Scientific Publishing CompanyAcademic Publisher
Recent research has shown that the global research publishers' shares of the industry have risen sharply since the 1970' s, with five firms now accounting for 50 per cent of all magazine titles issued. It also found that although these firms levy high charges for accessing this research, they do not create much value themselves - indicating that the present scheme is no longer in the best interests of researchers or university.
"This large scale business publisher has enormous revenues with almost 40 per cent of profits," said Vincent Larivière, head of the Montreal University of Canada studies. "Although publishing houses have in the past had an important part to play in disseminating scientific findings in the age of printmaking, it is doubtful whether they are still necessary in today's modern age.
" Writing its findings in the Open Accession magazine PLOS ONE, the research staff reviewed all scientific papers posted in the Web of Science data base between 1973 and 2013 and found that five organizations have contributed more than half of them since 2006: As early as 1973, the same publishers owned only 20 per cent of magazines, in 1996 it was 30 per cent.
However, the research group found that almost 70 per cent of magazine contributions in the fields of chemicals, psychology as well as sociology are in the hands of the bigwigs. And what makes things even more serious is that publishing houses have now set up an unbelievably profitable line of work, built on using researchers to produce free research for them and then sell it back to them once it is out.
Indeed, publishing houses do not even sponsor poor standards of excellence - carried out free of charge by other researchers in the shape of benchmarking - and their costs have been much lower since the introduction of the web. This all raises the question: what exactly do we have these big publishing houses for?
"It would be expected that a large publishing house buying a magazine would raise its profile. Our survey shows, however, that after changing from a small to a large publishing house, there is no significant rise in quotations," says Larivière. It is not the first criticism of the publishing system - in recent years scientists and academics have started to object to the publishing system being monopolised.
More than 15,000 scholars sign the costs of knowledge initiative calling for a ban on Elsevier's magazines. Unfortunately, however, young graduates still have to advertise in professional magazines to be recruited, while scholars have to file their papers with these firms. As long as the most important research in every area is behind a payment wall, higher education institutions will be paying for their research workers to have recourse to it, thus establishing a circuit that keeps the big publishing houses in the business.
Nevertheless, hopefully such research will help researchers realize that they no longer need publishing houses to disseminate their work. "Larivière says, "Our results call into doubt the true added value of large publishing houses. "In the end, the issue is whether the service these publishing houses provide to the scientific communities justifies the increasing proportion of their assigned college budget.