French fries and academic publishing
March 19, 2012
When my youngest brother was about eight years old, he quipped, “French fries: they may be high in fat, they may be high in cholesterol, but doggone it, they’re salty.”
I often think about that in reference to barrier-based academic publishing. It doesn’t serve authors, it doesn’t serve readers, it doesn’t serve academic libraries, but doggone it, at least it costs vastly more than it should.
So why do scientists, who (1) are at least reasonably intelligent (by and large–insert quip about your least favorite scientist here), (2) have careers that depend on being read as widely as possible, and (3) never have enough money to do all the work they need, keep publishing in this almost comically flawed* system?
Mike takes a stab at an explanation in a new article in The Scientist: Academic publishing is broken. Don’t be fooled by the “tell us something we don’t know” title (which, remember, has to reach people who don’t know about the OA wars); the article contains some new facts and analysis and, in my opinion, precisely nails the problem. Go check it out.
Image borrowed from here (with instructions!).
* It would be comical, if it wasn’t actually contributing to human misery.
Update (7th April 2012)
The Scientist article now exists in a Spanish translation, kindly contributed by Gustavo Rodriguez.