The Cost of Knowledge

By | February 4, 2012

My Flickr stream is getting a lot of hits these days. As an online petition grows by the thousands per day, I’m getting a few hundred visits DAILY to my recent visualization of Timothy Gower’s blog post and The Chronicle of Higher Ed article, Elsevier Publishing Boycott Gathers Steam Among Academics.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

It all came to me via a tweet from @clintlalonde and really energized me to see academic researchers get coordinated.

I’m particularly fond of my new version of Elsevier’s logo, where I wonder what happens when the vines and grapes growing around the tree of knowledge turn into chains and locks.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

Of course, this entire issue was brought into sharper focus for me by Brian Lamb months ago during his conference presentation, Toward Open Sustainability at Open Ed 2011 and his subsequent post, Higher Education and the Private Good. As Brian points out, those of us privileged enough to work at universities are able to gain access to most research but what about every one else? If the research is publicly funded, then the public should be able to access it just like we do. Timothy Gower wonders about developing nations, what do they do when they cannot afford access to information? It’s just not right.

While I am skeptical this will change much, it still brings me a bit of optimism to see over 3,000 researchers make the pledge. At the very least, as a stat junkie, I’m enjoying watching my Flickr hits increase daily.

UPDATE: I am pleased that @FakeElsevier is using my new subverted Elsevier logo. Follow the account for some comedic relief and a few quite poignant arguments.

Who is @FakeElsevier?



MORE UPDATES: Also pleased that TheCostofKnowledge has a blog showing the visual graphic. And the petition has over 7,000 7,500 signatories.
Feb 29 UPDATE: British Medical Journal & Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad will both being using the @FakeElsevier logo in upcoming articles about the boycott and Open Access.

7 thoughts on “The Cost of Knowledge

  1. paul

    The situation with the big publishers and their ever-increasing prices has baffled me since the first class session of Intro to Library Science. As someone who comes from the printing industry, I see no reason why we need publishers. There was a time when we needed them for the manufacturing and distribution of journals, but that day ended more than fifteen years ago. It seems to me that academic libraries should own the business of scholarly publishing, but we’re still paying Elsevier’s bill because we’ve always done it that way. Am I missing something?

  2. Giulia Post author

    The key to promotion and tenure as an academic lies with publishing in prestigious journals. Although the workload balance is usually 40% research, 40% teaching and 20% service the plain fact is that recognition is primarily based on your publishing record. Until the system sets up different rewards, untenured faculty will still need to publish somewhere that impresses their peers.

  3. Bryan

    Great visual much deserving of the attention it’s getting from (and giving to) this war over the nature of freedom (and knowledge) on the web.

    A natural extension of the logo (and hopefully the attached metaphor of the Tree of Knowledge) would be that the tree will in the long run grow to encompass and overtake the locks and chains.

    (…though I guess the darker alternative is that the chains kill the tree outright. But we don’t need to go there.)

    Awesome work – love the clarity of the images and text. So many possibilities to develop as an RSA-style video, too.

  4. Michael Branson Smith

    A colleague and I were just talking about this today and we couldn’t imagine that the current academic publishing model will be the same in ten years. I know this is optimistic but is it so impossible? Is it too much of a stretch for a group of recognized reviewers of a particular journal to recognize that all it takes is add the component of online space manager? Wikipedia-like? WE DON’T NEED NO STINKING PUBLISHERS!

    And Giulia, as you know, love, love your illustrations!

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