By Julian Fisher, MD
Illnesses that public figures have are much in the news of late -- Ronald Reagan and his Alzheimer's disease the most noteworthy -- and I recently came across a brief description in a neurology journal of a medical problem that Franklin D. Roosevelt began to experience as he looked toward his fourth term -- brief episodes of confusion that presumably represented epilepsy. These symptoms were thoughtfully explained in the article, written by a neurologist, Steven Lomazow, who has co-written a book on the subject.
But for any of you to read that article would cost you dearly. Why? The dirty little secret of scholarly publishing.
Let me explain how this obscure corner of publishing works (or doesn't) and let you be the judge. [Cautionary note to business school grads: The market has long been monopolized by mega-corporations making mega-bucks. But new business models abound. In the spirit of full disclosure, I started a not-for-profit to offer an alternative to the traditional models.]
You might argue that academic publishing affects only academics, but it does not. Anyone with an interest in or question about health or art history or building a house or running a business -- the list is endless -- might want to learn the newest knowledge -- something they might find in an academic article. Unless you already had a subscription (might run into the tens of thousands of dollars) to that specialty journal or had special access through a college or university, you might well have to pay anywhere from $20 to $50 for limited access to that one article. If you needed to look over several articles and were not sure which one would be of interest, the meter would tick up quite a toll and very quickly.