Inefficient publishing industry costs us billions. Unrealized opportunities cost us much more.

We pay 10 times the cost for 1/10 of the value

Dmitri Zaitsev
Oct 9, 2018 · 4 min read

The views below represent many researchers I know and are based on discussions from Publishing Reform Forum (Twitter) and collaborations with Free Journal Network and MathOA. Questions, debates, comments, including representing other views, are welcome and will be answered.

We work with stakeholders on different levels to achieve a transformation to Fair Open Access that is widely supported by scientists. If you share our values that knowledge should not have barriers and participants should have equal opportunities and be fairly rewarded, please help us make it happen. Directly by email to or via our forum. All contributions will be acknowledged.

Billions spent on academic publishing — paying more for having less

Libraries worldwide pay massive subscription fees to academic publishers. On top of that, research funders and institutions pay massive author publishing fees. Most of these costs are footed by taxpayers.

At the same time, service provided to community is often far below what modern technology could have delivered. Paywalls and closed content prohibit access to people in need and developing nations who cannot afford it. Even for those who can afford it, access and consumption are inconvenient and inefficient. Publishing fees add friction to researchers’ work, promote inequality with weight given to authors based on means rather than quality, and are rejected by researchers and large consortia.

Most fees are ultimately paid by taxpayers and go to private publishing companies that unfairly require researchers to transfer copyrights for their work. This transfer allows them to acquire ownership and dictate prices far above the actual costs making profits in the range of 40%. And due to lacking competition and incentives to improve, the service to community is not always of the highest quality.

Ignoring access problem means ignoring core society problems

Immigration is regarded as core argument for Brexit and core challenge for Europe. Yet isn’t it the lack of access to good education, knowledge and opportunities that pushes people into taking on their perilous journeys to emigrate?

Not only access to read but also access to publish in pay-to-publish venues is harmful for nations with low income and funding. If their best people cannot afford to publish their work and thus move abroad for better conditions, is it not to expect that education and opportunities will suffer for many other people in that countries?

Diminishing work of researchers

Paywalls obstructing access to interested readers directly diminish the impact of the hard work by authors, editors and referees. Authors get diminished credits, citations, opportunities for conference invitations and new collaborations. Referees’ and editors’ time is wasted by inconvenient and inefficient handling systems. Editors are struggling to find referees.

Researchers paying to publish are suffering from added costs and bureaucracy, time spent on searching for funding, lacking freedom to give deserved visibility and impact to their work. Authors from less wealthier countries and institutions suffer from diminished opportunities to publish their work regardless of its quality.

These are not just problems of researchers only. Not giving researchers best conditions for their work means lower quality of the work and poorer value for society and taxpayers funding the work.

Unfair models are not backed by researchers — in contrast to Fair Open Access

There is a massive support among researchers of the Fair Open Access Principles that advocate for fair publishing models that are free for both readers and authors. None of the barriers, neither for readers nor authors were suggested by the original Budapest Open Access Initiative declaration. Neither is good for science/humanities. Nor for society at large.

Researchers are at the core of knowledge creation and curation, as authors, editors and referees. It is therefore crucial to ensure important decisions are not being made without consulting them.

Expensive barrier based models are unnecessary

Top quality journals, that are free to read and publish, exist and are viable. Researchers are already being paid their salaries and grants.

Repository servers to store publications, while not free, cost in the range of $10 or less per article. Quality assessment procedures such as peer refereeing can be automated and provided at low cost. The resulting service to researchers and society is not only cheaper but also provides new functionalities and of higher quality in many ways.

Towards restoring fairness and efficiency

Almost 20 years since Budapest Open Access Initiative, library consortia are finally leading the move with large scale journal cancellations. Editors can preserve and improve journal’s reputation and quality by changing to fairer and better services.

The new Plan S initiative by major national research funding agencies declares paywalled publishing venues unsuitable for their funded researchers. Still room is left for pay-to-publish barriers, where numerous problems have been documented.

Both initiatives still affect only tiny fractions of global academic publishing and we are currently very far from a large scale transition to cheaper more efficient models allowed by available technologies. It is already backed by researchers but won’t be achieved without coordinated efforts by key decision makers, notably libraries and research funders, where help of many more people is needed.

Please help us make it happen!

Directly by email to or via our forum. All contributions will be acknowledged.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store