Re: ALPSP Research study on academic journal authors

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 9 Jun 1999 12:30:14 +0100

On Wed, 9 Jun 1999, ALPSP wrote:

> Many thanks to Stevan Harnad for the unsolicited publicity! Anyone who is
> interested in actually reading the research study, so as to discover what it
> was attempting to do, what questions were actually asked, and what the
> conclusions were, is very welcome to order a copy (100 pounds or 200 dollars
> to non-members of ALPSP) - just contact me.

Note that no endorsement was intended; indeed, I was criticizing the ALPSP
study, sight unseen, based on the little that was already said about it.
The passage below evokes the same criticism:

> In brief, our primary aim was to understand the motivations and concerns of
> authors in the current journal publishing situation. It was clear that the
> standing of the journals in which they publish is of key importance - more
> so than price or absence of page charges; this would seem to indicate that,
> on its own, an 'author pays' model is unlikely to be attractive. What it
> would need, I feel (and I'm actually very attracted by the model) is for the
> publisher of a large, highly rated, successful journal to take the plunge -
> new journals will always struggle initially, regardless of their economic
> model.

What authors should be asked is not whether they are interested in
paying page charges. That would be an absurd question, under current
conditions, with access to the literature blocked by
Subscription/Site-License/Pay-Per-View (S/L/P) tolls. What they should be
asked is:

(1) IF IT WERE POSSIBLE, would you prefer (as authors) that everyone
everywhere have constant, permanent access to your refereed, published
articles for free (and would you, as readers, prefer to have such access
to everyone else's refereed, published articles)?

Having elicited a clear and resounding "YES" to (1) (formulated without
any false oppositions about a loss of the prestigious journals or of
quality or of having to pay to get it), they could be asked the
following question:

(2) Would you prefer that your institutions continue subsidizing access to
those refereed articles on the reader-end, via S/L/P tolls, or
would you prefer that they pay on the author-end, thereby bringing about

(3) If your preference in (2) is conditional on which alternative would
cost more, what if author-end payment proved to cost considerably less?

(4) Would you contribute to making (1) come to pass by publicly
self-archiving your refereed articles on the Web free for all
(just as you distribute paper reprints to reprint-requesters) if
this right were part of your journal copyright agreement?

At this point it would become abundantly clear to one and all, that any
author reluctance about doing (4) could ONLY be based on perceived or
actual attempts by the Journals to formulate copyright agreements that
explicitly forbade public online self-archiving by authors.

It is then that this glaring conflict of interest will be seen clearly,
and head-on, and that the new models for copyright agreements in the
online era provided by the progressive publishers, such as the APS, and
perhaps soon the BMJ, will be there for everyone to see as not only the
possibilities, but the actualities that they represent, for one and

And only then will it be clear PRECISELY what is at stake in the
question of whether there is any justification for continuing to hold
the journal literature hostage to access-tolls now that they are no
longer necessary.

> We did ask some more open questions at the end about authors' (a)
> expectations and (b) wishes for future journal publishing. Interestingly,
> very few predicted, or hoped for, a radically different model from the
> present one. So if we want it to happen, we clearly have some way to go
> with authors as well as publishers!

You are simply polling habit and ignorance, if you do not make the
new possibilities crystal clear before asking about satisfaction and

Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 2380 592-582
Computer Science fax: +44 2380 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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