Report: Make Textbooks Affordable

Limited Knowledge

How The High Cost Of Academic Journals Limits Public Access To Research

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The future of academic research is in peril. University budgets are decreasing while the cost of academic journals is skyrocketing. As a result, universities are unable to purchase vital journal subscriptions that help boost the quality and success of new academic research. Fortunately, new and innovative solutions are growing in popularity and have the potential to change the future of academic communication.

The Student PIRGs Support The Following Strategies:

High-Quality Low-Cost Journals

Faculty should try to publish their work in journals that will reach a large audience and are low cost. When that is not possible, faculty should try to retain key rights to their works when negotiating with high cost publishers. Such rights allow faculty to distribute their research to a broader audience and submit it to an institutional repository.

Institutions should subscribe to high-quality, low-cost alternatives whenever possible. When deciding tenure, university administrations should consider all research published by a faculty member including high-quality, low-cost and/or open access journals.Research institutions, independent organizations and the federal government are promoting strategies that show promise in lowering journal prices and increasing access to research.

Open Access Journals

Faculty should try to publish in open access journals, online publications that do not charge a subscription fee, but allow anyone to read the material at no cost, usually through the Web. Instead, other sources are sought to cover the cost of producing the journal. These sources include establishing supporting endowments, sponsorship similar in nature to those used in public broadcasting, or through fees for “article process” charged to authors, their grants or institutions.

Open access peer-reviewed journals also have impact factors and citation rates that, on average, are equal to or higher than traditional peer-reviewed journals.1

Open Course Materials And Software

In 1999, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched OpenCourseWare (OCW), a program MIT uses to make all of its course materials available free online for anyone in the world.2 OCW had 1,100 courses published as of June 1, 2005.3 Rice University launched a similar site, Connexions, which grew from 200 modules to 2,300 in two years.4

Leverage Interlibrary Loan Systems

Interlibrary loaning programs allow multiple institutions to share research materials through the Web or a manual delivery system. For example, the University of California (UC) interlibrary loan system allows a library to borrow or photocopy an article available in another institution’s collections, thus providing access to research without significant cost to the reader and capturing efficiencies in the way materials are collected and shared.5

Create Permanent Institutional Archives

Administrators and librarians should create permanent standing archives in which researchers at the institution can deposit their work. The university system maintains the archive and makes available the research stored within it over the Internet. This guarantees free permanent access to the research produced by that university to the university itself, other university systems and the public.

Bulk Purchasing

Institutions should purchase journals in consortia with other universities to help lower subscription prices. In 2002, the UC campuses, negotiating in consortia through the California Digital Library, saved $27 million dollars.6 After purchasing the information, each of the UC schools had access to it through the Internet. Bulk purchasing lowers the prices and maintains user access to vital research. UC budget materials give dramatic evidence of the advantages of library resource sharing, reporting that if campus libraries independently were to negotiate for, license, and catalog the 10,000 journal titles and 250 databases in the system wide digital collection, they would have to spend an additional $34 million per year.7

Publicly Funded Research Available To The Public

The creation of central, standing archives for publicly funded research allow free access to valuable information, benefiting universities, government agencies, and the general public.

Individual professors, universities and organizations dedicated to increasing access to research have successfully made initial steps towards solving this problem by implementing one or more of the strategies described here, but more rigorous change is needed in order to balance the public’s need for advanced research and the publishers’ profits.

Released September 2005

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Make Textbooks Affordable