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Comparing Institutional Membership to Per-Article Payment

I suggest that smaller institutions pay much more per article usage
(though they need much of the same research), than larger research
institutions and larger institutions may have other reasons to support a
system that costs them slightly more-- in order to increase exposure to
research as a public good.

Davis and Stern wrote on liblicense-l:

Comparing Institutional Membership to Per-Article Payment in an Open
Access Model, by Philip Davis and David Stern

April 14, 2005

"Is it cheaper in an Open Access producer-pays model to take an
institutional membership over paying per article published? The results of
this analysis of two research institutions suggests that institutionscould
save money if they paid by the article."

And concluded:

"The question of who will subsidize Open Access producer-pays publishing
is significant if libraries cannot justify their memberships on financial
grounds. This will be especially true for smaller institutions that
publish few (if any) articles. Unlike the subscription model, there is
little risk of losing access if a membership is not renewed. Subvention
from foundations and other sources may be necessary to support the
producer-pays model"


COMMENT:  This analysis ignores that under the current model and a
proposed author pays model smaller institutions- in terms of use per
article of the research literatures, subsidize cost per use at larger
institutions like Yale and Cornell. Smaller institutions generally pay
more per use than larger institutions covering the same field. Payment by
the article is NOT equal payment in an "author or institution pays"
system.  Phil's own research examining usage of ACS journals/articles
suggests a massive disparity between the usage at a Cornell and at UNC
Charlotte.  SOME publisher's try to make some adjustment for this
disparity with various forms of differential pricing (which is why my
Elsevier Science Direct contract is less expensive than that of larger
institutions while providing similar coverage). However the basic
disparity in cost is still very large on a per use basis.  This is true in
both paper and e-based systems for every comparable usage measure I've
seen to date. My own institution's usage data is posted at :

There is another question that is hovering around that has not been
addressed. Yale, and Cornell, with larger investments in research, and
arguably more cited research than many smaller institutions may have a
moral reason to be willing to pay more per "article" to support open
access. In fact, there is a very good argument to be made that shifting
the cost of publishing to the institutions that publish and also use the
system the most means that smaller institutions with less publications and
less use of the system will have greater access, a good that Yale and
Cornell might consciously determine is a significant public good.

The researcher at UNC Charlotte, to be productive and contribute to a
particular field MUST have access to the same articles that a researcher
at Cornell or Yale has, ultimately, and this has led to smaller
institutions spending much higher portions of their overall budgets for
research journals than larger institutions. If a subscription to Brain
Research is necessary at a smaller institution, it would take a larger
percentage of that budget than it does Yale's.

So Yale and Cornell and by extension all large research operations have to
make a value decision, not just a monetary decision. And that value
decision, access to the most important research is a social good, not just
a matter of dollars and cents to a single research university's library.
Open access, however it is achieved, is such a powerful good as shown by
usage data and citation analysis as Harnad et. al. have shown repeatedly,
how can a world leading institution continue to argue for hiding its
research behind prohibitively expensive toll barriers?

Chuck Hamaker
Associate University Librarian Collections and Technical Services
Atkins Library
University of North Carolina Charlotte
Charlotte, NC 28223
phone 704 687-2825