Paywalls block scientific progress. Research should be open to everyone | Jason Schmitt | Education | The Guardian

“Academic and scientific research needs to be accessible to all. The world’s most pressing problems like clean water or food security deserve to have as many people as possible solving their complexities. Yet our current academic research system has no interest in harnessing our collective intelligence. Scientific progress is currently thwarted by one thing: paywalls.

Paywalls, which restrict access to content without a paid subscription, represent a common practice used by academic publishers to block access to scientific research for those who have not paid. This keeps £19.6bn flowing from higher education and science into for-profit publisher bank accounts. My recent documentary, Paywall: The Business of Scholarship, uncovered that the largest academic publisher, Elsevier, regularly has a profit margin between 35-40%, which is greater than Google’s. With financial capacity comes power, lobbyists, and the ability to manipulate markets for strategic advantages – things that underfunded universities and libraries in poorer countries do not have….”

Gilead profits from Tuvada HIV treatment funded by taxpayers and patented by the U.S. government – The Washington Post

“Thomas Folks spent years in his U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab developing a treatment to block deadly HIV in monkeys. Then San Francisco AIDS researcher Robert Grant, using $50 million in federal grants, proved the treatment worked in people who engaged in risky sex.

Their work — almost fully funded by U.S. taxpayers — created a new use for an older prescription drug called Truvada: preventing HIV infection. But the U.S. government, which patented the treatment in 2015, is not receiving a penny for that use of the drug from Gilead Sciences, ­Truvada’s maker, which earned $3 billion in Truvada sales last year….

Gilead argues that the government’s patents for Truvada for PrEP, as the prevention treatment is called, are invalid. And the government has failed to reach a deal for royalties or other concessions from the company — benefits that could be used to distribute the drug more widely….”

Elsevier profits near £1 billion despite European disputes | Times Higher Education (THE)

The publisher has reported steady growth and profit margins of more than a third but warned of threat to business from open access….

Elsevier has shrugged off a breakdown in contracts with German and Swedish universities to swell its profits to nearly £1 billion in 2018, its latest financial results reveal.

The Amsterdam-based publisher reported an all but unchanged profit margin of 37.1 per cent….

It made £942 million in profits on revenues of about £2.5 billion, according to financial results released on 21 February….”

Plan S: Motivations of for-profit publishers | Science

“Most scientists would agree that they want their research to become more publicly accessible, but the fact of the matter is that it costs money to publish an article and host it online for both for-profit and nonprofit publishers. Yet, unlike for-profit publishers, nonprofit publishers such as AAAS (the publisher of Science), the Public Library of Science (PLoS), and the Royal Society reinvest their profits into programs that benefit the community. Although these organizations need enough revenue to remain sustainable, they may be more flexible about adjusting their model for the sake of accessibility.

Important questions to consider beyond open access vs. paywall remain: Should the products and services that scientists provide to journals for free—manuscripts, peer review, editorial oversight—be used for profit? Do for-profit publishers’ interests align with those of the scientific community to make science more accessible for both researchers and readers? Initiatives such as Plan S might also consider whether publicly funded research published by for-profit publishers aligns with a mandate to make access to science more open overall….”

OSF Preprints | Market research report: What has become of new entrants in research workflows and scholarly communication?

Abstract:  Over the years, many names of new entrants in research workflows and scholarly communication have appeared. These players aim to provide improvements on solutions for existing needs, or address new requirements or unarticulated needs in all areas of the research cycle. What has become of these hopeful new entrants and their products, services, and tools? This Fall, market research was conducted to investigate various questions in this respect:

 1. Did they still exist (independently) in 2018? 2. If so, how were they funded and how were they doing? 3. If acquired by 2018, by whom and when were they taken over? This white paper describes the approach and results of the market research. The underlying data are available from Zenodo….”

Science ouverte, le défi de la transparence

From Google’s English: “A new way of conceiving scientific research, open science, was born with the computer revolution. In the wake of Open Access (free access to the results of research funded by public money), it accompanies the great ideal of transparency that today invades all spheres of life in society. This book [by Bernard Rentier] describes its origins, perspectives and objectives, and reveals the obstacles and obstacles to private profit and academic conservatism. …”

Gold Open Access Journals: From scientists’ “publish or perish” to publishers’ “publish to get rich” – Mapping Ignorance

This situation is clearly not sustainable. Scientists, workers of science, receive pressure from multiple agents. On the one hand, we need to publish (publish or perish is still a valid leitmotif for us). But now we need to publish Q1 journals if we want to promote and get funds to keep doing research. And we should do this not just for ourselves (I’m at the end of my career, I can’t promote further than being a full professor with six sexenios6), but especially for keeping our labs alive for the future of our people, PhD students and junior associate professors. And now, we are also pressed to publish open access. This is indeed promoted and required by the national 2011 “Ley de la Ciencia, la Tecnología y la Innovación” (Science, Technology and Innovation Act) if your research has been produced with public funding. And Spain is not an isolated case. This is happening everywhere. Open access philosophy apparently promotes a democratic, solidary and transparent science system, so that governments and public funding agencies are demanding the researchers to acquire the compromise of publishing OA as a sine qua non requisite just to apply for funds. We keep this compromise thanks to Green Open Access, publishing our pre-prints in public, free-access repositories of our institutions. I wonder why we don’t skip the journal and just publish our manuscripts in the repository without the need for journal submission and peer review. I sincerely think that the quality of my papers would be more or less the same (I’m very perfectionist and know how to do my job after 30 years of experience), and the publication time would be substantially reduced….

