Home > The Economics Profession > Time to short Reed Elsevier and Wiley as Academic Spring promises an early summer

Time to short Reed Elsevier and Wiley as Academic Spring promises an early summer

from Edward Fullbrook

The Academic Spring has seen four major developments in the last 32 hours.

  1. The United Kingdom government announced that by 2014 all publicly funded scientific research papers would be immediately available for anyone to read for free.  This is being called “the most radical shakeup of academic publishing since the invention of the internet“.  The payoff for society will be incalculably huge. 
  2. Research Councils UK, a coalition of the UK’s biggest research funders, has announced that henceforth it will require true open access that allows free commercial reuse.   
  3. The Higher Education Funding Council for England announced plans to require open access in all publications evaluated for the Research Evaluation Framework, i.e. to be counted towards promotion and departmental research funding.  This in the UK will have the immediate effect of achieving Harvard’s goal to “move prestige to open access” journals. 
  4. This is the biggest of all.  A few minutes ago the European Commission, which controls one of the world’s largest science budgets, backed calls for free access to all publicly funded research. 

Here is how Nature is reporting these events on their website.

Being the first to try something new is nerve-wracking — so it is always a relief to see someone else follow your lead. When the UK government announced on 16 July that it would require much of the country’s taxpayer-funded research to be open-access from April 2013, it was not immediately clear whether the move would set a trend or prove to be an isolated gamble — one that would leave the United Kingdom essentially giving away its research for free while still paying to read everyone else’s.

But the next day, the European Commission (EC) matched the United Kingdom’s vision, launching a similar proposal to open up all the work funded by its Horizon 2020 research programme, set to run in the European Union (EU) from 2014 to 2020 and disburse €80 billion (US$98.3 billion). The details will be negotiated over the next year, but EC vice-president Neelie Kroes emphasized the momentum that open access has already acquired. “We are leading by example, making EU-funded research open to all — and we are urging member states to do likewise, so that sooner, rather than later, all nationally funded research will follow.” The EC says that it is aiming for 60% of all European publicly funded research articles to be open access by 2016.

Today’s Guardian notes that “legacy subscription-based publishers like Elsevier and Wiley (and better for the public) . . . will no longer hold the monopolies they currently have” and that “On the new, level playing field, [the] sprightly electronic journals are likely to outcompete the dinosaurs.”

And even before the Academic Spring the future for the three World Economics Association journals looked bright.

  1. Nell
    July 17, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Partly good news. The bad news is that the government has decided to protect the publishers by requiring that researchers pay publishers to make their research accessible for free and that this payment will come from the research funding budget. So open access, great, less research funding bad. UK funding for research is already woefully low compared to other nations. Researchers will continue to edit and review papers without payment from the publishers (another government subsidy to private businesses).

  2. Deniz Kellecioglu
    July 17, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Excellent news! Brilliant phrase: “Academic Spring”. Let’s just make sure this Spring is not hijacked by luring elites.

  3. July 23, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    I hope this kicks off a trend towards more openness with publicly financed research.

    If the terms are not carefully structured, however, researchers could out-flank the requirements by posting a stripped-down, free version of the research, using the full-results version in academic journals.

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