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Feature

The logo for "Publication, the Public University, and the Public Interest" conference

Challenges in the scholary publishing world is the topic of Publication, the Public University, and the Public Interest, an April 19 conference sponsored by the University of Minnesota Libraries.

Publish or perish

getting the word out in the face of increasing costs

By Christopher James

Published on April 16, 2005

When people think of published research, they may think of scholarly journals like Bioelectrochemistry or Science. What they're probably unaware of is the price tag: an annual subscription to a scientific journal can run as high as $10,000 or more. In addition, annual subscription rates are skyrocketing, increasing more than 300% each year in some cases.

But research has to be published. After all, what use is a great discovery--a new cancer treatment, say, or the engineering of a new fuel source--if it's not shared widely with other scholars? And doesn't the public, whose tax dollars support research, deserve access?

Faced with astronomical journal costs, public research universities are challenged to find accessible, cost-effective methods of publishing and sharing the results of research. Emerging publishing trends is the subject of a President's interdisciplinary academic initiative conference, Publication, the Public University, and the Public Interest, on April 19.

"As researchers, we have to pay publishers when we submit articles for review. And we have to pay to get copies of our own articles," Ekker says. "We're paying them for the privilege of publishing in their journals."

"Universities and their libraries can't keep pace with the soaring prices of books and journals," says Wendy Pradt Lougee, university librarian at the University of Minnesota. "At the University alone, we've cancelled more than 2,000 journal titles over the past two years because of price increases."

At the root of the problem, some scholars feel, are the apparent profit motives of publishers. In addition to annual subscriptions, publishers often charge scholars a fee--sometimes thousands of dollars--just to publish in their journals.

Stephen Ekker, U associate professor of genetics and cell biology, has felt the burn. "As researchers, we have to pay publishers when we submit articles for review. And we have to pay to get copies of our own articles," Ekker says. "We're paying them for the privilege of publishing in their journals."

Fortunately, new, more cost-effective alternatives are emerging. In recent years, some scholars have embraced "open access" journals that make research results available online for free. Other new publishing systems, including blogs and Web-based archives, are gaining acceptance.

The conference presents national experts exploring groundbreaking forms of publishing. Speakers include Paul Courant, University of Michigan provost, who helped engineer the recent deal with Google to digitize Michigan's seven million-volume library and make it accessible online; New York University journalist and professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, who will examine the changing landscape of copyright and intellectual property; and Edward Ayers, a historian from the University of Virginia, who will present a model for the future where digital scholarship is commonplace.

Publication, the Public University, and the Public Interest is free and open to the public. Online registration is available at www.lib.umn.edu/ppp.

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