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Re: Decision making by Libraries on serials and monographs and useage (re puzzled by self-archiving thread)

Sally Morris wrote:

I am no economist so my questions are common-sense ones (I think)

Increasing access I can understand in principle - but how does one increase 'efficiency'(as an input)? Your most prominent definitions of 'efficiency' are related to 'relevance' and I really don't see how that could be increased. Wouldn't the arguments be more convincing if one looked at the increase in just one variable, anyway?
As noted before, efficiency is used in two related senses: the usefulness/use of the knowledge created by R&D and the efficiency of the conduct of R&D. In the report (pp31-34 and Appendix II) we outline some of the potential impacts of enhanced access, including a range of ways in which the efficiency of research might be increased (e.g. increased speed of discovery, reduction of duplicative research, etc.) and its use might be extended (e.g. enhanced access to industry, government and society, the emergence of new industries such as weather derivatives, etc.). These are discussed in the context of developing an "impacts framework" that focuses on the issues of access, use and efficiency. As for treating access and efficiency separately: its an option, but we thought that access, use and efficiency of R&D were likely to positively be related... for all the reasons outlined in the literature review in Appendix II.

As to the one-to-one relationship between a given percentage of increased access (or anything else) and increased benefit - could you clarify that? I'm not assuming that most users have access already - just that those who do are likely to be those most able to benefit, and that ability to benefit will decline as access increases. The same would go for any impact on the efficiency of the users' own research.

To a simple non-economist like me, it all seems to rest on huge and rather implausible assumptions...
I'm not sure we are making any assumptions. The estimates are presented in the form: IF... THEN... Obviously, the things following the IF are the variables. We are simply putting forward range estimates of the possible impacts on social returns to R&D, and based on a literature review we use plausible ranges of social returns from 25% to 75% and 1% to 10% increases in access and efficiency (the thinking behind which we discussed in the last message). Purely for the purposes of discussion we then use examples based on a 25% rate of return to R&D and 5% increase in access and efficiency.

As noted before, we use average rates of return because we are not changing the level of R&D expenditure. The extent to which there may be diminishing marginal returns to access depends on how far we are from optimal access at the moment. In his discussion of the "long tail", Anderson noted that:

/"What's really amazing about the Long Tail is the sheer size of it... Take books: The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon's book sales come from //outside// its top 130,000 titles. [so].. if the Amazon statistics are any guide, the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are. In other words, the potential book market may be twice as big as it appears to be, if only we can get over the economics of scarcity./"

As also noted before, the evidence from the Open Citation Project and from OA repository download statistics suggests that there is much more reading/use with OA... perhaps, when one adds zero pricing (to the user), there may be a scholarly publishing long tail. If the market that isn't reached is bigger than that which is, and its been reported that OA articles get 2-5 times the citations, suggesting that use by researchers alone may increase by 100% to 400%, then the difference between average and marginal returns is unlikely to be large - be they increasing or diminishing.

John Houghton

Centre for Strategic Economic Studies (CSES), Victoria University
VoIP: (FireFly) 88207699 (Skype) John.Houghton
E-mail: john.houghton@pobox.com
Web: www.pobox.com/~houghton