That is pretty much the title of an news article published today in L’OBS avec Rue 89
La France préfère payer (deux fois) pour les articles de ses chercheurs
Au lieu de donner à tous l’accès aux travaux de ses scientifiques – qu’elle a financés –, la France choisit de verser 172 millions d’euros à un éditeur néerlandais. Rue89 dévoile le texte de cet incroyable marché.
The article has a few flaws, but over all, it is good. It clearly points out the incredible margins of publishers and the absurdities of the system in a way not too dissimilar to my recent blog post “Where to publish our next paper? Letter to a group member“.
Now this article has a few flaws. In particular, it puts all the blame on the state and suggests that other countries, in particular the UK, are doing much better. That is far from being the case. In fact, in many countries, including the US and the UK, negotiations with publishers do not happen at a national level which gives more power to the publishers to secure advantageous deals (and there was no transparency until some data were released thanks to freedom of information requests). [Update 11/11/2004: one of the author commenting below notes that their article did not cite the US or UK as positive examples, but the German and the Dutch]
The main error of the article though is in putting the blame squarely on ministers and politicians when researchers themselves have a huge responsibility for the continuation of this system. This was immediately seen in the responses on twitter as illustrated on this thread (click to see the conversation, many more tweets) where colleagues appeared to rush to the defence of Elsevier’s profits [slight exaggeration/bait, which I hope may lead them to post some comments below].
— FX Coudert (@fxcoudert) November 10, 2014