Re: Nature 10 September on Public Archiving

From: Arthur Smith <apsmith_at_APS.ORG>
Date: Fri, 11 Sep 1998 15:03:53 -0400

I've been trying to understand why the 70% vs 30% issue is so
important here - it means only a factor of two, and different
journals (with their different standards and overheads, and profits
in some cases) have several factors of two differences in costs now.
But I think I see Harnad's reasoning on this in the following:

> [... some dubious math on Stevan's part - a half-dozen is 6, not 12! ...]
>If the per-page savings from transforming to on-line-only are indeed
>70% then arithmetic says the remaining 30% could be paid out of the
>100% saving from journal subscription cancellations, as stated in the
>Nature article.

What I have said previously is we could easily cut our costs by a factor
of three or more OVER THE NEXT DECADE through automation improvements
and forcing/educating authors into better practices. Some of
the required technology does not even exist yet although I believe it
is close (current TeX from xxx is not good or consistent enough for much
automation on the editorial side here).

But Harnad is assuming an instantaneous drop in costs, not one that
takes a decade. An instantaneous drop is simply not feasible (and as
I've argued elsewhere, an instantaneous drop in paid subscriptions puts
nonprofit publishers at a terrible disadvantage). What is most likely
to happen over a decade where our costs decrease is that submissions
will increase to compensate. For us article submissions have doubled roughly
every decade for a very long time - if we cut costs per article by
a factor of 3 but the number of articles increases by a factor of 2, do
we have a 30% or a 70% saving? What impact does this have on the argument?
I think it is all very much more complex than Harnad seems willing to

  Arthur (
Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

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