This is the problem. Is there a solution? I think the answer is YES. Scientists have, logically, a leading role in scientific publication and the solution to this unbearable situation is in our hands. We cannot be working for the benefit of private companies anymore. Moreover, measures of governments and funding agencies designed to promote open access policy (enforcing researchers to publish in OA journals; reaching millionaire agreements with publishing oligopolistic companies) have failed because they were inadequate. The solution is that, once again, science workers (scientists) start leading and commanding the publication of our results. Scientific societies, national and international, were promoters of classical journals….”

University of California in subscription showdown with Elsevier | Times Higher Education (THE)

The long-running battle to oust high-cost subscription journals from the world of research is at a showdown moment, with a leading US university system set to break from the globe’s biggest academic publisher.

The University of California system is down to the final weeks of its $11 million (£8.8 million) per year contract with Elsevier and, with negotiations stalled, it has begun telling its faculty to brace for impact….”

Scientific publishing is a rip-off. We fund the research – it should be free | George Monbiot | Opinion | The Guardian

“Never underestimate the power of one determined person. What Carole Cadwalladr has done to Facebook and big data, and Edward Snowden has done to the state security complex, the young Kazakhstani scientist Alexandra Elbakyan has done to the multibillion-dollar industry that traps knowledge behind paywalls. Sci-Hub, her pirate web scraper service, has done more than any government to tackle one of the biggest rip-offs of the modern era: the capture of publicly funded research that should belong to us all. Everyone should be free to learn; knowledge should be disseminated as widely as possible. No one would publicly disagree with these sentiments. Yet governments and universities have allowed the big academic publishers to deny these rights. Academic publishing might sound like an obscure and fusty affair, but it uses one of the most ruthless and profitable business models of any industry.

The model was pioneered by the notorious conman Robert Maxwell. He realised that, because scientists need to be informed about all significant developments in their field, every journal that publishes academic papers can establish a monopoly and charge outrageous fees for the transmission of knowledge. He called his discovery “a perpetual financing machine”. He also realised that he could capture other people’s labour and resources for nothing. Governments funded the research published by his company, Pergamon, while scientists wrote the articles, reviewed them and edited the journalsfor free. His business model relied on the enclosure of common and public resources. Or, to use the technical term, daylight robbery.

As his other ventures ran into trouble, he sold his company to the Dutch publishing giant Elsevier. Like its major rivals, it has sustained the model to this day, and continues to make spectacular profits. Half the world’s research is published by five companies: Reed Elsevier, Springer, Taylor & Francis, Wiley-Blackwell and the American Chemical Society. Libraries must pay a fortune for their bundled journals, while those outside the university system are asked to pay $20, $30, sometimes $50 to read a single article….”

Time to break academic publishing’s stranglehold on research | New Scientist

“HERE is a trivia question for you: what is the most profitable business in the world? You might think oil, or maybe banking. You would be wrong. The answer is academic publishing. Its profit margins are vast, reportedly in the region of 40 per cent.

The reason it is so lucrative is because most of the costs of its content is picked up by taxpayers. Publicly funded researchers do the work, write it up and judge its merits. And yet the resulting intellectual property ends up in the hands of the publishers. To rub salt into the wound they then sell it via exorbitant subscriptions and paywalls, often paid for by taxpayers too. (Some readers may scent a whiff of hypocrisy, given New Scientist also charges for its content. But good journalism does not come free.)




The academic publishing business model is indefensible. Practically everybody – even the companies that profit from it – acknowledges that it has to change. And yet the status quo has proven extremely resilient.

The latest attempt to break the mould is called Plan S, created by umbrella group cOAlition S. It demands that all publicly funded research be made freely available (see “An audacious new plan will make all science free. Can it work?”). When Plan S was unveiled in September, its backers expected support to snowball. But only a minority of Europe’s 43 research funding bodies have signed up, and hoped-for participation from the US has failed to materialise. Meanwhile, a grass-roots campaign against it is gathering momentum.

Plan S deserves a chance. The scientists who oppose it have real concerns, but are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Research funders should put their worries aside too, on behalf of the taxpayers who fill their coffers. Plan S only works if everyone gets on board; if it fails, it is hard to see how the iron grip of academic publishing can ever be broken….”