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Re: Taking Our Academic Medicine

On 23 Nov 2005, at 21:17, David Goodman wrote:

The value of a journal has no connection with its cost to produce, or with its
price. The value of a journal is the sum of the scholarly value of  its
articles to the ultimate users.

David, You've pinpointed what I think is a key issue.

If a librarian pays less than "the sum of the scholarly value of its articles to
the ultimate users" then the librarian may feel that they are getting a good
deal, and in a way they are, for that single transaction looked at in
isolation. i.e. "it's great research, it's well worth the money"  But take a
step back and look at the system, and it's clear that a kind of confidence
trick is being pulled here.

That research was freely given to the publisher, by the scholarly community.
To then justify how much is spent on regaining access to that research in terms
of 'the scholarly value of the research' is circular.  It amounts to saying:
"We need to pay publishers as much as the value of what we gave them (X) [plus
any value they've added (Y)] "

Why do publishers get paid for X?

In a system that functioned effectively as a market, publishers would not be
paid according to the total value of the scholarly research (since publishers
can't remotely claim to have created all that value).  Instead, publishers
would be paid according to the value that they add. Paying up front for the
service of publication (while making the research itself free) is a very
natural way to ensure that what is paid for is the 'value added by the
publisher' rather than the 'value of the research itself'.

The problem with subscription access to research is that it can be very natural
to say - 'it's great research, we must have it at any price.' And so begins the
upwards spiral of serials pricing.

Matt Cockerill
Publisher, BioMed Central