Public Universities Back Protest of Elsevier Pricing

November 3, 2015

Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, issued a statement Monday expressing strong support for the move of the six editors and 31 editorial board members of Lingua, a top linguistics journal, to resign to protest Elsevier pricing. The protest has attracted considerable attention among advocates for open-access publishing (in which materials are available free online).

McPherson's statement expressed strong support for the argument made by the linguistics professors that their work should be available to the public. “As publishers have merged and become more powerful, universities are often paying more for publishers’ markups. The federal government makes massive investments in researchers, staff and facilities to advance knowledge; publishers do not. Universities similarly make big investments in research. University faculty generally are the authors, editors and reviewers of the articles coming out of that research. To get their articles published, faculty usually must transfer significant copyrights to the publishers. Then the publishers sell back to the universities the very content they as a group produced, and at steadily higher subscription prices. The system is fundamentally broken,” said McPherson.

He added, “While we do not know all the details of Lingua’s particular case, it’s abundantly clear that the frustrations of its editors and editorial board are widespread. Scholars, librarians and university administrators are committed to the free exchange of ideas and information and a growing number find that dissemination of knowledge is being significantly hampered. In a day and age when the public can get information from seemingly unlimited sources, the world of academic publishing has been more consolidated into a limited number of tightly controlled channels.”

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