In the final stages of writing a monograph titled “Analytical Chemistry of Uranium: Environmental, Forensic, Nuclear and Toxicological Applications,” I contacted the Copyright Clearance Center to obtain permissions to use the figures and tables that I had selected from various publications. In most cases, permission was granted quickly and at no cost. In some cases, a payment of $33.50 (Analytical Chemistry from the American Chemical Society) to $80 (Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry from the Royal Society of Chemistry) per figure was required. The price requested by two journals (Journal of Radioanalytical & Nuclear Chemistry and Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry, both published by Springer) was $1,984 per item. In some cases, the reuse of figures from an article in a book was refused outright.
Consequently, I had to replace some figures and delete others in the final version of the book, thus denying readers the figures that would most clearly demonstrate my arguments.
I am aware of the importance of protecting one’s intellectual property, but I keep wondering whether the publishers pay scientists and authors for the manuscripts we submit to keep them in business. (Of course, I know they don’t pay.)
My simple solution was not to use those unaffordable figures and tables in the current monograph. I am against all types of boycotts, but perhaps as a community of researchers we should ignore the publishers that make their journals inaccessible. We should not submit manuscripts and not quote work published in them until a reasonable arrangement can be reached.