Monday, January 16, 2012

Academic Publishers Are Evil

. Monday, January 16, 2012

Yeah, nothing new. There seems to have been a recent uptick in people getting angry about it. This rant in particular was pretty satisfying. And while there are some positive trends towards increasing access to research -- e.g. JSTOR is moving towards open access -- in general the barriers to dissemination of research are silly.

Because I have access to university facilities, usually I find things like journal access to be more of an annoyance than anything. I have to log onto the university's library's web page, navigate through five or six screens, enter passwords a few times, and then I get the article. That's annoying, but at the end of the day I get access to almost everything for free.

Almost everything. I currently want to read an article in the newest issue of Political Science Quarterly, but my university's library only has online access for PSQ issues that are at least six months old. So I can't read this article. And I can't find an ungated version anywhere else. I guess I could go to the physical library and try to navigate the hundreds of journals on the racks, but by the time I find it (assuming I do), check it out, and get back to my office I will have spent half an hour or more of my time, which is probably about as long as it would take me to read the article. Plus I won't be able to keep an electronic copy to reference in the future unless I scan it.

In this case making their material difficult to read is bad for the author and publisher as well, because I likely would have blogged the article. That's (a very small amount of) free publicity, now lost. I might have assigned it to my class, as I'm looking for one more current reading to add to the syllabus on this topic. But not if my students can't find it. And -- not that they really care -- I can't imagine ever submitting any of my own work to a journal where I know that no one will be able to read it until it's lost currency.

Perhaps the intention of the policy is to motivate me to pay for a subscription to PSQ. Instead it's motivated me to ignore it entirely. It's not like I don't have other things to read.


Greg Weeks said...

From experience, I can tell you that it is important for departments to make clear to the library what they want. Perhaps PSQ is part of a bundle of electronic journals that are too expensive, but an email to the library (even from a grad student, though of course a faculty member carries more weight) could have an effect.

LFC said...

Not clear from what you say that PSQ is the party to blame here. Maybe -- I have no idea -- it costs roughly the same to get a current online institutional sub to PSQ as to, say, IO, and the library decided for whatever reason to take IO but not PSQ. As I say, I have no idea, but I wouldn't necessarily jump to conclusions...

LFC said...

P.s. that is a good rant that you link to.

Kindred Winecoff said...


Thing is, I generally don't care about PSQ all that much. I don't read it frequently enough to care about the 6 month wait. Except when I want to read a current article for the purpose of seeing if it's suitable for a class.


I get that, but it's not a good state of affairs when a flagship state university should have to choose between major journals in a non-obscure academic field.

Academic Publishers Are Evil
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