I read Marc Armstrong’s academic paper Open Access to Research and wanted to make a commentary on my blog. Here are my notes,


  1. Rankings of academic publishers on wikipedia
  2. https://nouvelles.umontreal.ca/en/article/2015/06/10/five-companies-control-more-than-half-of-academic-publishing/

The latter pointed me at Elsevier’s 2017 annual report, I don’t yet have time to do the next four.

The Guardian looked at this in 2017, Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?

A 2005 Deutsche Bank report referred to it as a “bizarre” “triple-pay” system, in which “the state funds most research, pays the salaries of most of those checking the quality of research, and then buys most of the published product”.


I discovered that their academic publishing business is very large (£2.4bn) and very profitable (37% gross margin) and their asset statement is impenetrable, partly because of the huge proportion of intangibles, but their real assets are tiny compared with revenue; while they declare a 13% RoA, it turns into ~425% if calculated on real assets only.  ( I did Elsevier because they are the biggest and their report was easy to find).

Related Post

This is part of my research and campaigning for free software and knowledge. See also Fragments on the Machine.

Fragment on machines


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