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Re: The elephant in the room

The mouse in the room that frightens the elephant is the 
possibility that the academy is, like housing, wrestling with 
overleverage.  Access to cheap money in the form of subsidized 
student loans enabled the development of infrastructure and 
services that are now, as the society is being deleveraged 
everywhere from Wall St. to Main St., proving too costly to 
maintain.  Add up all the student debt and ask yourself:  How 
will all this money be repaid?  What is the return on that 

A friend of mine, who is on the faculty of a law school, tells me 
that the average graduate of his institution is carrying debt in 
the range of $150,000-$200,000.  Where does the implicit optimism 
about the prospects of a legal career come from?  My knees grow 
weak at the thought of having to shoulder that kind of debt. 
And then I think of the buildings, staff, libraries, and so forth 
that that debt helped to pay for.

Publishers benefited over the years from the cheap money policy. 
If they suffer now, it is not because the market is failing, as 
Fred Friend contends, but because the market is returning.

Joe Esposito

On Fri, Nov 27, 2009 at 3:43 PM, Stevan Harnad 
> The elephant in the room is not the prospect of journal
> subscription cancellations, because as long as researchers need
> access to peer- reviewed journals, and as long as peer-reviewed
> journals are accessible only via subscriptions, subscriptions
> will remain viable, and institutions will just have to keep
> paying for whatever fraction they can afford them.
> The elephant in the room is Open Access (OA) self-archiving of
> journal articles by the "Slumbering Giant" -- the universal
> provider of all the content of the planet's 25,000 peer-reviewed
> journals: the planet's 10,000 universities and research
> institutions.
> As soon as the Slumbering Giant awakes to the fact that OA is
> fully within its reach -- all it has to do is to mandate it --
> all the fuss about journal affordability, institutional serials
> crises, and publisher overpricing will fade, for researchers will
> have access to all refereed research, not just the fraction of it
> to which their institutions can afford to subscribe today.
> And then, maybe, institutions will start canceling, their users'
> needs no longer being inelastic, thanks to the OA mandates.
> And then publishers will cut costs, lower prices, and eventually
> make a transition to OA publishing, recovering the costs of peer
> review from institutional publication fees, paid out of a
> fraction of institutions' windfall subscription cancellation
> savings.
> That's the real elephant in the room, if you like. But as long as
> we persist in imagining instead that it's something to do with
> journal pricing, "Big Deals," and the need for pricing reform, we
> will not only fail to notice the elephant, we will fail to grasp
> its tail, which is fully within our reach. Instead, we will, like
> the drunk and the lamp-post, keep fumbling where the elephant
> isn't (or, like the blind men and the elephant, fail to grasp
> what it is)!
> Lester Loxodont