Costs of scientific journals have reached unsustainable level – The future of subscriptions in jeopardy
Publishers are demanding increasingly higher fees for reading scientific journals and open access publishing, even though the scientific community can't sustain even the current costs. The expenses have risen to a level that doesn't correspond to the benefits received from the services.
Finnish universities and research institutions have long been facing financial challenges. Many of them have had to reduce their staff through negotiation processes. Meanwhile, scientific journal publishers have systematically raised fees for reading scientific journals and open access publishing, even though publishers essentially receive researchers' articles and their reviews as unpaid work.
The FinELib consortium has negotiated agreements with scientific publishers that cover both reading scientific journals and open access publishing. Through these agreements, the costs of reading scientific journals have been shifted to enable researchers to publish openly without charges. However, the overall costs have still risen to an unsustainable level.
"The idea of open science is to make all research produced with public funds openly accessible, but publishers have seen this as an excellent way to increase their profits," says Kalle-Antti Suominen, Chair of the FinELib Steering Group and Vice Rector at the University of Turku.
"Publishers have hindered the transition to open publishing in various ways, allowing them to collect both subscription and publication fees. This is an unsustainable pattern for universities and the scientific community, both economically and in principle. The situation won't change unless we are genuinely ready to reject unreasonable contract proposals and critically reflect on our publication practices," Suominen emphasizes.
The FinELib consortium's steering group has determined that significant discounts must be obtained for the currently negotiated journal packages [link: https://finelib.fi/kustannukset-saatava-kuriin-tiedelehtien-avoimuudesta-neuvotellaan-jalleen/ ] to continue the agreements. Kalle-Antti Suominen highlights that the discounts must be real and not a result of reducing the content of the agreement.
"Reducing the price solely by limiting access to journals or decreasing publication quotas doesn't mean that an otherwise overpriced contract proposal would become acceptable," Suominen explains.
The consortium is prepared that if the goals are not achieved, it's possible that not all current scientific journal agreements can be continued.
The FinELib consortium is currently negotiating seven scientific journal agreements with a combined value of over 16 million euros in 2023. In 2022, these agreements enabled a total of 3660 Finnish scientific articles to be freely accessible. The publishers involved in the negotiations are the American Chemical Society (ACS), Elsevier, Emerald, IEEE, Oxford University Press (OUP), Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), and Springer.