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RE: Taking Our Academic Medicine


Certainly www.journalprices.com provides the information about price per
artice/price per page/price per citation, measured from the point of view
of an individual institutional subscriber to the journal. One obvious
limitation of that approach is that the cost-per-citation of OA journals
according to that metric is zero. i.e. they offer infinite value!

I was agreeing with Ahmed Hindawi that it is also relevant (in fact, I
would say, much more relevant) to know the total cost per article to the
whole scientific community.

That is because, if you take a step back, what publishers do is provide a
service to the scientific community, to disseminate articles.  You can
argue that the cost to the community as a whole is the best measure of how
to compare the value-for-money of the service being offered by different
publishers to the scientific community.

Publishers who take a small amount of money from the academic community,
in return for each article publication, article download, or article
access, are, other things being equal, offering better value as
serviceproviders than publishers who extract a large amount of money from
the academic community for an equivalent level of dissemination.

To any individual library, the price may be reasonable, in terms of 'what
is a reasonable price to pay for access to this excellent research'. But
from a funders point of view, that's topsy turvy - its researchers did the
research. The amount paid should be proportionate to the service of
dissemination provided, not proportionate to how badly it needs access to
the research.

Article Processing Charges have the virtue of making completely clear how
much is being charged for the service of publication and dissemination.

Certainly, one of the tasks faced by any publisher is to make sure that
their revenue will cover their costs. Since BioMed Central is a commercial
organization, I think you can have confidence that we fully intend to
achieve that. That doesn't alter the basic fact that if publisher A is
charging $1300 to publish and disseminate an article, and publisher B is
charging $5000 for an equivalent level of service, publisher A is offering
a better deal.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Peter Banks [mailto:
> Sent: 17 November 2005 18:49
> To: Matthew Cockerill; liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
> Subject: RE: Taking Our Academic Medicine
> Matt,
> You seem to asking for 2 different things.
> First are some metrics on the comparative value per dollar of different
> journals. I think Bergstrom and McAfee have provided such a service with
> a spreadsheet that allows librarians (and publishers, funders, and
> authors) to compare some price performance metrics across journals. If
> you don't have it, the home page for their work is
>     http://www.journalprices.com/ You can get their data in Excel format
> here:  http://www.hss.caltech.edu/~mcafee/Journal/2005Data.xls
> The second thing you seem to want is a relative breakdown of the revenue
> streams (and presumably, the associated costs) to produce an article in
> different journals. You claim that OA publishers are transparent in this
> respect, while traditional publishers are not. I find no evidence for
> such a claim. I have yet to see a transparent accounting of the true
> costs and revenue for many OA journals--I suspect because it would
> quickly reveal most of them to be unsustainable, absent a government
> bail out.
> Peter Banks
> Acting Vice President for Publications/Publisher
> American Diabetes Association
> Email: pbanks@diabetes.org
> >>> matt@biomedcentral.com 11/16/05 5:43 PM >>>

> I agree that this would be fascinating information, as it would give a
> real sense of what was the 'overall cost to the community' of publishing
> an article in one journal, versus another.
> I too suggested this to the researchers - I think there's a consensus
> that it would be interesting information, but it would also be very
> difficult and labour intensive to figure out accurately.
> Of course, that in itself is in a bit of an indictment of the current
> system - the funders and the scientific community in general don't have
> a clear sense of whether or not they are overpaying, because they can't
> easily compare the value delivered by one journal in terms such as
> 'dollars per article' or 'dollars per article download' or 'dollars per
> citation'. Transparency on these things is very much in the interests of
> the scientific community, but not necessarily in the interests of
> traditional publishers, some of whom may find the opacity convenient.
> For article processing charge-based open access journals, it is of
> course very easy to work out these figures.
> Matt Cockerill
> Publisher, BioMed Central