Paywall: The Business of Scholarship

This documentary has been a long time in the making, but was finally released at the start of September.

Directed by Jason Schmitt, a communications and media scholar at Clarkson University, New York Paywall: The Business of Scholarship questions the profit margins and global costs of subscription-based academic publishing, focussing particularly on Elsevier and other top publishers, comparing a suggested 35% profi, to the incomes of the most profitable tech companies like Apple, Facebook and Google.

The documentary features interviews with a wide range of academics, publishers and open access advocates from across the world, including RLUK’s Executive Director, David Prosser, and SciHub founder Alexandra Elbakyan.

The film makes a case for the need of less expensive, more sustainable financial models for research publishing, and is convincing in advocating for open access as a means for greater accessibility and transparency in research, to the benefit of both academics and the general public, and gives examples thorugh anecdotes and interviews where paywalls have prevented development of organisation, institutions and countries.

There is a reasonably well-balanced arc to the documentary, as it recognises the incentives in academia which require many researchers to maintain the status quo of the industry, though misses out on really tackling the practicalities of providing open access on the same scale as subscription models.

It is an impassioned, energetic, motivated and motivating film that is well worth an hour of your time (if you haven’t seen it already)

This film is free to view both in personal and public venues, and has, of course, been published under a CC BY 4.0 Creative Commons license.

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