Stephen Curry, a professor of structural biology at Imperial College London, has a piece on The Guardian today in which he outlines the history of the relationship between commercial interests, academic prestige and the circulation of research. An excerpt from the article: “Publish or perish” has long been the mantra of seeking to make a success of their research career. Reputations are built on the ability to communicate something new to the world. Increasingly, however, they are determined by numbers, not by words, as universities are caught in a tangle of management targets composed of academic journal impact factors, university rankings and scores in the government’s research excellence framework. The chase for metricised success has been further exacerbated by the takeover of scholarly publishing by profit-seeking commercial companies, which pose as partners but no longer seem properly in tune with academia. Evidence of the growing divergence between academic and commercial interests is visible in the secrecy around negotiations on subscription and open access charges. It’s also clear from the popularity among academics of the controversial site Sci-Hub, which has made over 60m research articles freely available on the internet. Over-worked researchers could be forgiven for thinking that the time-honoured mantra has morphed to “publish, and perish anyway.”
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