Re: 2.0K vs. 0.2K

From: Arthur Smith <apsmith_at_APS.ORG>
Date: Fri, 7 May 1999 17:23:11 -0400

On Fri, 7 May 1999 15:53:43 +0100, Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_COGLIT.ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>

>> Date: Thu, 6 May 1999 13:52:06 -0400 (EDT)
>> From: "Arthur P. Smith" <>
>> sh> (1) Is the true cost closer to $2000 per article or $200?
>> Well, the true cost (for this specific question, for us) is
>> a matter of calculation, not speculation.
>Fair enough. But I of course did not mean the true cost of CURRENT paper
>publication, minus printing/distribution, divided by the number of

Well, then, you changed the topic from what I was discussing with
Tom Walker, but I'm happy to discuss this new topic with you
too (though I think we've covered this ground before - or is this
a scheme to keep APS staff too busy to do any work...?).

By the way, could you see if you could get the date of posting printed
in the ToC's of the archive of this discussion? It's
sometimes hard to know what one has read before here.

>What is being discussed is the true cost of producing ON-LINE-ONLY
>pages, already distributed by a free public archive. So the only
>remaining ESSENTIAL journal cost per page left to reckon is that of
>quality control (peer review). Do you have a calculation for that?

Yup. Roughly half of the $1500 - $750-$800 for us right now. But that's
assuming articles need no copy-editing, re-typesetting, reference
checking, etc. And remember that we pay our editors - that number could
be quite a bit less for journals that rely on editors subsidized by
their institutions.

> [...]
>Among the prospective improvements, are the following being
>contemplated? (1) scaling down to online-only,

Some of our journals now are online-only or online-first, with print
as a mere "reprint".

>(2) eliminating all
>aspects of archiving/distribution,

No - we're expanding our archiving and distribution role, I think with
good reason. Mark Doyle can tell you more about PROLA
<> too. Electronic archiving and distribution is
extraordinarily inexpensive and keeps getting cheaper - eliminating it
would save almost nothing here.

>(3) delivering only what is
>essential in order to turn submitted drafts into refereed, accepted
>drafts? Does that still come out closer to 2K than .2K per draft?

Well, restricting it to that (if that will every be possible) we're
already almost half way from 2K to .2K, and another factor of two is
quite reasonable - it's going to be a many-year process of course!

> [...]
> sh> (2) Is the distinction between allowing free self-archiving of the final
> sh> draft on the "home" server and on the "global" server coherent and
> sh> enforceable?

Here's what I understand of the current official policy (I was given
some more information on this today):

(1) The author, as part of the copyright agreement, can post any
version of the manuscript as created by the author, including the
final version after revisions suggested by referees, to any distribution
service that is either free and public, or if not completely free
is restricted to the author's institution and is not sold commercially
to other institutions.
(2) The author, also as part of the copyright agreement, may post the
final APS-created rendition of the article (PDF file, two-column format
and all) to a public web site under the control of the author or author's
institution, accompanied by a statement concerning APS copyright. This
version is not to be posted in other public areas.

The coherence comes in part from requiring the accompanying copyright
statement. Not that it would be easy (or very useful) to police.

Now we have also seriously considered a license agreement, where the
author retains full copyright. The only thing that is holding
that up is some serious concerns about the validity of the language of
the license under international laws. This may eventually happen,
in which case the restrictions in policy 2 would probably be lifted.

We do want to be on the side of the widest possible distribution for the BEST
scientific articles - somehow, in the past, copyright has helped to ensure
that excellent work is widely distributed, but it may no longer be the
best approach now.

Anyway, this issue really isn't as critical as you
make it out to be. If we did allow it, we would not charge for it, it
would just be part of the copyright or license agreement.

>> ie. if those institutions
>> went to an "author-pays" system rather than a "reader-pays"
>> system, they would be paying more, not less.
>Do you think this would still be true if the page charges were only for
>the true costs of quality control, with no "add-ons"?

But as we (if we can) cut back our costs, we have no choice but to cut back
our subscription prices too (we're non-profit) - so it will always be
true at any one point in time, unless we go to a different system
of charging for our journals (which may well happen). Maybe we could
base page charges on projected "true costs" a year or two down the
road, but it will take some experience to judge what that would
be and it's not likely to be huge - if we could cut costs 10% a year
we'd be ecstatic.

> [...]
>Although, most institutions are net
>CONSUMERS of journal papers, and would profit hugely from S/L/P
>terminations even after paying for all their institutional author
>page-charges, some institutions (a minority) may be net PROVIDERS of
>journal papers. It seems to me that HERE is where a library consortial
>pooling of resources WOULD make sense (i.e., in fairly sharing
>author-end up-front costs, NOT reader-end global site licenses).

Consortia are usually possible only where the institutions in the consortium
share a common source of funding - otherwise it's too difficult to
agree how to split up the costs fairly. But at least in our case,
the institutions who would have to pay the most extra under an
author-pays system tend to be bunched together with the same
funding source (the US government labs in particular, and research-I
universities relying on federal research grant overhead). There's
also a significant international redistribution involved - a much higher
fraction of our subscriptions are in the U.S. than of our authors.
A start towards this would be simply to change our pricing structure
to scale prices in some way according to the number of authors or
researchers at an institution - but we really don't want to
go to direct usage based pricing, as that (institutionalized pay-per-view in
a sense) discourages use, which is the opposite of what we all want.
So some kind of "number of authors" based price makes a lot of sense.

> [...]
>Here's another way to think of it: Currently, the net-provider
>institutions are subsidizing the net-consumer institutions. With up-front
>page charges, the excess savings of the net-consumers will be
>redistributed to balance the excess expenses of the net-providers, but
>all institutions will save something like (G-g)/G times their own
>current serial budgets annually.

But if they do nothing, don't bother with consortia, all institutions
will still save something like (G - g)/G of their budgets. The
savings are there whether we make it author-based pricing
with free-viewing-for-all or not - as I've argued here previously,
the actual implementation of S/L/P is a tiny fraction of total costs
so that's not where the savings (g) will come from. The savings
will come from improved processes throughout that have basically
nothing to do with how the journal is being funded.

> [...]
>I am betting (on, paradoxically, market-economic grounds)
>that continuing to recover costs on the reader-end, access-blocking
>S/L/P model will perpetuate an inelastic (if not monopolistic) inflation
>of both prices and (inessential add-on wrap-in) services. The potential
>savings will never be realized or passed on to institutions as long as
>the cost recovery model is S/L/P. [...]

Well, that's probably the crux of the argument there. Your attitude
toward the publishers is reminiscent of Joseph Ransdall's toward
institutionalized academia, whereas I have a much more optimistic
view of the matter. I don't think either of us has enough experience
yet to prove the other wrong - we really still are in the early
days of this transition!

If past experience is any guide though, any cost savings we manage to
achieve through automation will be made up for by a larger number of
articles submitted to the journals - libraries may never win this one!
Which is why we really may want to start looking at other models for
peer review too.

                Arthur (
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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