A recent article on the Guardian website by George Monbiot is making waves in social media. Monbiot claims that publicly-funded research should be available for free, not through expensive subscription or pay-per-article models.
What we see here is pure rentier capitalism: monopolising a public resource then charging exorbitant fees to use it. Another term for it is economic parasitism. To obtain the knowledge for which we have already paid, we must surrender our feu to the lairds of learning.
He also makes a point that the general public is kept out of the debate by those barriers.
It’s bad enough for academics, it’s worse for the laity. I refer readers to peer-reviewed papers, on the principle that claims should be followed to their sources. The readers tell me that they can’t afford to judge for themselves whether or not I have represented the research fairly. Independent researchers who try to inform themselves about important scientific issues have to fork out thousands. This is a tax on education, a stifling of the public mind. It appears to contravene the universal declaration of human rights, which says that “everyone has the right freely to … share in scientific advancement and its benefits”.
I’d like to get your opinion on this topic. Are publishers of academic journals the tyrants described by Monbiot? Would you be willing to only publish to journals who make the articles available online for free, or simply self-publish your own articles?