One main problem with scholarly publishing in the west or westernized countries these days may not have much to do with subscription access vs. open-access. I suggest it may have more to do with a common problem shared by many — if not most — of the executives, principals, and managers who have been hired by the scholarly publishing industry, whether subscription-based or open-access.
Let me hasten to add these are personal, impressionistic thoughts. I’ve done no empirical studies to draw these conclusions.
One main problem with scholarly publishing may be that some of its top editorial employees are former university researchers or frustrated clinicians. They seemed to have, for one reason or another, dropped out from the research enterprise.
Perhaps they were frustrated with their salary levels. Perhaps they had an appetite for entrepreneurial success. Perhaps they didn’t make the cut on the “publish or perish” track. For whatever reasons, they sought or were picked up instead as employees by scholarly publishing industry.
What kind of behaviors might they then be continuing?
Some have Ph.D. degrees in microbiology, chemistry, or physics. Others achieved M.D. degrees and worked for a time as clinicians.
Many also worked as postdocs, bouncing around from lab to lab. Some published a few key papers in scholarly journals, co-authored with their lab partners, but their careers (regretfully) failed to thrive. They eventually left scientific research.
They then entered the vigorous enterprise of scholarly publishing, a field for which they had to be trained for (there aren’t that many degree programs in academic publishing…).
In many ways eminently qualified, if tangentially, with their doctoral degrees and strong sense of background knowledge, they entered the industry as (obviously?) instant experts. Anyone else, after all, would have to learn these fields all on their own.
I’ve attended a few scholarly publishing industry conferences over the past few years. Some of these could easily be confused with Society for Cell Biology conferences, given the number of biology Ph.D. degree holders attending. Don’t some or even many in the scholarly publishing industry seem over-qualified (in their subject area) and pedantic (in the way they speak) — not communicating well with those “in the trenches”?
Don’t some seem to think they know scholarly publishing only because they worked in a lab and published a couple papers? How did they get accepted so eagerly, then, into the commercial sector?
Those who work for open-access publishers also become zealous, but also earnest, open-access advocates. They aggressively support a system that might supply a hefty paycheck, their paycheck. After all, there are many more authors in the world with potentially lucrative APC grant support than there are wealthy academic libraries.
Some use The Scholarly Kitchen as a foghorn. They proclaim their expertise in the scholarly publishing enterprise, but rarely do they emphasize a previous, incomplete career in the enterprise of science.
Some may begin their lives with a dedication to science or medicine for the purpose of helping humanity. Do they really help that much in the enterprise of communication and sharing, or do they end up primarily helping themselves?
You’d have to conclude the outcome for yourself.