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Re: Post Brussels : the economics of editors

Imperfect information allows for market inefficiencies, but in this case, Joe is forgetting that editors derive as much (or more) from their relationships with publishers than the often mediocre honoraria they receive in return. Editors are mostly paid in an abstract commodity called "prestige", which can be translated into worldly goods within the academy (advancement, grants and awards, people) and let us not forget the powerful position of being a gatekeeper of what is published. We cannot simply consider editors to be employees of a publishing house. Such a narrow view only focuses on monetary transaction between the two actors and ignores the more valuable transfer of prestige.

--Phil Davis

At 09:22 PM 3/4/2007, you wrote:
So here we have in Colin Steele's post a perfect illustration of why the
theory of "non-rival goods," beloved by economists, does not apply to
information.  Steele tells the world that publishers pay authors and
reviewers nothing or almost nothing, and publishers say barely a word in
their defense.  Why?  Because to acknowledge (the truth) that many editors
receive small sums and a lucky few princely payments would encourage more
editors to demand more, and the more they get, to the extent that this
fact is publicized, the more they will demand. Thus publishers conceal the
information because it is better to be misunderstood than to be poor.

The value of the information as to what is actually going on disappears
when the information is widely available.  Sometimes information gains in
value when it is widely shared (e.g., advertising), sometimes the value is
in withholding it from others.  Think about buying or selling a
stock:  Should you share what you know?  Open Access advocates may like to
add this item to their simulations.

Anthony Watkinson is of course correct on the point about editorial
remuneration, though why he should become a turncoat to the brotherhood of
self-interested publishers, I cannot imagine. You shall not dine on the
flesh of authors this season, Anthony!

Joe Esposito

On 3/2/07, Colin Steele <Colin.Steele@anu.edu.au> wrote:
My hopefully still good friend Anthony Watkinson hasn't commented
on most of the original points below, but I thought the debate on
academic contributions to scholarship and payments had been
touched upon in the emails on Liblicense in January, for example,
see the debate stimulated by Peter Banks and Dr Andrew Adams and
the now somewhat related parallel discussion currently being
promulgated on the American Scientist list by Jan Velterop and
others, "contempt for the scientist as author and communicator".

I was really commenting on the lack of Australian evidence of
substantial remuneration to academics for their contributions to
research publications, ranging from peer review through editorial
board representation and even through to Editor-in-Chief of
journals. I was not referring to paid employees of the publishing
firms themselves.

These reflections were made on the basis of questions asked to a
number of leading researchers over the years, including those at
ANU, and also from a nationwide CAVAL tour last year when we were
discussing the Australian RQF Framework with a range of
academics, including PVCs and DVCs Research. Nowhere did it seem
that Australian academics were being significantly remunerated,
if at all, for the amount of work they were putting in to
publishing across the Disciplines, including Social Sciences and
Humanities. If there is evidence to the contrary, we would be
happy to have it cited, eg regarding office space, administrative
support, consultancy fees, etc that is paid for by the publisher,
etc. Sandy Thatcher has just indicated to the list that Penn
State don't.

Two anecdotal comments. Meeting with a senior executive of one of
the top six multinationals in Canberra a couple of years ago (not
Elsevier) he saw one of his Editors across the room and mentioned
his connection with the publishing firm. I asked the executive
how much the editor received and he said "Nothing, if we did we
would have to raise subscription prices".

Secondly, a major ANU academic in the Humanities was asked to
review a 600 page book manuscript for a major American University
Press. I asked him how much time this took and he said two weeks
of my annual leave. Next question was, what remuneration did you
get and he said, the fee then (in 2005) was 250 US dollars or
$400 worth of press books. He said "of course I took the press
books". I then said "for two weeks work?". Similar figures had
been quoted a major UK academic press but again, its better to
have the remuneration available if possible. I don't think
academics generally mind?

In relation to my initial EPS quote, I note that at least I am in
good/bad company (depending on one's view point) given the
Association of Research Libraries make similar comments in their
'Issue Brief on Wiley's acquisition of Blackwell', February 26,
2007. (http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/issue_brief_wiley_blackwell.pdf)

"This document briefly outlines the growing dysfunction in the
journal market resulting from the exercise of market power by an
ever-shrinking group of large commercial publishers.

This planned consolidation within an already concentrated market
immediately raised concerns within the library community.

Libraries have observed significant dysfunctions in the scholarly
journal market place for some time.

Costs for resources continue the trend of past decades in rising
well in excess of background inflation. Numerous studies have
documented that journals from the largest commercial publishers
cost many times more than comparable journals from not-for-profit
publishers. In addition, prices rise more rapidly following large

A spiral of rising prices and ongoing market concentration
squeezes out support for small society journals.

It is very difficult for other publishers to start new scholarly
journals in the current marketplace.

The advent of electronic journal formats and large publisher
bundles have increased the ability of merging companies to
exercise market power to raise prices and direct compensatory
cancellations onto other publishers' journals.

History shows that mergers of large journal publishers lead to
price increases."