The Great Science Publishing Scandal

Kyle Brady
Friday 3 May 2019

For centuries academic journals have been the custodians of scientific knowledge. But in the past few decades this has become increasingly contentious, as publishers continue to boast high profit margins, and their customers, largely academic libraries, continue to face squeezed budgets. Some libraries have cancelled subscriptions, some countries have been in deadlocked negotiations with publishers for months and even years, and many researchers have resorted to illegal means to access research.

But how did it get this way? And is there anything that can be done? In the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The Great Science Publishing Scandal’ Matthew Cobb, Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester, discusses the history leading up to the current crisis, and looks at the ways in which academia can change to redress the balance of power in academic publishing. One such change advocated by professor Cobb is to break the link between prestige journals and academic promotion, and another is to push for greater Open Access to research.

Aileen Fyfe, Professor of Modern History at University of St Andrews, contributes to the programme with insights from her extensive studies into the history of academic publishing. Aileen was lead-author of the 2017 briefing paper Untangling Academic Publishing: a history of the relationship between commercial interests, academic prestige and the circulation of research.

The programme is available here, for a limited time,

And from Box of Broadcasts (BoB):

Paywall: The Business of Scholarship. CCBY

Tied to this debate is the documentary we’ve highlighted before – Paywall: The Business of Scholarship.  This hour long documentary focuses on the pressing need for open access to research and questions the current system of academic publishing that locks research away behind unaffordable paywalls. If you missed our recent screening at the Byre Theatre, the film is completely free, and can be downloaded in a variety of formats too.

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