Putting a price on knowledge

The rising cost of academic journal subscriptions is hurting university budgets.

Editorial board

Can you put a price tag on knowledge? Publishers of academic journals seem to think so, and it’s often a high one. The increasing cost of subscriptions to academic journals and databases is taking its toll not only on the University of Minnesota’s budget but on the ability of students to get the most out of their college education.

As the Minnesota Daily reported Oct. 23, the University spent $9.7 million on academic journal subscriptions in the 2012 fiscal year — that’s nearly three times the amount Harvard University spends annually on subscriptions, according to a Time magazine article published in April.

Academic publishers know how to milk the market, and while they build up monopolies on the latest groundbreaking scientific articles, universities are having to fork over an exorbitant amount of money for knowledge they likely helped furnish.

Many would argue that the University should simply stop subscribing to so many academic journals — and it has, to an extent. Out of financial necessity, the University has been forced to cancel some subscriptions, but its reputation as a premier public research institution, much less the quality of an education here, can’t be maintained without a plethora of high-quality journals at our fingertips.

The Open Access Publishing Fund, which was approved by the University last spring, is a good start in the effort to better sustain that ability. It allows more articles to be viewed without a subscription fee and encourages authors to publish to open access sites. If knowledge is power, it shouldn’t be reserved for the few who can afford it. It should be shared so a maximum number of people are able to learn and benefit from it.