ULB anthropologists recently requested the University library to cancel three overpriced subscriptions to academic journals published by Taylor and Francis. These journals, namely History and Anthropology, Visual Anthropology and Social Identities will therefore not be read in the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) libraries anymore, because of their exaggerated prices – each of these journals is actually three to four times more expensive than the best journals in the field.
Like other commercial publishers, Taylor and Francis indeed deploys an aggressive policy towards Universities that we consider unacceptable, adding unreasonable financial pressure on the Higher Education Sector. Additionally, the policies of such publishers actually reduce the circulation of knowledge and generate profits that beneficiate very few to their producers and to Universities in general, but rather extract money (and free labor) from the Academia to consolidate their own commercial strategies.
Partnerships of academic journals with commercial publishers squeezing Universities’ finances are not a fatality. Alternatives exist. Many journals have for instance partnerships with University Presses that are not "profit-oriented" in the way commercial publishers are. And this is not to mention the growing open access initiatives.
By taking this initiative and making this public statement, we hope to contribute to the dynamics and debate around the various costs for the Academia that are implied in the current dispossession of part of the publication media, and the implications of the privatization of results that are largely produced, in European social sciences at least, through public funding.
Director of LAMC
Well done, Joël, and thanks for bringing this overdue action to our attention.
That's fantastic, and a little surprising to see a department doing something other than trying to maximise its share of resources. The whole game seems to be built on that assumption. Was this process led by students or faculty?
Small-scale protests are fine. They are at least within our power to make. But here is news that will make a big difference. The Wellcome Trust, one of the biggest funders of scientific research in the world (especially in medicine), is backing a move to pur all scientific articles onlike free and it has 9,000 researchers signed up already. This will put pressure on the academic publishing cartel. Did you notice that Wiley are trying to ingratiate themselves with social media activists by making one relevant issue of one journal for a limited period! I gave them free publicity in another thread. They are calling it the academic spring. But if we wait for academics to make the revolution, we will be here a long time.
Thanks for your comments on this initiative. To reply to Paul, it was actually my initiative, and several colleagues accepted to sign our protest letter to the editors of these journals (including the head of the social sciences department, and the dean of the faculty of social and political science). Actually, we used the money we saved in cancelling these subscriptions to redeploy the collection of journals in anthropology - so we did not renounce to maximise our share in Library resources...
To Keith, indeed commercial publishers sometimes initiate some limited periods of open access to part of their collections. At the last African Studies Association Meeting, representatives of Taylor and Francis also made publicity for their special rates for African Universities. But such initiatives are far from giving a satisfying answer to the big questions. It is only cosmetic measures that hardly conceal their capitalist appetites...