An analysis of the present system of scientific publishing: What’s wrong and where to go from here


Cost of acquiring journal articles



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Cost of acquiring journal articles


Journals are also becoming less available to the masses due to high costs. Journal prices are rising, significantly faster than inflation, and many are no longer within the price range of the average university library. The Association of Research libraries claims that the price for journals subscriptions skyrocketed 207% from 1986 to 199923, 24. In conjunction with budgetary cutbacks, many libraries are forced to cancel several of their subscriptions25. As a result most refereed journals are not available to the average researcher26. The irony of the situation is that the universities are funding research, yet they can not afford to buy the results back from the journals 27. Even the electronic versions of journals, which were supposed to be cheaper than print subscriptions, are just as unaffordable27 (The high prices here have been attributed to the cost of customer support, as well as the continuing fixed costs of editing28). Yet even with all the cutbacks and cancellations science, technology and medical (STM) publishing has been the fasted growing media sub sector for the last 15 years29.
Even with this incredible growth, journal-publishing houses that maintain high prices may be pricing themselves out of the market, and as such should also be interested in reform. Recent research has shown that researchers preferentially read and cite articles that are made freely, or at least, easily available. Many are not willing to pay for expensive journals, nor are they willing to seek out printed copies of journals when they can access other journals effortlessly and freely online 30, 31.

Journals ought to be free to the scientific community. Still, given that the PubMed/Mediline database was only made freely available to the public in 199732, the concept of providing totally free access to all information may be somewhat premature. Even so, there are many groups presently working towards providing free access to scientific journals. These include: Pubmed Central 33 34, BioOne35, the Public Library of Science36, and the Budapest Open Access Initiative37.



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