Re: The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review)

From: Fytton Rowland <J.F.Rowland_at_LBORO.AC.UK>
Date: Tue, 6 Jul 1999 10:52:27 +0100

Professor Stevan Harnad argued quite a while ago that the models that he
has advocated refer to "esoteric" publications (his term), which roughly
fit the old assumption that the authorship and readership of a specialised
scholarly journal are the same people. He has always recognised, I think,
that other types of publication are different, and will continue to operate
on a trade model paid for by a combination of income from advertisers and
from purchasers. Such publications often (but not invariably) pay their
contributors too. New Scientist would fit this description.

However, Don King -- always an invaluable source of real, verifiable
*facts* about scholarly journals as opposed to opinions and attitudes --
points out that many scholarly journals have a far wider readership than
is necessarily indicated by their citation patterns. It isn't true to say
that only the authors ever read the journals -- the reader community is
often wider. Examples would be: practitioners (physicians, engineers,
lawyers, etc.) who don't actually do research; high school teachers; some
of the educated lay public; and of course students, undergraduate as well
as postgraduate.

So far as really esoteric journals are concerned I think Professor Harnad
is right; they do not belong in the commercial world at all, and an
"author-pays" system, with a moderate charge to cover the costs of peer
review and of maintaining the document on the WWW in perpetuity, seems

At the other end of the scale, Nature, for example, is a very successful
commercial enterprise, and there is no way it will cease to be
"reader-pays" -but in any case, high circulations attract advertising
revenue and generally help to keep cover prices down.

There is a grey area in between, where journals such as those of the
American Chemical Society, for example, have a large sale to commercial
chemical and pharmaceutical companies. There is no reason on earth why
academia should subsidise *them*, so surely a "reader-pays" system should
stay. The argument comes down to this: how do we draw the lines between
the different types of scholarly journal?

Fytton Rowland

Fytton Rowland, M.A., F.I.Inf.Sc., Lecturer,
Director of Undergraduate Programmes,
Department of Information Science,
Loughborough University,
Loughborough, Leics LE11 3TU, UK.

Phone +44 (0) 1509 223039 Fax +44 (0) 1509 223053
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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