June 3, 2014. Economy, food, environment, energy, water – whatever keyword you choose, the word crisis fits right behind it nowadays. In other words, ‘crisis’ can be attached to every single important social issue.
It goes without saying that as an institution, universities are not immune to this trend. Universities are a part of society and as such are confronted with the same consequences of choices made in the past that society has to deal with. After all, ivory towers do not exist.
In this section we want to present an overview of ongoing debates at universities, as well as offer a platform, by publishing articles that not only analyze how we got to this point, but also consider possible solutions.
Because one thing is clear: A lot of time and energy is focused on pointing out the cause of present issues. Simply put, neo-liberalism is supposed to be the source of much evil. And yes, before you can think of solutions, you have to get to the root of the problem.
Mankind succeeds in making the world a better place, one tiny step at a time. Even if we sometimes feel we are not moving very fast. At those times we see that progress stumbles, but proceeds to pull itself together in order to make another good-natured attempt.
One would expect us to learn from history. That from all those attempts, we manage to keep the good things and get rid of the bad. But it has always been, and will always be, a struggle to come up with solutions that work for all of us. That is what we want to focus on in this section, finding solutions. Besides analyses, we hope to receive ideas that will help all of us move forward. Ideas that prove universities are willing and able to help shape social debate. And ultimately, by doing that, help solve social issues.
Michael Eisen doesn’t hold back when invited to vent. “It’s still ludicrous how much it costs to publish research — let alone what we pay,” he declares. The biggest travesty, he says, is that the scientific community carries out peer review — a major part of scholarly publishing — for free, yet subscription-journal publishers charge billions of dollars per year, all told, for scientists to read the final product. “It’s a ridiculous transaction,” he says.
Eisen, a molecular biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, argues that scientists can get much better value by publishing in open-access journals, which make articles free for everyone to read and which recoup their costs by charging authors or funders. Among the best-known examples are journals published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS), which Eisen co-founded in 2000. “The costs of research publishing can be much lower than people think,” agrees Peter Binfield, co-founder of one of the newest open-access journals, PeerJ, and formerly a publisher at PLoS.