Think academic publishers are greedy? Do your research

The academic publishing market is worth £4.4bn to the UK economy. It encompasses global academic publishers and sector-specific publishers, as well as a thriving and learned society publishing community. If you read the recent article “It’s time to stand up to greedy academic publishers” you could be forgiven for confusing publishers with printers, thinking that all they do is passively receive research articles, proof, typeset and then publish them. This is not the case.

Why peer review needs a good going over
Publishers serve researchers by undertaking a wide variety of tasks that the community needs but cannot complete on its own. The fact that they are able to do these things’ means that those scientists, their institutions, funders, policymakers and other benefactors can focus on their work.

Publishers invest heavily in scholarly communication, for example, including the technology-intensive digital platforms upon which authors, reviewers, editors and readers conduct their work.

Publishers offer value to research institutions by providing data-driven metrics and analytics that inform their research management activities. This investment allows for rigorous peer review, thereby enabling scrutiny of the collective scientific record and helping to ensure that the business-related aspects of publishing are effectively managed. It also pays for the development of technology of that ensures articles are discoverable, shareable and able to be assessed in underserved regions.

Many small publishers partner with larger groups in order to take advantage of their scale and reach, thereby reducing costs for members and authors. Such diversity leads to competition, as established publishers vie with new entrants for the best authors.

And this competitive system plays an important role as we work with the research community to deliver the government’s goal of ensuring all publicly funded research is accessible either at the point of publication or following a reasonable embargo period. A recent review conducted by Adam Tickell, the newly appointed vice-chancellor of Sussex University, concluded that good progress is being made in the UK – partly as a result of the wide variety of publications on offer from publishers of all sizes.

Are publishers really ‘hoodwinking’ academics?
Anonymous and Susan Reilly
There are many activities that the individual researcher who submits and reads papers doesn’t see, but the fact that he or she wants to submit and read is the result of the good work of publishers to maintain the system in which that can take place. Publishers are committed to quality and to preserving the scientific record to fuel future research. Our goal is simple: to ensure the research community receives the support it needs.

If the accusation is that publishers are charging too much, then lets at least ensure that the debate includes proper acknowledgement of the investment academic publishers make in their sector.