Dysfunctional practices in the
journal publishing system
Recent independent studies of the journal publishing market have
concluded that it is not working optimally because of structural
Subscription fee-based and print-based scholarly publishing system has
become dysfunctional and is in a state of crisis.
Journal subscription fees have risen four times faster than inflation
since the mid-1980s.
According to Blackwell Periodical Price Indexes, there has been an
average increase in journal prices of 178.3% in science and technical
journals between 1990 and 2000. Institutional subscriptions to
individual journals can cost up to $20,000 per year. Recent estimates
indicate that profits for traditional journals are, on average, 40% in a
$9 billion industry.
The restricted-access subscription-based journal publishing system is in
and of itself a barrier to advancement of knowledge because only the
most affluent universities and scholars have access to most of the
journals. Moreover, during the past few years, the escalating cost of
research journals has forced many scholars, libraries and institutions
to cancel their subscriptions. The current system has become
economically unsustainable for libraries, limiting their ability to
provide access to vital research information. Universities
have also faced decreasing support for libraries as spending on
libraries has fallen under 3% of average university spending since
At a time when digital and online access should enable researchers to
maximize the reach and impact of their research, the restrictive
business practices of traditional publishers have placed serious
constraints on the dissemination of knowledge. All of this is
detrimental to both readers and authors. As the readers’ access to
research becomes limited, it reduces the authors’ exposure. It creates
barriers for the scientific community from scholarly interaction and
access. Consequently, access to scientific knowledge has gone into a
state of decline in recent years. Moreover, the US-based share of world
scientific output has declined (source).
Discontent with the traditional
A widespread discontent with the traditional business model for
scholarly journals has led to the proposal of a new business model, the
open-access. Open access publishing provides an accessible alternative
by taking advantage of the Internet. As the printing press of the modern
age, the Internet widens distribution and allows scholars to share
knowledge instantly with a worldwide audience. It fosters openness in
the flow of scientific and creative ideas as a means to advancing
knowledge. Many scholars now believe that open-access publishing is the
wave of the future. See what
scholars are saying.
"SJI is exactly what the scientific community needs. With the
Internet greatly reducing the cost of information distribution, the
age of restrictive and expensive content from the traditional
journal publishers should be on the way out and a new age of truly
widespread and available discourse on scientific results can begin."
Dr. Cory DiCarlo, Assistant Professor of Chemistry,
Grand Valley State University, Michigan.
"I strongly support SJI and
its mission. Open access journals increase and inspire
research interest world-wide. These open access journals
including SJI are edited by scientists who value the
integrity and ethics of medical research. I have personally
reviewed manuscripts for publications in SJI with the same
process and scrutiny that I have reviewed manuscripts for other high
impact journals." --
Atif Ali, Associate Professor of Pathology and Pediatrics,
University of Missouri, Kansas City. Director of
Immunohistochemistry, Department of Pathology and Laboratory
"I strongly support open access
peer reviewed journals like SJI. Open access journals are
leading the way to scholarly work being available to all people
around the world.
As a sociologist I favor open access journals over journals
reserved for a select group of people." -- Dr. Donna Dea Holland, Department of Sociology,
Indiana Purdue University, Indiana.
"I strongly support SJI.
Open-access journals are becoming the wave of the future, and they
are highly beneficial to scholars and researchers all around the world. As an
open-access journal, SJI sets very high standards for peer reviews
and for publication." -- Dr. Jianjun Sun, Research Fellow in the Department of
Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School.
"Open access journals are the need of the times, especially when there is a dearth of good journals in many regions of the world. Also, there is difficulty in accessing those that exist due to the prohibitive costs. The world has been witnessing an information explosion, and the knowledge so created requires such journals for the purpose of its dissemination."
Dr. J. H. Khan, Professor and Head, Department of English, Sardar
Patel University, India.
"Open access journals, such as SJI, are extremely beneficial to international scholars who will not be able to access most of the journals published
overseas but are eager to obtain knowledge and exchange ideas with scholars around the world."
-- Dr. Yali Zhao, Assistant Professor, Georgia State University,
model of publishing
The open-access concept shifts the
funding from subscription fees to article processing fees. This new
model for scholarly publishing has gained support from scholars,
universities, and funding agencies in recent years. According to
surveys, many funding agencies are willing to allow direct use of their
grants by researchers to cover article-processing fees (source).
The concept of article processing fee, however, is not an entirely new
practice. Many traditional journals levied page charges or reprint
charges, long before open access became a possibility. In addition,
traditional journals charge subscription fees and restrict access to
scientific knowledge to those scholars and institutions that can pay
their escalating charges.
Open-access publishing model has changed this unfair practice. It has
eliminated the subscription fees and opened up access to scientific
knowledge. However, in order to pay for the publishing costs and
generate adequate revenues, many open-access publishers charge a
processing fee on accepted articles. In some cases, it is the author's
employer or research grantor who typically pays the fee.
In the traditional subscription model of publishing, the journal is
exclusively available to subscribers for a fee. In the open-access
model, the article is freely available for all immediately upon
publication. Open-access publishing promises to remove both the price
barriers and the permission barriers that undermine library efforts to
provide access to journal literature. The open-access model has
improved the circulation of knowledge, and has expanded its value by
enhancing participation in a global exchange of ideas.
Open access makes knowledge freely available to all, regardless of
whether the researcher or scholar is at Oxford or Yale, or at a small
college in Mississippi, Mumbai or Manila. Open-access publishing
enhances the visibility of university faculty, reduces their expenses
for journals, and advances their mission to share knowledge. Open access
publishing ensures a free flow of scientific information and knowledge
at the worldwide level. Most scholars now agree that electronic journals
are a much better way of delivering journal articles than paper journals
housed in libraries. Moreover, open access promises to enlighten the
citizens outside the academy, enhance teaching and learning, and speed
up the pace of discovery.
To a large extent, the open-access movement is a reaction to the
dysfunctional practices in the conventional scholarly publishing system.
Many scholars consider the traditional publishing system obsolete and
believe that the future of scholarly publishing lies in the open-access
model. Richard Roberts, a Nobel Laureate and Editor of NAR stated "Open
access is the future of scientific publication and one that we should
all work hard to make successful" (source).
Benefits of open access publishing
The open-access model of scholarly publishing serves the interests of
everyone. Open-access publishing offers the authors a worldwide audience
larger than that of any subscription-based journal. Scholars benefit
because the open-access publishing provides them barrier-free access to
the scientific literature they need for their own research (as they are
not constrained by the budgets of the libraries). Open-access
publishing also helps solve the pricing crisis for scholarly journals.
No library in the world can afford to subscribe to every scientific
journal and most can only afford a small fraction of them. Open-access
also makes research articles more visible, retrievable, and useful at
the worldwide level, and fosters scientific collaboration and
Several studies have confirmed that an open access article is more
likely to be used and cited than articles behind subscription barriers.
A 2006 study in PLoS Biology found that articles published as immediate
open access were three times more likely to be cited than non-open
access papers. From the point of view of funding agencies, open-access
publishing increases the return on their investment in research by
making the results of the funded research more widely available. From
the citizen's perspective, open-access publishing offers them access to
peer-reviewed research, most of which is not available in public
libraries. It gives them access to government-funded research for which
they have already paid through their taxes. It also helps them
indirectly by helping the researchers, academics, physicians, and others
who make use of cutting-edge research that can benefit the public. In
other words, open access extends the reach of research beyond its
immediate academic circle.
Governments fund research in order to make an impact on the economy and
society. Making the research results available more easily to the
commercial sector (through knowledge transfer from research institutions
to the industry) has great potential to promote innovation. Recently,
Houghton et al had provided research data that reveal the economic value
of increasing access to research outputs (source).
Open-access publishing facilitates more effective search and retrieval
as well as sophisticated processing and analysis of content. Access
barriers associated with the traditional publishing system make such
access and analysis difficult.
There is now a growing global demand for open access publishing.
According to a recent international study by researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians
University of Germany and University of Arkansas, about 96% of
researchers indicated that open-access publishing provides easier access
to scientific knowledge and it is desirable. Many scholars believe that
open access to scientific knowledge can bring a global revolution in
teaching, learning, research, and collaboration. These findings are
consistent with the widespread international support for global open
for open access
The open access concept has
received considerable support from researchers, academics, librarians,
university administrators, funding agencies, governments, national
research agencies, commercial publishers, and society publishers.
Recently, The Alliance for Taxpayer Access has been formed to create
awareness about public’s right to open access to scientific information.
More than 30 nations have signed the Economic Co-operation and
Development Declaration on Access to Research Data from Public Funding (source).
During the past few years, a number of national and international
initiatives have stressed the importance of open-access publishing.
These include Open Society Institute’s Budapest Open Access Initiative
in 2002, World Summit on the Information Society and its Declaration on
Open Access to Knowledge in 2003, and Bethesda Statement on Open Access
Publishing in June 2003. Many countries, granting agencies,
foundations, universities and research organizations have now either
made commitments to open access, or are in the process of opening up
access to research. Government committees around the world are also
taking steps to promote free online access to scientific literature.
Research funding agencies and universities want to ensure that the
research they fund in various ways has the greatest possible reach and
impact. Many funding agencies including The National Institutes of
Health and The Wellcome Trust have adopted open-access self-archiving
mandates. The European Research Advisory Board (EURAB) has also
expressed support for open-access archiving. In 2005, the Canadian
Library Association endorsed a Resolution on Open Access. The
Association of College and Research Libraries of the American Library
Association has also documented the need for increased access to
Recently, several leading European research institutions launched a
petition that called on the European Commission to establish a new
policy that would require all government-funded research to be made
available to the public shortly after publication (source).
This petition has been signed by several Nobel Laureates and more
than 20,000 scholars from hundreds of educational and research
organizations from around the world. In response, the European
Commission committed more than $100 million towards facilitating greater
open access. In the United States, the Federal Research Public Access
Act has been introduced that would require federal agencies that fund
over $100 million in annual external research to make peer-reviewed journal articles stemming from that research publicly
available on the Internet.
In 2007, there were calls for an EU-wide open access mandate from the
European Research Advisory Board. In the US, eight non-profit
organizations launched a similar petition. Other calls for open access
to publicly-funded research came from Center for Disease Control and
Prevention and the Department of Energy. The final report of a joint
UK/US meeting (sponsored by JISC and NSF) recommended an open access
mandate for publicly-funded research. In the UK, the e-Infrastructure
Working Group of the Office of Science and Innovation endorsed the open
access mandate at the Research Councils UK. Library and Archives Canada
has also called for open access to publicly-funded research. In India, the
National Knowledge Commission recommended an open access mandate.
University-level open access mandates are under consideration at
Harvard, MIT, University of California and dozens of other major
universities around the world.
Twenty-five Nobel Laureates have recently asked the U.S. government
to make all taxpayer-funded research papers freely available through
open access platforms. The scientists said in a letter to Congress and
the National Institutes of Health “Science is the measure of the human
race’s progress. As scientists, and taxpayers too, we therefore object
to barriers that hinder, delay or block the spread of scientific
knowledge supported by Federal tax dollars - including our own works.”