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Re: Looking an open access gift horse...

With permission, I've digested below comments from a couple of university
administrative folks who have seen the discussion about the potential
effects of Open Access on library/university budgets, but aren't mmembers
of this list.  The perspectives are instructive, reminding us that in a
complex system it is not possible to change only one ingredient;  
inevitably there are expected and unexpected consequences.  That's not to 
say that publishing systems should be optimized, of course!

Related factors:

1.  If funding agencies will increase direct grants to pay publication
costs as part of this movement, it's surely reasonable to expect them to
come back to the universities to negotiate reduced indirect cost rates --
for example, that's where NSF *thinks* it's now paying for the costs of
STM publication, whether libraries actually see any of those ICR dollars
passed through to them.  Library budgets might be relieved of subscription
costs, but if the ICRs go down (for this reason) librarians (and faculty)
can surely expect to hear from university budgeteers about absorbing that
cut. It is not clear that OA will leave university libraries with more
spare cash to buy other (than STM journal) materials or invest in other

2.  Overall levels of federal funding for science look to flatten in the
next years.  We've come up sharply in recent years and now the ballooning
deficits will stifle growth in many areas of federal spending.  So it's
unlikely our institutions will "come out ahead."

3.  There's a question of chicken/egg.  If I want to switch to Open Access
(author-pays) from the current model (reader-pays), may I expect costs for
current subscriptions to go down as fast as or faster than the costs for
Open Access go up?  If not, where will I find the delta?  If I build a
bridge strategy to cover a period of double-cost, how confident can I be
that I'll get back to where I am now?

4.  Startup packages for new researchers:  A few thousand dollars are a
few thousand dollars, but more to the point, the new-star-researcher
startup package is one-time $$, but we assume the scientist will publish
every year.  To take a few dollars out of resources the scientist really
wants to cover publication for a year or two doesn't solve the larger