Scientific journal articles are not the same as news stories in magazines or newspapers. These journals are publications that exist to publish scientific papers, and they are typically peer-reviewed: when the journal receives a paper from a scientist, they send it to other scientists and ask whether the paper is worth publishing. Traditionally, no money changes hands between the scientists and the journal. The journal then charges readers. This model was solidified in the days when journals were all printed on paper and you had to buy them. Libraries would buy subscriptions, of course. But now that everything is digital, libraries pay subscription fees to provide access to their patrons.
Pressures on the first two fronts are forcing journals to stay relevant in newer ways. A big source of such pressure is the availability of preprints - i.e. manuscripts of papers made available by their authors in the public domain before they have been peer-reviewed. Preprint repositories like arXiv and biorXiv have risen in prominence over the last few years, especially the former. They are run by groups of scientists - like volunteers pruning the garden of Wikipedia - that ensure the formatting and publishing requirements are met, remove questionable manuscripts and generally - as they say - keep things going. Scientific journals typically justify their access cost by claiming that they have to spend it on peer review and printing. Preprints evade this problem because they are free to access online and are not peer-reviewed the way 'published' papers are. In turn, the reader who wishes to read the preprint must bear this caveat in mind.
While the current scientific publishing industry is one of the most lucrative worldwide, the current scholarly publication process has several problems that affect the research community, such as high publication costs, copyrights held by publishers instead of authors, biased publication and peer review processes, lack of rewards and recognition for reviewers, and a proliferation of low-quality journals. Blockchain can eliminate market inefficiencies and improve the quality and effectiveness of scientific publishing. Through the utilisation of smart contracts, decentralised storage solutions, big data analytics, and cloud computing, blockchain technology can be harnessed to greatly accelerate the peer review process and usher in a new era of transparency and efficiency for the sector.
College costs are getting too high. Benefits are falling relative to costs. Higher education is a labour-intensive enterprise, and cost savings have to come by lowering labour expenses. While a huge hunk of that involves curtaining the burgeoning administrative bloat, a more healthy balance of teaching and research responsibilities probably is in order. A majority of academic journal articles are never read, but many journal articles are rarely cited. And some academic journals have circulations of well under 1,000, many copies sitting unread on library shelves.
While a handful of journals occasionally pay their referees a small honorarium in return for their service, this is by no means the norm. It is also not a viable solution. Open peer-review promises a more constructive and transparent dialogue among scientists, and constructive criticism if published would be a valuable addition to the literature. However, any attempt to radically change the nature of peer-review must necessarily be accompanied by a change in the way the referees are compensated for their time and effort, especially within academia. For example, opening up the review process allows for the possibility of referee reports being indexed and cited, so that a scientist who writes an insightful review is rewarded professionally for their work. Author-level metrics that measure the productivity of a researcher often factor into decisions about hiring, grant approval and promotions, and these might also be adapted to include scientific contributions in the form of referee reports.