U libraries confront higher journal costs

Researchers must pay to have their work published and to read their own work.

Cati Vanden Breul

In order to provide students and faculty with access to published research, the University subscribes to thousands of scholarly journals, some of which cost up to $20,000 a year per subscription.

Because of the increasing cost of these journals, the University has been forced to cancel approximately 2,000 subscriptions in the last two years alone, said Wendy Lougee, director of the University Libraries.

Speakers from universities around the country discussed ways to make journals more accessible to the public at a

conference Tuesday in Coffman Union Theater. The University Libraries sponsored the discussion.

Part of the problem, Lougee said, is that publishers are making large profits by charging authors thousands of dollars to print their research and then making the public pay an additional fee to read it.

Stephen Ekker, a genetics professor, said, “As researchers, we bear the cost. We have to pay to have our article reviewed and, if we are accepted, pay the publication to print it. And if we want to read the content of our own paper, we have to get a subscription.”

Taxpayers also lose out, because their money funds the research in the first place, but most cannot afford to read the results, Lougee said.

For this reason, the National Institutes of Health have encouraged researchers who receive funding through the institutes to make their research accessible to the public online for free in the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central, Lougee said.

Edward Ayers, dean of arts and sciences at the University of Virginia and a speaker at the conference, encouraged researchers to publish their work online.

“There’s a huge demand (to create) a digital history,” Ayers said.

Electronic articles can be enhanced with links that provide background information on the Internet, he said.

But publishing online presents a problem for some researchers, because to receive tenure, professors need to be published in prestigious journals, Ekker said.

“The reality is that when you are a researcher or an educational scholar, your scientific credentials are largely judged by what kind of publications you generate,” he said.

Ekker said he hopes open-access publications, those freely available to the public, will soon be seen as more credible.

Charlotte Tschider, a University of Minnesota graduate student, said researchers should not have to pay journals to print their work.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” Tschider said.

Lougee said the charges for scholarly journals have reached a point at which libraries can no longer afford them. New means of publishing are a necessity, she said.

The conference was part of University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks’ 21st Century Interdisciplinary Conference Series.

– Derrick Biney contributed to this report.