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Re: Berkeley faculty statement on scholarly publishing

One of the reasons that Congress and journalists find that re-routing the
money spent on science publishing (from subscriptions to upfront article
charges and the resulting open access) is so highly plausible, may just be
because it is. The idea that spending a small percentage of grant money on
publishing research results should be diverting money from research and a
loss to science is only correct if the following statement is correct,
too: spending grant money (i.e. overheads) on library subscriptions is
diverting money from research. And that's not even counting the additional
drawback that research results are not universally accessible that way. To
see the cost of publishing as money taken away from research isn't very
helpful. Publishing just costs money, one way or the other. The sensible
thing then is to look for ways to get the most benefits for science and
society out of the money spent.

Wouldn't it be interesting if major public policy initiatives were all
taken on the basis of 'evidence' rather than on 'faith' (perhaps we should
call it 'political will' in this case). I wonder for instance what the
evidence was that led to the Freedom of Information Act. Probably naively,
I always thought that it was just a belief in the benefits of open
government. I'm ready to admit I'm wrong if somebody points me to the
evidence. If we need the evidence Peter craves for the benefits of open
access, that can only be gathered if experiments are done on a large
enough scale. Early results already show that open access leads to more,
and earlier, usage and citations for articles published with immediate
open access. This is an interesting article in that regard: Kristin
Antelman in College & Research Libraries 65(5):pp. 372-382
(http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/staff/ kantelman/do_open_access_CRL.pdf)

Jan Velterop

On 13 May 2005, at 05:41, Peter Banks wrote:

"Seen in that context, the cost of scientific publishing, even with the
existing inefficiencies, is relatively affordable, in that it amounts
only to a few percent of the overall cost of what the funders spend
doing the scientific research in the first place."

To the naive--that is, most journalists and members of Congress--such
statements seem highly plausable. A few percent? Chump change in the
research enterprise!

Except it isn't chump change, it's a diversion of research funding and a
net loss for science. Anyone who thinks that the "few percent" will be
added to, rather than taken from, Federal research funding hasn't looked
at the federal budget lately. From now into the forseeable future,
prospects for increased support for scientific research are bleak.

Peter Banks
American Diabetes Association
Email: pbanks@diabetes.org