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RE: Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Critique of PRC

The economic argument goes as follows:

There is an economic advantage in the simpler and more complete 
access to research information from open access. It is not a very 
great one--I think that some of the calculations are way off the 
mark, but let's say it's 5%. That's about the cost of paying for 
open access publishing.

The problem is that the savings comes only when everyone 
publishes OA, and all institutions and funders pay for it. So the 
early adopters take the risks. The transition to open access has 
always been the difficult part. There is temporarily some 
additional money needed: for the university researchers to pay 
for the publishing, while still needing to maintain a library, 
for the journal publishers to risk the loss of subscriptions 
while converting to open access--it would appear that neither 
side can move first.

There are four ways of making the change.

The most obvious is to reduce the size of the highest cost 
segment: the costs of the commercial publishers are at least 50% 
higher than the non-profits, and their profit margin is also much 
greater.  A determination by the major universities to not pay 
for ineffective periodicals, those causing the collapse of the 
lowest half of their journals, would do it. But as long as even 
100 universities are willing to pay, a journal can continue. This 
takes the realization of the faculty that the loss of access will 
be only temporary, because with the failure of the inefficient 
journals publication will be redirected to the efficient ones.

Equally obvious is removing a certain amount of publication from 
the journal system altogether. For the very best researchers, 
their is minimal advantage in publishing outside of such 
repositories as arXiv--their work will be noticed and read every 
bit as well, and their established reputations will substitute 
for peer review. I liker this result, but the difficulty here is 
that this will differentially affect the best journals, the ones 
that publish their work. The only way of avoiding such an effect 
is the rapid complete conversion of publication in those areas.

Is there an alternative that will protect the commercial 
publishers? Yes, optional open access--the ability of the best 
funded laboratories (and the most generous funders) to pay for 
individual articles being available open access, with this 
stepwise reducing the cost of the journals (The Springer plan 
provides in detail how they will calculate the lowering of 
subscription costs--other publishers are less specific). As 
journals are paid for in advance, there's a two or three year 
delay, and it will be interesting to see if there is any effect 
on the 2008 Springer prices. If they thought it worth the 
investment to use some of their available capital to reduce the 
prices further, it could go very fast. Perhaps the alternative in 
the paragraphs above may give them some reason.

The fourth is even less attractive: the forced conversion by 
funders. With governmental funders, I have always disliked 
this--once you rely on mandates, you have to accept whatever the 
mandators may choose to do.  The only reason PubMed Central is 
even acceptable is because it is being operated by NCBI, one of 
the very few truly efficient governmental agencies, and with a 
very long record in successful innovation.

As for the political argument, Jan Velterop outlined it very well 
in a single sentence: "Of course it is a 'political' statement; 
it only applies if one accepts that formally publishing the 
results is integral to doing research." (There's an unstated 
premise that I think can be assumed on this list: that research 
is worth doing.)

David Goodman, Ph.D., M.L.S.

----- Original Message -----
From: Rick Anderson <rickand@unr.edu>
Date: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 12:31 pm
Subject: RE: Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Critique of PRC
To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu

>> But money spent on 'gold' OA is not 'removed' from research,
>> particularly not if you understand and accept that formally
>> publishing the results is integral to doing research.
> That's a political argument -- a "should" argument -- rather than
> a statement of fact.  This is a statement of fact: it costs a
> certain amount of money to create information by performing
> research, and it is entirely possible (whether or not desirable)
> to do research and then publish nothing.  If you choose to
> publish the results of your research, additional costs will be
> involved.  There are many granting agencies that have
> traditionally provided money to support the creation of
> information through research, but not the formal publication or
> distribution of it.  There may be good arguments for having those
> granting agencies start funding the second part as well -- but
> there's no way for them to do so without redirecting money from
> their support of actual research.  A good argument, it seems to
> me, would need to demonstrate that the general welfare is better
> served by the free distribution of less information than it is by
> the creation of more information.
> By the way, I'm happy to keep rephrasing this basic point as many
> times as it takes.  :-)
> ---
> Rick Anderson
> Dir. of Resource Acquisition
> University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
> rickand@unr.edu