Tuesday, August 30, 2011

George Monbiot – The Lairds of Learning

Academic publisher's charge outrageous fees to universities and effectively deprive the general public of access to knowledge.  It's about time that the internet routed around them.


The publishers claim that they have to charge these fees as a result of the costs of production and distribution, and that they add value (in Springer’s words) because they “develop journal brands and maintain and improve the digital infrastructure which has revolutionized scientific communication in the past 15 years.”(10) But an analysis by Deutsche Bank reaches different conclusions. “We believe the publisher adds relatively little value to the publishing process … if the process really were as complex, costly and value-added as the publishers protest that it is, 40% margins wouldn’t be available.”(11) Far from assisting the dissemination of research, the big publishers impede it, as their long turnaround times can delay the release of findings by a year or more(12).

What we see here is pure rentier capitalism: monopolising a public resource then charging exorbitant fees to use it. Another term for it is economic parasitism. To obtain the knowledge for which we have already paid, we must surrender our feu to the lairds of learning.

It’s bad enough for academics, it’s worse for the laity. I refer readers to peer-reviewed papers, on the principle that claims should be followed to their sources. The readers tell me that they can’t afford to judge for themselves whether or not I have represented the research fairly. Independent researchers who try to inform themselves about important scientific issues have to fork out thousands(12). This is a tax on education, a stifling of the public mind. It appears to contravene the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says that “everyone has the right freely to … share in scientific advancement and its benefits.”(13)

Posted via email from The Blue Pelican

No comments: