The business model of for-profit academic publishers

"Science should belong to scientists and not the publishers" - Alexandra Elbakyan

The advent of the internet made for-profit scientific journals obsolete. In every other industry, publishers are required to invest significant capital to produce their content and collect revenue from advertisements and/or subscription fees from those who consume the content. Because the majority of funding for content production in academic science comes from industrial or public sources, for-profit publishers are not responsible for producing their own content. In fact, they are able to charge publication fees to content producers and subscription fees to content consumers.

For-profit academic journals have been found to charge up to four-times the amount of non-profit publishers. Submission fee ranges from $150-$5,000 USD, and subscription fees quickly add up. In 2012, Harvard University paid over $16,000,000 to academic publishers. Typically, these publishers operate at 30%+ profit margin. The largest of which, Elservier, is responsible for publishing over 24% of scientific papers and collects over $3,000,000,000 in revenue every year. In 2009, Elservier charged institutions an average of $3,100,000 for access to all of its publications. This exploitative economic niche is made possible by grant-givers dependence on poor quality metrics.

Most importantly, the demand for publication in for-profit academic journals restricts access to publicly funded scientific knowledge. It is not financially feasible for the average person to afford access to the studies published in these journals. These ethically questionable practices prevent the grand majority of the world’s population from learning from cutting-edge scientific research.

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