Academic Publishing and the University Press Revolution

As it currently stands, the publishing infrastructure is deeply beholden to academic journals who hold so much power that they are able to charge universities exorbitant fees for access to their content. These journals do not compensate the authors of the material they then peddle to libraries, placing this responsibility onto the universities that employ the researchers. Universities effectively pay twice for this content: paying their faculty to research and publish, and, then, paying journals for access to the materials their faculty created. Fitzpatrick presents the case that while these publishing houses do offer value, the degree to which they control how academic publishing is done is an untenable regime that must eventually topple.

How this revolution will come about is yet to be seen but Fitzpatrick provides a few suggestions. A university press can publish the work of its own faculty in order to have access to this material both cheaply and with far greater control over how that material can be distributed and maintained. A university press can also prioritize open access for peer-review and publishing, generating an environment that spurs greater involvement of the field while avoiding the pitfalls of vanity press.

Fitzpatrick claims that services, not access, will be vital to the open access method of publishing. This means that institutions providing these services (i.e., libraries) will become the integral in deciding whether the university press is viable. While this may be true after a substantial amount of progress is made in making academic research available through open access, it is certainly not the case now nor will it be true until the relationship between the university and academic presses is transformed. Specifically, the power that these publishing houses have is far too great and universities are complicit in amplifying that power. I would argue that a university press will not be necessary if the academic fields collectively refuse to pay. If Nature is slowly but firmly excluded from our databases, the appeal of publishing in Nature will inevitably diminish.

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