Academic Publishing: Scientific Journals Need to Open Up- Part 5

Profits. Insane profits.

Elsevier had an operating-profit margin of 37% last year, which helps explain the high valuation of its parent company. At Taylor & Francis the operating profit margin was 29%, at Wiley’s research publishing arm 27% and at Springer Nature (as reported in the prospectus for a canceled 2018 initial public offering) 23%. Just for comparison, the 2019 operating margin at famously profitable Google was 26%.

Being profitable is not a crime. Making those profits while paying authors and peer-reviewers nothing and many journal editors little to nothing, though, is a source of endless amazement and enragement in academia and beyond

Viewpoint: Covid-19 Shows That Scientific Journals Need to Open Up

Here’s a fascinating view point from The Guardian (although, I don’t endorse it’s editorial stance).

It is as if the New Yorker or the Economist demanded that journalists write and edit each other’s work for free, and asked the government to foot the bill. Outside observers tend to fall into a sort of stunned disbelief when describing this setup. A 2004 parliamentary science and technology committee report on the industry drily observed that “in a traditional market suppliers are paid for the goods they provide”. A 2005 Deutsche Bank report referred to it as a “bizarre” “triple-pay” system, in which “the state funds most research, pays the salaries of most of those checking the quality of research, and then buys most of the published product”.

How much profiteering needs to go on to the detriment of taxpayers and concentration of wealth/power and academic gatekeeping in the hands of few?

This is a stunning reflection of the publishing industry.

The Guardian article goes on to explain the rise of this phenomenon and is irrelevant but I’d recommend you to read it. It was published three years back and has even more relevance as the researching funding is being curtailed across the critical sectors.