The publishers of academic journals run a very nice racket. They take the work that academics provide for free – writing articles, serving as peer reviewers, and editing journals – and sell it back at exorbitant rates. Some journals actually billl authors for “page charges.” Since journal publication is the currency for academic hiring, tenure, and promotion, not contributing to the journals is not a realistic option. And libraries have to maintain their subscriptions to journals or the faculties can’t do their work.
Mostly we all just suck it up. But sometimes a publisher gets too greedy, and there’s a backlash. The Nature Publishing Group has decided to jack up what it charges the University of California library system by 400%. The library proposes to fight back, calling for a boycott of NPG journals by UC faculty – no papers submitted, no refereeing, no editorial board service – unless the publisher agrees to put a limit on its rapacity. I hope it works.
The longer-term solution is to have the research funders – especially NIH and NSF – start paying for journals directly; they already pay indirectly via page charges. But in the meantime, it’s guerrilla warfare, and I know which side I’m on.