The Cost of Research, Retail (or, Capitalism for Marxist Professors)

In this article about publishing of research published on Scientific American’s website, the writer complains about having to pay for research articles, when the research is taxpayer-funded.  Of course, “minorities are hardest hit” as the expression goes, and he uses a variation of that argument.

I read a lot of this research; I just generated a bibliography for a report I’m writing and it has 183 research papers, almost all of which I’ve read in the past few weeks.  At one point a month or so ago, I wondered what it would cost to subscribe to all the journals out there, from eye to nerve to cancer to engineering to electronics to whatever, since my projects range widely in scope. (Under construction right now are projects involving healthcare, opthalmology, cancer, nerve interfaces, charter schools, unions, and community charities.)

So I dug into the issue. Just for the list of journals on the Springer list, which is broad but far from complete, subscriptions to all of them would cost me $3,293,028 per year.  This does not count overseas shipping costs for the ones outside the US.  That’s 2,117 journals — but at least then I’d have access to the papers for free.

Right now, perhaps one paper in a dozen or two is available without cost. You can experiment with Google Scholar; put in a topic and look for the [PDF] link off to the right.  Click on that instead of the main link and (most of the time) you’ll get the article. But not many have that; the [HTML] ones are generally only links to the abstracts with offers to buy, typically for $29.95 or so.

But there was one more aspect to the Scientific American article that struck me: the assumption that Marxism among college professors was so common as to be expected and unremarkable. Here was the quote:

But what pisses me off to no end is that the same Marxist academics who pooh-pooh corporations justify their own commitment to this blood-sucking process with one word: tenure.

This is actually a quote in SciAm of another article, but the Marxist aspect was not commented on. I was aware of this effect in the social sciences, but I think I’d be surprised to learn that it is true among the medical researchers. I don’t generally talk politics with my scientist friends, though I’m often aware of their political positions indirectly.  None of them are Marxists, so far as I know. But I’m aware of a lot of professors who are.

The article that SciAm quotes appovingly here, containing the Marxist professor comment, is here. There are 67 comments to that article as of this writing, with many academics taking the author to task on some points, and other commenters agreeing with him.  There’s a lot of agreement, and no one objected to the “Marxist academics” bit though several quoted the line to refer to another point. Interesting.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle