research quality, and Norwegian research institutions have endorsed this (11). The idea is good, but it leaves us with the problem of having no method for assessing the quality of research.
  • The flipside is that open access has paved the way for a completely new way to earn a profit. .. In a purely open-access journal, the price is often in the range of USD 1500–3000, but for traditional subscription-based journals, it can reach USD 6000 (5).
  • In 2013, John Bohannon published the article 'Who's afraid of peer review?', which pointed to the core problem (13). He wrote a study in which he generated fake academic articles with a content devoid of scientific meaning and with obvious errors and omissions. This study was sent to more than 300 open-access journals, and more than 150 of them accepted it for publication with virtually no signs of quality control or peer review. Half of these journals were registered in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), which is worrisome. The objective of this registry is to list quality-assured open-access journals to distinguish them from unscrupulous operators (so-called 'predatory journals') (14).
  • Although the access will now be open, there is no evidence to suggest that the price paid by the government will in fact decline. In my opinion, this goal should be as important or even more important. Many have also been critical of the new agreements and Plan S because of its lack of focus on cost reduction (3), and it is naive to believe that Elsevier and others will give up their golden goose without a fight. Despite the increasing pressure on the industry and the demands from the public sector for open access in recent years, the profit rates of the publishing houses are growing (5, 6). Nor does Plan S in its present form include a good solution to the problems referred to above, that open access potentially may increase the quantity, lower the quality and entail insufficient peer review.
  • With increasing awareness, the academic communities can exert pressure on the industry and the authorities.

Cited by

Gnaiger 2021 Bioenerg Commun


Gnaiger E (2021) Beyond counting papers – a mission and vision for scientific publication. Bioenerg Commun 2021.5. https://doi:10.26124/BEC:2021-0005


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