Two California economists have penned "An Open Letter to All University Presidents and Provosts," suggesting a new way to deal with rising journal costs: charging back "expensive journals" for things like editing and peer review, essential services that most faculty have historically provided journals either for free or for a nominal fee. "It is time to recognize a simple fact," write U. of California Santa Barbara's Ted Bergstrom and California Institute of Technology's Preston McAfee in an open letter. "The symbiotic relationship between academics and for-profit publishers has broken down. The large for-profit publishers are gouging the academic community for as much as the market will bear." Bergstrom and McAfee suggest the formation of a "list of expensive journals," for which a university would ultimately set its own policy on recovering overhead expenses. Based on rough estimates of manpower, space, and other materials, the authors suggested that a charge of "at least $12,000 per year" would
be an appropriate charge for an "expensive" journal. Journals that remain below such a threshold, however, would not be charged. Making that list of "expensive journals," could be a challenge, however, as bundled deals for electronic access, consortial buying, and access
terms unique to each school would complicate such a task.
Still, the authors posit that overhead charges for expensive journals would re-capture a portion of the "monopoly profits" for those universities that actually produce the journal's content. Those journals that keep prices below the "expensive" threshold, on the other hand, would continue to merit the subsidy of free peer review and editorial service. "We see no reason," the authors state matter-of-factly, "for universities to subsidize editorial inputs to journals that are priced to extract maximum revenue from the academic community." Underlying the author's proposal is the suggestion that the days when many academic journals provided a service in return for a healthy profit have long-ended, with large for-profit publishing conglomerates now charging "monopoly" profits of "about five times higher per page and 15 times higher per citation" than non-profit journals. In the past, they note, individual faculty members have been
encouraged to personally boycott expensive journals. However, most faculty have been understandably reluctant to rebuff powerful journals that are helpful to their academic careers. A university-wide policy, the authors point out, would shield faculty from making that difficult
decision. More importantly, they write, a policy on dealing with journal expenses should be a matter of university policy because the "entire university community is harmed by the draining of library budgets." To view the open letter, visit:
From Library Journal Academic Newswire