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Re: Librarians who pay for nothing (Re: Economics of Green OA)

Thank you very much for your full reply.  Would you mind if I 
asked some other questions?  You are not, of course, under any 
obligation to respond to me, but it would be a great help to me 
if you would, as I am spending a considerable amount of time 
setting up financially sustainable open access projects and any 
new piece of information helps.

You say that one goal was to make the service available to 
"international" scientists and it is in pursuit of this goal that 
the policy of no fee to upload an article is maintained.  I may 
misunderstand this, but I infer that by "international" you mean 
researchers from societies less affluent than, say, the U.S., 
Japan, or Germany--for whom, indeed, $50 (or even $1) may be an 
impossible sum to raise.  If I misunderstand this, please correct 

I am curious if an analysis has been done that maps the actual 
submissions to the national economies of the scientists.  Such an 
analysis would reveal how many papers come from economically 
privileged societies and how many from developing economies.  I 
imagine that the number from developing economies must be quite 
large or you would not have such a policy.  Even if 30% of the 
papers came from developing economies, it would still be much 
less expensive to simply grant free access to some countries, fee 
access to others.  So a mathematician at Harvard or the U. of 
Illinois would pay $50 per submission, but someone working in 
particle physics in Somalia would not.  Other exceptions to the 
fee could also be administered easily. I note, for example, that 
the local movie theater in my town has three different prices: 
for children under 12, for "seniors" over 60, and for people in 
between, who pay the most.  Surely arXiv could come up with a 
similarly useful system.  Since we are, after all, dealing with 
research scientists, the solution could be amusingly clever--you 
might pay less, for example, as you approached the speed of 

A related question is what proportion of the scientists submit 
multiple papers in a year.  If the average is 1 or a bit more, 
then the $50 fee does not seem outlandish, but if the average 
researcher submits 50 papers a year, than a $50 fee per paper 
even from someone teaching at an Ivy League institution might be 

The basic question is whether the people who actually use the 
service might reasonably be asked to contribute to its operaton, 
allowing for the circumstances of the impecunious.

When foundations, wealthy alumni, and government agencies give 
money to not-for-profit services like arXiv, that money is not 
free. Capital is finite.  The money that goes to arXix could as 
well go to soup kitchens or special education for autistic 
children.  arXiv happens to be that rare noncommercial enterprise 
that has within its grasp the potential not to draw on the public 
purse or on the largesse of individuals.  I would hope that as an 
act of charity, arXiv would shoulder its own weight.

Joe Esposito

On Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 4:51 PM, Oya Yildirim Rieger 
<oyr1@cornell.edu> wrote:

> Cornell University Library is committed to maintaining arXiv as
> an open-access resource that anyone may use to download and read
> articles as well as allowing submissions free so that all
> appropriate articles can be accepted from a broad range of
> international scientists. This has been the key operating
> principle of arXiv. During the initial business planning process,
> we have considered many possible support options that are
> compatible with our mission. These include sponsorship and
> advertising; donations; endowment; creation of "freemium"
> services; and support from funding bodies, scholarly and
> professional societies, and publishers. We have not ruled out the
> possibility of accepting donations from users (both readers and
> submitters), but not as the core source of revenue. We see this
> potential stream as a part of a diverse portfolio of funds.
> Also, the main purpose of establishing a governance group for
> arXiv is to provide a collaborative framework to facilitate
> further advancement of arXiv informed by the needs of the
> scientists.  It is not merely for financial management purposes.
> Best, - Oya
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Joseph Esposito [mailto:espositoj@gmail.com]
> Sent: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 10:54 PM
> To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
> Subject: Re: Librarians who pay for nothing (Re: Economics of Green OA)
> For arXiv have you considered charging a modest fee for
> researchers to upload articles to the service, say, $50?  This
> fee can be much lower than that charged for PLOS or Sage Open
> among others because arXiv does not have an editorial review
> program that rejects many articles. The service would still be
> open access.
> I did a back-of-the-envelope projection on this a few years ago,
> working with numbers that IO had seen somewhere.  As I recall,
> the assumption was that the number of articles submitted would
> drop by 10% and that the resultant annual revenue would come to
> $2.5 million. Please correct me if these numbers seem crazy; I am
> working from memory.
> Of course, with revenue of that magnitude, arXiv could also
> expand further; and it would also free up funds at philanthropies
> and universities that were asked to support arXiv, money that
> could be put to use elsewhere.
> arXiv is a great service for the community it serves.  I don't
> see why a modest submission should not be on the table for
> discussion.
> Incidentally, moving to this plan would significantly reduce the
> overhead, paid or otherwise, of managing arXiv.  No need for all
> those governance committees, all that time that would have to go
> into fairness issues.  A submission payment system can be
> completely automated; bits are free.  Committees, on the other
> hand, are not free and have a way of spawning even more
> committees.
> Joe Esposito
> On Thu, Aug 25, 2011 at 6:19 PM, Oya Yildirim Rieger
> <oyr1@cornell.edu> wrote:
>> Dear Colleagues - Sandy's point about the role of endowments in
>> long-term sustainability of online academic resources is well
>> taken.  At Cornell, we've considered this option for arXiv (and
>> continue to explore it); however, not as a sole source of income.
>> Business plans need to be diversified to avoid a single point of
>> failure.  SEP is certainly an inspiring case. In their ISQ
>> article, Edward Zalta and Uri Nodelman eloquently describe both
>> the potential and limitations of the endowments approach:
>> SEP's annual budget is $200,000/year whereas arXiv is a more
>> complicated and evolving operation with an annual budget of
>> approximately $500,000.  So if arXiv were to rely on endowment
>> payouts, it would require an endowment of $10+ million.
>> Our goal for ensuring the long-term stability (and of course
>> growth and innovation) for arXiv is building a diverse financial
>> portfolio that combines contributions from libraries, research
>> centers, foundations, and initiatives such as SCOAP3 - blended
>> with endowment income. Stewardship of open access academic
>> resources such as arXiv involves not only covering the
>> operational costs but also continuing to enhance their value
>> based on the needs of the user community and the evolving
>> patterns and modes of scholarly communication. An integral part
>> of our business planning process is assessing the technologies,
>> standards, services, policies and communities that constitute
>> arXiv and determining a research and innovation agenda to advance
>> the service. We will continue to write grants and engage in
>> collaborations to secure funds that will support research and
>> development work as well as growing specific subject domains
>> (such as mathematics).
>> We believe that open access services such as arXiv must have
>> clearly defined mandates and associated governance structures to
>> reflect a commitment to the long-term stewardship of a service.
>> Establishing a transparent and participatory governance structure
>> will thus be a critical factor in generating institutional fees
>> as well as formulating a diverse financial strategy. During the
>> last several months, we reviewed a range of potential legal
>> status options to establish a community-based support and
>> governance structure and appropriate procedures for strategic,
>> operational, and fiscal oversight.  We continue our planning work
>> and hope to share more information on this front in a couple of
>> months.
>> Best regards,
>> Oya
>> Oya Y. Rieger, Ph.D.
>> Associate University Librarian
>> Digital Scholarship Services
>> Cornell University Library
>> http://vivo.cornell.edu/individual/vivo/individual23129