Are journal costs at a tipping point?

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Harvard has urged faculty to abandon costly journals for open-access ones or those with “reasonable, sustainable subscription costs.” Will this be a tipping point in the war of words between universities and publishers?

Tom Richardson
Director, Institutional Sales & Service, The New England Journal of Medicine
The Harvard faculty statement was pretty balanced in looking at this issue. While there are many viable publishing models, it is important to note that patient-care professionals rely on journal content that is vetted, peer reviewed, improved and enhanced through the editorial process to provide them with results that are put into the proper context for clinical practice. Publishers of these journals play an important role in providing a dispassionate and informed editorial selection, and in working to transform research reports into clear scientific communication. Many subscription-based journals have free public access to research articles within 6 to 12 months after publication. Any publication model—open-access or subscription-based—requires financial resources to execute well.

Michelle Hache
Marketing Director, The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery
Library budgets are squeezed; that's undeniable. Materials budgets have declined since 2008 while subscription prices have, on average, been increasing.  Funding for libraries as a percentage of university budgets has declined steadily for about 15 years.  This problem has no immediate solution.  Harvard may have fallen short by not specifying publishers or defining “reasonable, sustainable” costs. Do I think this latest effort by Harvard's Faculty Advisory Council will be a tipping point?  No.  My guess is that readership, submissions, usage and subscriptions will be unaffected because the content is valuable. Universities will have to examine the value of the information, not just the cost.  But do I think certain publishers will negotiate better terms with Harvard for 2013?  Yes.

David Hoole
Marketing Director, Nature Publishing Group
Open-access publishing has been growing strongly for many years now. If there was a “tipping point,” it happened some time ago. Most publishers are now focused on developing open-access publishing options, and Nature Publishing Group offers a growing number of open-access options. There is no need for a war of words, although we recognize the media likes to suggest a fight. Through constructive conversation, many faculty, universities, publishers, funders and governments are working together to achieve our shared goal of sustainable open access and the widest possible dissemination of human knowledge. The Finch Group in the UK and the work of the US Government Task Force on Public Access to Scholarly Publications are important formal channels for this dialogue.

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