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Re: Looking an open access gift horse in the mouth

Dear Jill:  Joining you in your, um, er, shall we say "Eeyorely"  
reflections, let me add the following.

Having read last fall's Paribus analyst's report about how open access
could save our university library well over $2 million per year on STM
journal subscriptions, I thought that a person with fiduciary
responsibility over university budgets should understand how to effect
such a savings and move toward doing so.

First I re-calculated the numbers based on a far more accurate (though 
hardly perfect) count of articles produced by our researchers in a year 
(journals indexed in ISI SCI and PubMed only).  When I divided that number 
into our STM journals budget (also imperfect but far more accurate than 
the Yale number that's been published in various places), I learned that 
if published under an Open Access model for $1000 per article, our 
researchers' output would cost rather more under OA than it currently 
does.  If $1500 per article, then quite a bit more, and so on.

My takeaway, based on, admittedly, a loose experiment in only one 
institution, was that research-intensive places could likely spend more on 
OA than they currently spend in the current system, while smaller ones 
will spend a lot less and non-research institutions will have totally free 

**More to the point, I was able to appreciate the pricing that many 
cost-effective publishers bring to us these days -- perhaps we in 
libraries seriously undervalue their contributions.***

As Peter Suber writes, the good news is that under OA the whole world
would have access to these articles forever.  That is, if the current OA
business model is right, and we're only guessing, at best what it might
be, with the current experiments in the STM arena...

But there are significant lurking questions about the "best" models -- Can
the larger institutions support access for all others?  Should the
marketplace of prospective readers play no role in the economic model at
all?  Is there such a thing as the best or only model?  What is the real
lifetime cost at the producer end for supporting a quality article?  And
so on...

I was really pleased to see that ALPSP, under Sally Morris's leadership,
proposes, with willing publishers, to study these and related questions in
a rigorous way.  My own hope is that publishers will join in this or a
similar projects, with willing publishers. Publishers (and perhaps
libraries with them) will want to secure (or contribute) funds to conduct
such studies, and help us all to be better informed not just in our
hearts, but particularly in our heads.  The data so gathered, especially
if both for-profits and not-for-profits were to participate, would be
invaluable.  The current rhetoric about saving a ton of money under OA is
delightful but so far is not persuasive.  I know I'm conflating two quite
different things here:  ideals and business models.  But our business
models have to work in order to sustain scholarly communications over
time, don't they?

Ann Okerson/Yale Library (representing my views only; not an institutional 


On Thu, 15 Jan 2004, Jill Emery wrote:

> In agreement with Phil Davis' post from last week concerning EMBO and
> SPARC Europe and as a reaction to the latest post regarding PLoS and the
> institution of member fees, I pose the following questions which make me
> feel somewhat like another member of the equine family but nonetheless,
> here they are...
> How do most libraries differentiate between institutional membership fees
> and subscription fees? Do you feel the need to make this distinction at
> all? Can or should membership fees be paid through subscription agents?
> As a group, do we feel that these fees are sustainable at the levels at
> which they are being instituted or will we begin to see increases as the
> realities of electronic scholarly publishing and maintenance take hold and
> as the grant funding presently underwriting some of these endeavors dries
> up?
> It is a much more agreeable matter for an academic institution to support
> BioMedCentral or Public Library of Science than some commercial
> enterprises, however, bearing in mind both the understanding that instead
> of buying back published research from the commercial sector, libraries
> are now underwriting the publication of research and that the current
> pricing structures and models do not seem sustainable at their current
> levels, are libraries better off with the membership fee model? It has
> been said that $1500 does not go very far in the creation and support of
> one to two electronic articles much less a whole electronic sphere of
> information.
> Have libraries been able to benefit at a greater extent from the research
> dollars garnered by their parent institutions if libraries are
> facilitating the publishing of this research?
> Basically all of these questions lead to the same bottom line: are most
> libraries just accepting that open access membership fees are a feasible
> model and that future price increases can be absorbed?
> Cordially submitted,
> ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
> Jill Emery
> JEmery@uh.edu
> ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^