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Re: Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Critique of PRC Study


The money that is paid for subscriptions now is coming from the overhead that the universities are imposing on the research grants. The university takes, say, 40%, of which 1% goes to the library subscription budget. If that 1% is saved, but the university then refuses to cover the author charges (which if Gold OA is as expensive as TA publishing would be the same 1%), then this 1% would be taken from the remaining 60% of the research budget. This is merely shifting the division from 40% + 60% to 41% + 59%.

Is this really bad? If it was, why don't I see people campaigning for lowering the universities overhead imposed on research grants in general. If 40 + 60 is much better than 41 + 59, then 30 + 70 should be several times better. If, according to you, there is no way that 41 + 59 can fail to reduce the amount of research done, then, according to you, there is no way 30 + 70 can fail to significantly *increase* the amount of research done.

Some might say that the subscription money and the author charges may end up being coming from two different pockets. But these two pockets are in the same jacket. The research funder gives the money to researchers. The university of these researchers decides how much of this money goes into the two pockets. Publishing costs or not, if you think money in the left pocket is so much better for the society than the money in the right pocket, then ask the universities to put more money in it. It is all money from the research funders anyway, right?!

Best regards,

Ahmed Hindawi

Rick Anderson wrote:

While I can agree with much of what Rick Anderson says here, his last sentence is puzzling. As one of the serious problems of Gold OA he quotes "the significant amount of money that a widespread Gold OA solution would redirect from needed research."

How so? Why would publishing become more expensive when the way to sustain it changes? If one thinks that Gold OA would redirect a significant amount of money away from needed research, what about subscriptions? Don't subscriptions do the same? Doesn't any money that sustains journals?
The money that currently supports commercial journals comes from library budgets and from individual subscribers, not from granting agencies. If all of the expensive journals to which my library subscribes were suddenly to move to an author-funded OA publishing model (and therefore become freely available to the public), the most likely scenario is that my institution would (quite rationally) drastically cut the library budget. The savings would be redirected to other areas of the university where they are sorely needed, and authors would write their publication costs into their grant proposals. Money from granting agencies that would have supported research will thereby end up subsidizing free public access to the research results.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? It depends: will the general public benefit more from universal free access to a smaller amount of research or from toll-based access to more research? The answer may vary -- but there's no way that redirecting research funds towards publication can fail to reduce the amount of research done.

Rick Anderson
Dir. of Resource Acquisition
University of Nevada, Reno Libraries