I understand that academics are not paid a single dime on their publications. In my field (computer science), IEEE, ACM, Springer, Elsevier are some known journals/publications and none of them pay authors any royalties but they charge the readers a substantial amount of money per paper.
I'm a new PhD student so please bear with me if there is something obvious that I am missing here. I was told by my advisor that to graduate I need to publish in IEEE or ACM. He did not suggest, and I do not know of any reputed journal in my field, that either pays royalties to authors or allows free access to readers. I am forced to publish my papers at IEEE or ACM if I want to graduate and find a job afterwards.
Why are PhD students, professors, and others who publish their life's works in professional research publications not paid royalties on their hard work poured into these papers?
If academics choose not to make money (e.g. they are not greedy and want to promote free education for all) shouldn't these publications not charge readers an absurd $30 for 6-7 page paper? Shouldn't the publications charge a nominal fee that covers paying their employees and distributions cost, but nothing more. Right now, it's a trillion dollar profit industry. Why are the publications pocketing all of the profits on research done by scientists? And why is the research community OK with this?
If this really is an issue (Aaron Swartz -- famous hacktivist -- fought against this injustice), what can be done against this issue by the research community and academics? For example, if researchers at top institutions (in my field) such as MIT, Berkeley etc. boycotted publications that do not pay researchers AND charge the readers (thus pocketing all profits), can this issue be rectified? Can PhD students and professors start submitting to other journals that either pay royalties or be free to readers?
Please help a new PhD student from an underdeveloped country understand this issue. In my country, a lot of the people never go to universities or colleges (thus have no discounted university access to these papers) but are very bright and could use them.
Although, I think I was clear in the original text above, from one answer here it seems I am coming off as "naive" asking journals to make papers free access AND pay royalties -- a clearly unsustainable business model. No. I am asking for either this OR that. Either pay fair royalties to authors OR make their papers free access (maybe charge readers a nominal fee to cover publishing and distribution costs). I just do not understand why it is justified for publishers to pocket billions of dollars of profit.
Since I said in my original post above that I am a PhD student and there might be a connection I am missing due to my inexperience, I am now adding other sources (e.g. posts by senior professors) that are relevant to this discussion:
Some of my students asked me yesterday who profits from the egregious pricing structure of academic journals. The only answer I could give them was: publishers like Taylor & Francis, Elsevier, Wiley, Springer, et al.
As noted by The Economist, Elsevier made $1.1 billion in profit in 2010 for a profit margin of 36%; Taylor & Francis’s profit margin was 25%. In 2011, Elsevier and its senior executives made 31 contributions to members of the U.S. House of Representatives, of which 12 went to NY Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who sponsored something called the Research Works Act (RWA), a bill that would it illegal for the government to make taxpayer-funded research openly accessible to the public.
Brian Nosek, a professor at the University of Virginia and director of the Center for Open Science, says, “Academic publishing is the perfect business model to make a lot of money. You have the producer and consumer as the same person: the researcher. And the researcher has no idea how much anything costs.” Nosek finds this whole system is designed to maximize the amount of profit. “I, as the researcher, produce the scholarship and I want it to have the biggest impact possible and so what I care about is the prestige of the journal and how many people read it. Once it is finally accepted, since it is so hard to get acceptances, I am so delighted that I will sign anything — send me a form and I will sign it. I have no idea I have signed over my copyright or what implications that has — nor do I care, because it has no impact on me. The reward is the publication.”
I would like to once again stress that I realize that publishers need to cover costs and even make a bit of profit. I am not against that. I understand that businesses exist to make profit. But if certain publishing houses are making excess profit of billions while paying nothing back to the authors, how is that fair? There is no problem with the journal covering their costs. My question is: are they just covering their costs or are they making a substantial/hefty profit which is leading to an elite few at the top (maybe shareholders of publishing house) getting very rich? It seems they are making billions of dollars in profit -- after covering all distribution, publication and other costs.
Please note that I am merely looking to understand the issue better and have no preconceived notions such as "publishers are evil".