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RE: Looking an open access gift horse in the mouth

We might compare the costs for publication to other research costs,
considering whether they are paid by the university, by the granting
agency through indirect costs, or by the granting agency directly. (all
figures are for illustrative purposes only and will obviously depend on
subject area.)

A newly hired faculty member in the sciences will receive university, not
grant funds, to set up a new laboratory. At a major research university,
this figure can easily be several hundred thousand dollars. Grant funds
pay for supplies and running costs and further equipment. Similarly,
university funds will normally pay for the proportion of the academic year
salary devoted to research--typically half of $40,000-$100,000. Grant
funds pay for summer salaries in most cases and for the salary of
research-only staff.  Overhead on grant funds will typically pay for
buildings and infrastructure costs. Graduate students will either be paid
by the university as teaching assistants or the grant as research
assistants. University funds pay at least part of the cost of research
leaves, sabbaticals, and travel.

>From this, an estimate of the direct not-reimbursed cost per senior
researcher might be estimated at at least #25,000-$60,000 a year. Since
grants now typically pay at least part of publication costs, it might be
reasonable to assume that increased direct publication costs wiould be
paid for part by grants and part by the university. If the entire lab
publishes 10 papers/year at $1500 a paper, the increase in the
university's part might be about $5000.

One could reasonably look at this as trivial, or alternatively as a
significant obstacle.

Dr. David Goodman
Associate Professor
Palmer School of Library and Information Science
Long Island University
(and, formerly: Princeton University Library)
-----Original Message-----
From:  Lavoie,Brian [mailto:lavoie@oclc.org]
Sent:  Fri 1/16/2004 4:50 PM
To:  'liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu'
Subject:  RE: Looking an open access gift horse in the mouth

In regard to Professor Guedon's comments -

I agree that there is, at least theoretically, an incentive problem in
terms of upstream (university) support of open-access publishing. However,
it's not clear that this problem will render the model unsustainable. If
you take a step back and look at how the research is produced, a similar
incentive problem exists: institutions that serve as the source of a
significant fraction of scientific research in effect fund the research
for the benefit of the scientific community at large. 

Funding occurs through payment of the researcher's salary, and costs of
lab space, equipment, graduate students, travel, etc. If this research is
published in the open literature, it is, at least potentially, available
to all, whether or not access is open or through journal subscription.
This suggests that the funding institution is incurring costs to produce
research which, when published in the literature, extends benefits to
other institutions who do not directly fund the research - benefits which
take the form of scientific knowledge that supports the research efforts
of their own faculty. These benefits are non-exclusionary and
non-rivalrous in their consumption - the classic economic definition of a
public good.

A number of explanations could be offered to explain how this the apparent
incentive problem is overcome - e.g., quality published research enhances
the reputation of the institution from which it originates. One could also
claim that universities perceive the production and public dissemination
of research as part of their mission, and so are willing to support its
cost while widely distributing the benefits (although, interesting, some
universities are trying to contain the exodus of innovative ideas by
setting up start-up ventures to exploit them commercially). Could we not
make the argument that universities will perceive the costs of suppporting
open access as part of this pre-existing commitment to fund research for
public consumption, and in doing so, sustain the open access publishing
model in some form?

Thanks for the interesting comments and the opportunity to comment on


Brian F. Lavoie
Research Scientist