My Open Letter in Support of a Boycott of Nature Publishing Group

Background: "Nature Publishing Group told the University of California that next year subscription prices would increase 400 percent, with the average annual cost of a journal increasing to $17,479. UC Libraries fought back with a combative letter to UC faculty suggesting that faculty should consider boycotting the journals, and cease submitting or reviewing articles for these journals." via Metafilter

As I read the UC letter to faculty, I felt moved to write to the UC professor who's organizing a boycott of NPG.


Dear Professor Yamamoto,

I am not a scientist; I am not in any way affiliated with any association of higher learning. I am, however, a California taxpayer who values research and learning.

I learned about NPG's recent proposal to drastically increase UC's subscription prices through Metafilter.com ( http://www.metafilter.com/92705/Of-course-you-realize-this-means-war ).

I am appalled at NPG's exorbitant pricing and lack of transparency. At the same time, it strikes me as simply an extreme example of an inappropriate publishing model that does more to prevent access than to broaden it.

The whole point of publishing research is to share ideas and knowledge as widely as possible. Funnelling research through publishers such as NPG and Elvesier limits access.

Widespread access - even outside the university - is a wonderful thing. I am delighted that I can read your articles through the Public Library of Science:

http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.0...
http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen....

(I'm having trouble finding your work at escholarship.org, but I'm glad to know it exists.)

Some small portion of my taxes helped to pay for your authorship of those articles. Some small portion of my taxes helps pay for federal funding of scientific studies. Some small portion of my taxes goes to the UC faculty who provide the peer review and advising that provides NPG with their vaunted prestige. When that research is freely available - to other researchers who can make good use of it, and to me as an interested citizen - I feel that my tax money is well spent. When access to that research is dramatically restricted by for-profit publishers, I feel cheated.

As someone who loves the scientific process and the wide sharing of knowledge it requires, I am dismayed to think of researchers being denied easy access to scientific research because their institution can't afford a subscription. As someone who loves knowledge for its own sake and who has enjoyed visiting local library archives to do completely profit-free research of my own, I am dismayed whenever I can't access published research because it's needlessly expensive, or is simply unavailable to me at all as a private citizen with no university affiliation.

I greatly appreciate your response to NPG, and I would like to add my own voice of support. I encourage UC to move toward publishing all research through open access channels that let everyone benefit from your fine work.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Kristi Wachter
San Francisco, CA

P.S. I am forwarding this letter to my state legislators.