Thursday, June 11, 2015

Academic publishing: oligopoly edition


Interesting study, recapped in IHE.
The five largest research publishers (a group that changes a bit by discipline) started publishing half of academic papers in 2006, up from 30 percent in 1996 and 20 percent in 1973, according to new research published Wednesday in PLOS ONE by researchers at the University of Montreal. The piece argues that this concentration has reached oligopoly status and poses dangers to academic publishing. “Overall, the major publishers control more than half of the market of scientific papers both in the natural and medical sciences and in the social sciences and humanities,” said Vincent Larivière, a professor in Montreal's School of Library and Information Science, who led the study. “Furthermore, these large commercial publishers have huge sales, with profit margins of nearly 40 percent. While it is true that publishers have historically played a vital role in the dissemination of scientific knowledge in the print era, it is questionable whether they are still necessary in today's digital era.”
Who's in the oligopoly?
 In both NMS  [natural and medical sciences] and SSH [social sciences and humanities], Reed-Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, and Taylor & Francis are amongst the top five publishers with the highest number of scientific documents in 2013. While in NMS the American Chemical Society makes it to the top five (in fourth place in 2013), the fifth most prolific publisher in the SSH is Sage Publications. Hence, while all top publishers in SSH are private firms, one of the top publishers in NMS is a scientific society.
 

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