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Companies Get Rich Off Of University Research

Scholarly publishing is big business

“The industry built to publish and disseminate scientific articles — companies such as Elsevier and Springer Nature — has managed to become incredibly profitable by getting a lot of taxpayer-funded, highly skilled labor for free and affixing a premium price tag to its goods.” (1)

In order for universities to access this research, they are often required to purchase subscriptions with a hefty price tag. Universities worldwide spend millions per year so faculty can download and read their own work and that of their colleagues. Since these journals are behind university paywalls, the only option for members of the tax-paying public to gain access is for them to purchase individual articles. That can be pricey when articles may cost $20-$50 each.

Pay more, get less every year

How much money is at stake? Billions of dollars (2). Every year universities struggle to keep up with price increases to journal subscription packages that are far above annual inflation. Since subscription prices are rising much faster than library budgets, collections cuts are necessary.

Universities are fighting back

Many universities have established or are currently looking into establishing programs to assist in the transition of journals from the subscription model to open access. Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment. Open access is the needed modern update for the communication of research that fully utilizes the Internet for what it was originally built to do—accelerate research. Accelerated research means increased return on investment, increased potential contributors, increased audience and collaborators, and increased access for the public. (3).

Read more about the impact these increases are having across the country.


Taira Meadowcroft

Taira Meadowcroft is the Public Health and Community Engagement Librarian at the Health Sciences Library at the University of Missouri.