The lucrative business of science publishing | Letters | Education

Stephen Buranyi’s article on the lucrative business of academic publishing does not go far enough (How Robert Maxwell turned science publishing into a money machine, 27 June). At least academic researchers have access to published work through university subscriptions. However, an ordinary citizen must usually pay exorbitant fees to cross the publisher paywall for articles without open access. Some researchers even scatter their findings across multiple articles in more than one journal in order to boost their number of published papers. Although the number of open access articles is growing, this is not happening fast enough. Applicants for research grants usually budget for the cost of presenting results at conferences, but not for open access publication. It should be a condition of any government research grant that a full report of the findings be made publicly available on completion of the research.
Dr John Birtill
Guisborough, North Yorkshire

Stephen Buranyi rightly criticises the money extracted from scientific publishing by giant commercial publishers. But he ignores the large number of non-commercial journals run by learned societies, charities and university presses. Any profits made by those journals are re-invested in science and education, not paid to investors as dividends. Scientists and other academics can avoid lining the pockets of shareholders by choosing to publish their research in those non-commercial journals.
Dr Keith T Smith
Cambridge

Not all scientific publishers follow the commercial model. Many journals are published by not-for-profit scientific societies. That does not mean that society journals do not generate revenues, but rather they funnel publication gains into scientific advancements; they fund scholarships, grants and travel awards that foster development of young scientists and international scientific collaborations. They are in partnership with the investigator, not the investigator’s adversary.

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