Even Harvard Must Reckon with the Scholarly Publishing Crisis

With an article titled “The ‘Wild West’ of Academic Publishing”, Craig Lambert, writing in the January-February 2015 issue of Harvard Magazine, details the challenges that even universities with the resources of Harvard face as they attempt to navigate the scholarly publishing crisis.

Lambert examines two specific challenges. First, how can the existing 105 university presses survive in an environment where it is increasingly difficult to sell more than a few hundred copies of a scholarly monograph. Second, how can higher education bring sensible reform to a badly broken system of scholarly article publishing that has faculty giving away content to publishers (both commercial and non-profit societies) that sell back the content to academic libraries at subscription prices that cannot be rationalized.

Is open access publishing a possible solution? Lambert dives into the question, and offers some possibilities by profiling a few experiments in approaching scholarly publishing in an entirely different way. This article provides insight into the scholarly publishing crisis, and could well serve as material for a conversation in academic departments where there are concerns about the future of scholarly publishing.

FASTR Supports Expanded Public Access to Research Results

Scholars and researchers in the sciences and medicine have become more familiar with the NIH Mandatory Public Access policy that requires authors to deposit their research articles into PubMed Central no later than 12 months after publication. This has added many thousands of research articles into the public domain. Legislation to expand this public access policy to other fields has been proposed but not yet adopted. Despite that failure, a new effort to broaden public access has begun again.Here is a summary of FASTR, a new piece of legislation introduced recently to create even more public access to research, that comes from the ACRL Insider newsletter.

On Thursday February 14, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) was introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. This bi-cameral and bipartisan legislation would require federal agencies with annual extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to research manuscripts stemming from funded research no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. In addition to requiring greater access, the legislation would require agencies to examine whether introducing open licensing options for research papers they make publicly available would promote productive reuse and computational analysis of those research papers.


FASTR would apply to quite a few other federal agencies including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services,the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation. Those interested in learning more about FASTR can find more information at SPARC’s Alliance for Taxpayer Access site.

It is difficult to say if FASTR will fare better than its predecessor FRPPA. It is likely that the commercial publishers of scholarly journals will oppose this legislation as they have in the past. Faculty generally support the idea of offering open, public access to their research articles once they have been published in journals. With support from the academic community, FASTR could become a reality this time.

Could Open Access Disrupt Traditional Scholarly Publishing

It’s not often that the mainstream media takes up relatively unpopular higher education issues, so it comes with some surprise that U.S. News & World Report published a rather extensive article on the debate about the future of scholarly publishing. The article, titled “Is the Academic Publishing Industry on the Verge of Disruption?” provides a balanced look at both sides of the push for open access journal publishing.

Using interviews with both open access advocates such as Heather Josephs of SPARC and representatives from scholarly publishers such as the American Institute of Physics, the article provides an excellent overview of the current challenges of traditional scholarly journal publishing. It covers new business models for open access publishing and current and proposed government policies aimed at promoting the sharing of scholarly research funded by taxpayer dollars.

If you’d like to learn more about the current issues confronting traditional scholarly publishing, the challenges that both libraries and scholarly publishers face, and new models and ideas for a better scholarly publishing system, then give this article a read. If you do, let us know what you think (use the comments) by sharing your thoughts about scholarly communications, open access, and its impact on higher education. Do you believe that the traditional system is ripe for disruption, and if so, will open access be the disruptive factor?