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Re: Open Access to Research Is Inevitable, Libraries Are Told

There are two separate themes running through this thread, and 
it's useful to keep them separate. One is, How much does it cost 
(or could it cost) to conduct peer review of scholarly material? 
The other is, Can we replicate all the features of the 
traditional publishing system in an open access environment, and 
do so at lower cost?

There is no question that peer review can be conducted for 
relatively low cost, whether in an OA or toll-access environment. 
It can even be managed at costs far lower than even the 
staunchest OA advocates maintain, once the analytic power of 
industrial processes are brought to it.  That means things like 
working in the Cloud, automating all the interfaces, etc. 
Universities are poor places to keep costs down, as they are 
typically high-cost (and high touch) environments, but there is 
no inherent reason that peer review services for OA should be 
managed by universities.  If Verizon can have a call center in 
Bangalore, why not Duke?

The problem is that peer review has many varieties, and the work 
of the established publications focuses mostly on one thing: 
What do I have to do to make this a publication that people will 
pay for, and once they are willing to pay for it, what value 
proposition can I assert that will give me some elasticity as to 
pricing?  The overall editorial program of a traditional 
publication is at the service of these business objectives.

Thus traditional journals seek the most highly regarded academic 
editors, who in turn seek the most highly regarded reviewers. 
All this in turn leads to the development of the publication's 
brand.  At some point the brand itself takes on its own 
qualities.  When people say, I will pay more for an Apple 
product, they are acknowledging the premium associated with the 
Apple brand.  Think of such brands as Science and Lancet.  The 
articles published there have a special status because of the 
brand that supports them and which they in turn support.

Can OA be successful? Yep.  Is it successful today?  Somewhat. 
Is it supplanting established publications?  For the most part, 
no.  It's one thing to set up a competent system for publishing 
something, another to create the aura of an established brand and 
all that goes with it.

I think a legitimate question is, Are the established brands 
continuing to produce the kind of work that made the brands 
valuable in the first place?  If the answer is no, there is 
trouble ahead (for them).  Another question to ask is, Are there 
things in scholarly communications that the established brands 
are not currently doing or may in fact have difficulty doing 
because of the implications of their brands?  An example of 
something that is not being done is real-time publication.  An 
example of brand conflict might be (and this question can be 
entertaining) having the Hopkins School of Medicine sponsor a 
journal on "alternative" medicine (presumably the editor would be 
based in my New Age hometown of Santa Cruz).

If the goal is to disrupt traditional publishing, the place to 
look is not where the established publications are strong but 
where they are absent or weak.  An open access NEJM will be hard 
to pull off.

Joe Esposito

On Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 3:51 PM, Eric Hellman <eric@hellman.net> wrote:

> I think it would be interesting for all to see how publishers 
> would itemize the expenses associated with review process.
> My guess is that many of the items would be unanticipated by 
> non-publishers but still scaleable.
> On Feb 25, 2010, at 6:02 PM, Anthony Watkinson wrote:
>> Is Professor Guedon really suggesting that publishers who spend a
>> lot of money on online editorial systems, on editor honoraria, on
>> editorial back-up costs and on editorial board meetings are
>> really doing so because they want to increase their costs? The
>> software he mentions may well work for small journals in the
>> humanities but it is my understanding that it does not satisfy
>> editors of biomedical journals or their authors:.
>> Anthony