The Cost of Knowledge

Report frequency about the purchase price of access to the scholarly literature is turning from a trickle into a stream.  Some may call it a quiet revolt as libraries around the world question the cost of maintaining licenses to Big Deal publisher journal packages. The average cost for journals, particularly in the sciences, has continued to rise above the inflation rate, even in a down economy.

Five years ago the entire editorial board of the Elsevier journal Topology resigned in protest over the high price for library subscriptions. The former editors announced a new and successful journal, Journal of Topology in 2008. Tim Gowers has recently started a lively discussion on his blog in a post titled Elsevier — my part in its downfall. In this post Gowers mentions his former and quiet approach to protest Elsevier journal prices by making a personal yet conscious decision not to publish in Elsevier Journals. Now Gowers has planted a seed for others follow, and to do so publicly. Nearing the end of only two weeks of existence, over one thousand mathematicians and scientists have signed a declaration called The Cost of Knowledge to take a stand against publisher business practices that impair scholarly conversations due in part to the high cost of journal access.

It is worth noting here that Tim Gowers was awarded the Fields Medal in 1998. Awarded by the International Mathematical Union, the Fields Medal is often referred to as the Nobel Prize in mathematics. Tim Gowers work about his innovative idea, the Polymath project, has been discussed previously in this blog in the post Open Science as a Research Accelerator.

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