Higher education institutions need to recognise the changing world of publishing, says Rupert Gatti – it's time for academics to take matters into their own hands...
While academia is in the midst of a general funding crisis, multinational publishing houses are making vast profits from disseminating publicly funded research. New open access publishing models provide cost-efficient methods for disseminating research findings, eradicate excess profits by publishers and massively widen the readership of scholarly works. The government recognises this but their current reform agenda is nowhere near bold enough.
Academics as a rule do not write their books to make money – in fact most receive only token royalties for their work. They do it to satisfy research assessments, to get hired and promoted and, most of all, to inform readers, spark debate, and contribute to the intellectual richness of their discipline.
Commercial publishers reap high profits while putting up several barriers to dissemination of research results. First by imposing restrictions on copyright; second by deciding which areas of research reach publication — a decision often based on marketing considerations which penalises cutting-edge and niche subjects. Third by imposing high prices to readers and libraries in order to maintain high profits and an obsolete infrastructure.