Vox – The war to free science: “The 27,500 scientists who work for the University of California generate 10 percent of all the academic research papers published in the United States. Their university recently put them in a strange position: Starting July 10, these scientists will not be able to directly access much of the world’s published research they’re not involved in. That’s because in February, the UC system — one of the country’s largest academic institutions, encompassing Berkeley, Los Angeles, Davis, and several other campuses — dropped its nearly $11 million annual subscription to Elsevier, the world’s largest publisher of academic journals. On the face of it, this seemed like an odd move. Why cut off students and researchers from academic research? In fact, it was a principled stance that may herald a revolution in the way science is shared around the world. The University of California decided it doesn’t want scientific knowledge locked behind paywalls, and thinks the cost of academic publishing has gotten out of control.
Elsevier owns around 3,000 academic journals, and its articles account for some 18 percent of all the world’s research output. “They’re a monopolist, and they act like a monopolist,” says Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, head of the campus libraries at UC Berkeley and co-chair of the team that negotiated with the publisher. Elsevier makes huge profits on its journals, generating billions of dollars a year for its parent company RELX. This is a story about more than subscription fees. It’s about how a private industry has come to dominate the institutions of science, and how librarians, academics, and even pirates are trying to regain control. The University of California is not the only institution fighting back. “There are thousands of Davids in this story,” says the head of campus libraries at the University of California Davis MacKenzie Smith, who, like other librarians around the world, has been pushing for more open access to science. “But only a few big Goliaths.” …”