Ending profiteering from publicly-funded research

Tackling the academic publishing oligopoly
by Kristen Scicluna

Academic publishing houses are among the most profitable businesses in the world.

They charge exorbitant fees for access to research that the public funds. The global momentum toward a free open access model is gaining traction, but Australia lags behind.

This paper looks at several changes that could stop public funds from being funnelled to the oligopoly of academic publishers.

Key Findings:

  • Australia’s public research institutions funnel an estimated $1 billion into the pockets of private academic publishers every year. Institutions spend $300 million on journal subscriptions alone.
  • One‑off access for a single article can cost between AUD $30 and $500.
  • Australia’s Chief Scientist has proposed a plan to pressure publishers to slash their exorbitant publishing and subscription fees, but it does not go far enough.
  • The Australia Institute is recommending reforms to how funding bodies award research grants. These include:
    • Revising grant criteria to reward publication in open access journals with much lower publishing fees.
    • Trialling a lottery-based system for the allocation of grants to reduce the emphasis on publication in grant applications.
    • Introducing grants specifically for researchers committed to open-science principles;
    • Encouraging the rapid publication of research results through preprint servers.
    • Encouraging the development of institutional repositories focused on publishing original research.

Full report