A number of people have brought this recent article in the Economist to my attention. Some excerpts:
There is a widespread feeling that the journal publishers who have mediated this exchange for the past century or more are becoming an impediment to it. One of the latest converts is the British government. On July 16th it announced that, from 2013, the results of taxpayer-financed research would be available, free and online, for anyone to read and redistribute.
Criticism of journal publishers usually boils down to two things. One is that their processes take months, when the internet could allow them to take days. The other is that because each paper is like a mini-monopoly, which workers in the field have to read if they are to advance their own research, there is no incentive to keep the price down. The publishers thus have scientists—or, more accurately, their universities, which pay the subscriptions—in an armlock. That, combined with the fact that the raw material (manuscripts of papers) is free, leads to generous returns. In 2011 Elsevier, a large Dutch publisher, made a profit of £768m on revenues of £2.06 billion—a margin of 37%. Indeed, Elsevier’s profits are thought so egregious by many people that 12,000 researchers have signed up to a boycott of the company’s journals.
Support has been swelling for open-access scientific publishing: doing it online, in a way that allows anyone to read papers free of charge. The movement started among scientists themselves, but governments are now, as Britain’s announcement makes clear, paying attention and asking whether they, too, might benefit from the change.
Read the entire article here
The recent backlash and boycott associated with Elsevier and their outrageous policies and pricing certainly became a spark that fanned flames across many venue of science. International Business Times wrote then:
Timothy Gowers, a mathematician from Cambridge University, called for the boycott on his blog in January over Elsevier’s high subscription price, high profit margins and subscription bundles.
“I am not only going to refuse to have anything to do with Elsevier journals from now on, but I am saying so publicly,” Gowers said in his post. “I am by no means the first person to do this, but the more of us there are, the more socially acceptable it becomes.”
I can tell you this, I’m aware of movements on several fronts along these lines, it is not a matter of if, but when. It seems inevitable to me that traditional journals will eventually go the way of the dodo.