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FW: Varmus in the Chronicle

To respond to several statements in the Chronicle article and subsequent
comments on this listserv:

> "In 2003, scientists and social scientists at Duke published about 4,500
> papers, according to a search of the Science Citation Index and the 
> Social Sciences Citation Index. If those reports had been published in 
> author-fee journals, and if authors had paid PLoS's $1,500-per-paper 
> fee, the total cost for Duke (if the university picked up the author 
> fees, in place of subscription costs) would have been $6.75-million. 
> Last year the university's entire budget for journals, including those 
> in the humanities and at the medical center as well as online databases, 
> was $6.6-million."

Virtually no proponents of the pay-to-publish open access model would
argue that the libraries should bear the burden of paying publication
charges on behalf of their affiliated authors, as an "exchange" for free
journal access.  The open-access model is intended -- in part, but not
solely -- to ease the burden on libraries' acquisition budgets.

Open-access proponents do argue that funding agencies should accept
publication as the final step of research and include the costs of
publishing in grants (many grants, including those from NIH, already allow
publication charges, which is fortunate, given the page and color charges
many subscription-based journals charge already -- see discussion about
EMBO Journal's pricing). In the Duke University example above, the library
might contribute a portion of the proposed $6.75 million in open-access
publication charges Duke's faculty might acrue. In fact, represented as a
portion of Duke's funding from NIH -- ranked 8th with $245.5 million (see
http://www.dukehealth.org/mental_health/NIH_funding.pdf.) -- this $6.75
million is only 2.8% of NIH dollars to Duke -- and that's just one funding

And as for the threat that open access brings to non-profit society
journals, doesn't the threat of cancellation of library subscriptions to
those very journals loom even larger?  Many societies are in fact
experimenting with open-access models precisely because they recognize
that the subscription-based model is unsustainable.

Finally, to pick up on Rick Anderson earlier comments ...

> "In this inelegant analogy, the bubble is the simple fact that it costs
> money to do research and it costs money to write about your research and
> it costs money to publish and distribute a journal, and those costs 
> aren't going to disappear simply because everyone likes the idea of open 
> access.  All the utopian rhetoric in the world can't change the fact 
> that there's no such thing as free information."

Open-access proponents never suggest those costs will disappear -- though
the cost of distributing an electronic open-access journal is
(comparatively) infinitesimal.  Rather, they know that there is enough
money in the existing research and publishing system, if redistributed
appropriately, to reach the utopian ideal of "free information."

Helen J. Doyle, Ph.D. 
Director of Development and Strategic Alliances 
Public Library of Science 
185 Berry Street, Suite 1300 
San Francisco, CA� 94107 
(415) 624-1217� phone 
(415) 546-4090� fax 
hdoyle@plos.org <mailto:hdoyle@plos.org> 
www.plos.org <http://www.plos.org/>