Re: Alternative publishing models - was: Scholar's Forum: A New Model...

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_COGLIT.ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Fri, 7 May 1999 19:41:34 +0100

On Fri, 7 May 1999, Arthur Smith wrote:

> sh> So the only way to implement page charges that does not tamper in any
> sh> way with classical peer review is to assess them only for accepted
> sh> papers (factoring in the costs of processing the rejected papers with
> sh> the overall cost per accepted article).
> I think this is a good argument - but if it is so critical to
> maintaining current peer review not to have submission charges,
> isn't it likely that introducing or significantly increasing
> publication charges might also have deleterious effects? In fact
> some of the arguments you presented against a submission charge
> work just as well against a new or increased page charges (for example
> discouraging the submission of important work based on ability to pay).

No, I explicitly stated that submission charges would constitute an
untested change to the present quality control system whereas
publication charges would not, under the specific conditions I
described: All author publication charges are covered by author
institutional S/L/P savings. They do not come out of any author's

(If author page charges DID have to come out of the author's pocket,
they would indeed constitute an untested and potentially very negative
change, even moreso than submission charges. But in the present S/L/P
system, journal "page charges" are paid by authors' institutions via
S/L/P, and in the proposed system they would continue to be paid by
authors' institutions, out of S/L/P savings. Only the journal's and the
institution's financial interactions are changed: the author, and peer
review, are completely out of the loop.)

[Please do not bring up unaffiliated authors: You already conceded that
APS journals had few; it would be very easy to establish a slush fund
for them, just as it would be to redress the net consumer/provider
institution problem I mentioned. There are no grounds whatsoever to
deter us from the optimal and the inevitable because of these easily
accommodated special cases.]

> Remember that the majority of journals currently do not assess any charges on
> their authors, and even for us the charge is voluntary (and we've recently
> waived it anyway for properly constructed electronic submissions).

This is like asking pedestrians to shake the hands of drivers for not
swerving off the road to hit them! Of course it is adding insult to
injury for S/L/P journals to lump author page charges ON TOP of the
access barriers already posed by S/L/P and paper itself! Why should I be
reminded of that?

The time for journals to start talking about page charges is when S/L/P
tolls are no longer blocking access and another means is required to
cover the essential residual cost (i.e., quality control alone).

(At least we agree that this is a reason why the Walker proposal is a

> I do agree with your points on not overburdening referees. If
> we are to reform the peer review system (and John Smith's proposal definitely
> involves some major changes to it, more logical I think than other suggestions
> I have seen) it should be in the direction of reducing the burden of referees.

Have you looked at my critique of John Smith's proposal too?


Either his boils down to the same proposal as above -- with what he
calls the "evaluative function" simply corresponding to what I'm
calling quality control, implemented by journals, as always, but with
all the rest of their former functions taken over by the free public
archive -- or it is a complete mystery what his new entities are, where
they will come from, how they will support themselves, how they are
related to the journals we have now, and how (and why) we would get there
from here.

> Right now the more a given paper is rejected, the more work for referees,
> so the worst papers get the most work done on them. If I read John's system
> correctly, most authors would try to avoid wasting their money that way.

That's not how I understood the Proposal. See:


> But empirical experience is definitely worth more than a thousand theories.
> Maybe it's time for somebody to test submission charges :-)

There's lots of room for testing, and lots of time. But one thing has
been tested and has proven resoundingly successful already: Free
self-archiving in LANL.


It's time now to implement that, across disciplines, so we can all reap
its benefits.

Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 1703 592-582
Computer Science fax: +44 1703 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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