LIS Professionals and Big-Time Publishers: Do We Speak Out?

This morning I read a great post by Inger Mewburn called The academic writers’ strike. I loved the sentiments she expressed about academics being compensated in some way for their content and expertise, which keeps these journals going. I wanted to start a conversation here because I think LIS students, professionals, and faculty are in a unique position because of our chosen field. A couple points I want to raise (and these questions aren’t just directed to the groups I mention, anyone is welcome to add constructive thoughts to the discussion):


-Academic librarians (and other info pros impacted by these journal prices): One of the big things I see missing in many non-LIS discussions about the high cost of  journal articles is the libraries. Would you be satisfied if the university (but not necessarily the library) received payment for every download of an article created at that institution? What are ways these publishers can improve interactions with libraries? Lowering prices and giving libraries the option to buy individual journals (rather than bundles) seems an obvious start, but what else can be going on there? Also, does demanding change threaten a library’s ability to get needed materials?

-LIS students, faculty, and other research producers: One thing the post stressed was the potential danger to students and early career faculty that could come from speaking out and signing petitions like the Cost of Knowledge, in that it would limit options and make it harder for students to build up their CVs. Some of the comments brought up excellent points about rethinking how we produce knowledge (why does sharing academic knowledge via blogs count for nothing?), but what I found most striking was the number of PhD students who agreed with her point (as one said ‘beggars can’t be choosers.’) I feel like the view of students as being at the bottom of the pecking order and scrambling to publish in whatever journal that will take them is less pronounced in our field (or at least the departments I’ve been involved in). Maybe it’s because our field consists of practitioners and researchers, nearly all of whom have graduate degrees and some exposure to research.
By the time I commented, I was the only PhD student to say that I signed the pledge to not publish with Elsevier. Granted, there aren’t a ton of LIS journals published through them, but I feel like it was important to add my name to a growing list of people who have their whole careers ahead of them and want to see a real change in one of the major industries we will be interacting with. Other students, have you signed? Would you? Does anyone (students, faculty, etc.) see benefits and drawbacks to signing? More importantly, what impact does speaking out have on our publishing options (if any, which in LIS I feel like it may be minimal) and what else can we be doing to shape the future of publishing in a way that better addresses our concerns? I argue for Open Access, but the way the journals I work with do it, where it’s truly free for the reader to access that content and for the researcher to share it. We’re already volunteering our time and effort to review and research, it would be nice to put it toward a journal that will share those ideas with the world!

-People from other fields: Researchers, students, faculty, whomever. What do you think? What barriers do you face in your field? In your position? What would you like to see changed in academic publishing?


2 Replies to “LIS Professionals and Big-Time Publishers: Do We Speak Out?”

  1. Julia, I don’t particularly like Elsevier’s practices and support those who are fighting for major change in this area. Having said that, though, personally I’m not really comfortable signing the petition when one of the three “A-level” journals in our field (Library and Information Science Research) is published by Elsevier. To cut potential publication options (at least for “A-level” papers) by one-third just isn’t in my best interest right now 😦

    1. That’s a good point–although it’s less of an issue for me since I publish in a few different areas. I imagine I would still be able to submit work to the other “A-level” journals in LIS, although I can see why most students wouldn’t be super comfortable with that option. That being said, I would be willing to take my name off the petition if Elsevier’s practices changed to the point that I felt less icky working with them! I really want to sign the Open Access pledge (to publish only in OA journals), but that will be too limiting at this point. I plan to publish OA whenever humanly possible, but it probably won’t be every single time.

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