We want a fairer and accessible academic publishing system

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Salla Eilola
Salla Eilola signed this petition

Accompanying note 

In the beginning of 2019, we learned that the negotiations on journal subscription fees between FinELib and Taylor & Francis had failed and, subsequently, Finnish universities’ access to T&F journals ended. Some of us, significantly affected by this change, initiated a discussion at our unit, the Department of Geography and Geology of the University of Turku. We started hearing various perspectives on academic publishing among our colleagues. Consequently, we realised the shared need to make the academic publishing system more transparent and accessible, and to get the voices of researchers better heard in these issues. Altogether, resources to scientific research in Finland have been in decline during the past years, while profit-making scientific publishers have been demanding increasingly higher subscription fees. We do not claim to be the first or the only ones raising the following points. This petition is a part of an ongoing process; thus, we have no final answers. Rather, we see this petition as a chance to wave at, and hopefully connect with, others globally in academia and society at large who share these concerns.

Finally, we welcome the endeavors towards openness in research, such as the draft Declaration for Open Science in Finland 2020-2025. At the same time, we see this petition as a critical commentary on such efforts.

So if you share the concerns raised here, regardless of your background, please sign the following petition.

Sincerely,

Salla Eilola, Rebecca Frilund, Tikli Loivaranta and Camilla Marucco 

the Department of Geography and Geology, University of Turku, Finland

 

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We want a fairer and accessible academic publishing system

As researchers and higher education professionals, we want to raise our concerns about the current state of scientific publishing as well as the problems that we experience on access to and quality of scientific publications. Here are our concerns and requests, which have been identified in numerous discussions among fellow colleagues and students. Partly, we ourselves have responsibility and freedom to choose where to publish; yet, our choices are often limited while the problems are systemic. 

Our concerns and requests:

  1. We are concerned about our restricted access to scientific publications, which is directly caused by the increasing subscription costs of journals. Currently, the lack of access hinders our participation in academic discussions, diminishes the diversity of perspectives that higher education can introduce to students and slows down the progress of science. To make things even unfairer, the loss of access affects different disciplines unevenly, as some publishers own most of the key journals in certain fields. The boycotts initiated by numerous major academic institutions in the world indicate a strong shared concern about the situation. We demand that our access to journals is ensured regardless of the discipline and that the profit-making practices in scientific publishing are curbed.
  2. The diminishing access to journals and the high fees of open access publishing affect us, researchers, in the various roles we have in scientific publishing: as the authors, reviewers, editors and main readership. Our motivation to act in these different roles is reduced and we can call into question the respect towards our labour, without which there would be no scientific publishing. We hope to gain more power and fairer conditions in the publishing system. Especially, we demand that journal editors and editorial boards gain better control of their journal publishing. We support alternative, not-for-profit, publishing channels as a viable option. 
  3. We are concerned about the lack of transparency of the scientific publishing houses. It is unclear where the money paid to publishers truly goes and what the actual cost of publishing a scientific article is. Can publishing one article cost 10,000–30,000 € as claimed by Springer Nature? We demand that publishers are fully transparent in their cost models and investments.
  4. We are concerned about the uncertainties and shortcomings of open-access publishing. In many instances, open science is presented as the solution to the predicaments of scientific publishing (Plan S, the Finnish National Strategy for Open Access to Scholarly Publications, etc.). However, we witness its problems, such as substandard peer review processes, the so-called “predatory journals” and the risk of high article publishing charges, which incentivise publishers to prefer quantity over quality. We demand that open-access publishing does not lead to high article publishing fees. We hope for an open access-publishing system that will aim for fairness, transparency and quality.
  5. We are concerned about the broader issues of diminishing trust in science and the rise of post-truth politics. To counter this, the fruits of research and scientific discussions should be transparent and accessible to the whole of society and the quality of published research should be ensured. We demand open-access publishing which allows all societal actors to equally access, scrutinize and utilise peer-reviewed scientific research findings for the benefit of decision-making.
  6. We are concerned with and denounce how the current scientific publishing system deepens existing inequalities in the world. Globally, the academia is fraught with inequalities stemming from legacies of privilege and affluence. When it comes to reading and publishing in scientific journals, less privileged academics, practitioners and general users of scientific knowledge have been facing the most prominent access problems. We demand that future solutions to the grievances of scientific publishing will help break the cycle of academic inequalities and acknowledge efforts made in various contexts, such as this example in South Africa.


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Information sources and further reading:

“19 835 Researchers Taking a Stand”, The Cost of Knowledge: thecostofknowledge.com/

“Avoin tiede on meidän”, Maija Paavolainen and Jari Friman, 12.03.2019, Tieteentekijöiden Liitto: https://tieteentekijoidenliitto.fi/media/blogi/avoin_tiede_on_meidan.3253.blog?fbclid=IwAR3HDXdu9VXQ3xOHtJJIXMirG5z3yptJ36iROr9RiRgtg7cYxk0RvPXBFBs

“Finnish researchers are calling for improved transparency in academic journal pricing”, Joona Lehtomäki, 04.04.2018, Tiedonhinta.fi: https://tiedonhinta.fi/en/2018/04/04/finnish-researchers-are-calling-for-improved-transparency-in-academic-journal-pricing/

“Update – Publish AND perish: how the commodification of scientific publishing is undermining both science and the public good”, Arjen Wals, 04.12.2018, Learning for Sustainability in Times of Accelerating Change: https://transformativelearning.nl/2018/12/04/publish-and-perish-how-the-commodification-of-scientific-publishing-is-undermining-both-science-and-the-public-good/

“Tieteen avoimuus ja tutkijan vastuullinen arviointi”, by Erika Lilja, Acatiimi journal 5/2019: www.acatiimi.fi/5_2019/8.php 

Helsinki University Press: https://hup.fi/site/about/

Plan S - Making full and immediate Open Access a reality: www.coalition-s.org

“Plan S is a grand plan, but the devil is in the detail: Robin Crewe on Open Access in South Africa”, by Lizzie Sayer, 15.02.2019, International Science Council: https://council.science/current/blog/plan-s-is-a-grand-plan-but-the-devil-is-in-the-detail-robin-crewe-on-open-access-in-south-africa

“High-profile subscription journals critique Plan S”, by Holly Else, 26.02.2019, Nature - International Journal of Science: www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00596-x?fbclid=IwAR1inZPfRzkcSBHdpM-2zLmFomI8Wo-QVutDTIhqWhlBmIwv4v7XExAMVl4