Harvard Now Spending Nearly $3.75 Million on Academic Journal Bundles

More

A Harvard faculty committee says that the situation is "untenable" and asks faculty members to publish in open-access publications.

525286636_7c05b48907_z-615.jpg

Flickr/samirluther

Harvard may be the second-wealthiest nonprofit institution in the world (right behind the Catholic Church) but even so the price tag for its collection of academic journal bundles lining its libraries' shelves is too high: close to $3.75 million*, according to a memo from a faculty committee released last week. Some journals cost as much as $40,000 (more than one year of tuition!) and many cost thousands or tens of thousands. 

The academic publishing industry is renowned for its unwieldy market power, which has enabled it to push prices ever upward, keep research locked away for subscribers only, even though its product is the fundamentally the result of university-paid faculty working on publicly-funded research. As Geroge Monbiot explains in The Guardian:

What we see here is pure rentier capitalism: monopolising a public resource then charging exorbitant fees to use it. Another term for it is economic parasitism. To obtain the knowledge for which we have already paid, we must surrender our feu to the lairds of learning.

The situation, the committee writes, is "fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive."

In response, the committee is recommending that faculty consider publishing their work in open-access publications instead of commercial imprints such as Elsevier, which has come under fire this year for its high profit margins and support of a bill to ban publicly-accessibly publication online (support which it has since withdrawn). They say, "Move prestige to open access." And indeed that is the power Harvard's faculty holds: They can endow publications with prestige -- an elusive quality publications take years building -- by putting their names and work inside the bindings.

This recommendation is just a suggestion, but if the university's administration were to put some incentives behind it, it could have real power.


*A reader has brought it to my attention that I should have been more clear in stating that these costs are incurred on an annual basis.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Is the Greatest Story Ever Told?

A panel of storytellers share their favorite tales, from the Bible to Charlotte's Web.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In