Re: Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives '99

From: Hal Varian <hal_at_SIMS.BERKELEY.EDU>
Date: Sat, 10 Jul 1999 10:48:03 -0700

On Sat, 10 Jul 1999, Stevan Harnad wrote:

> Eppur, eppur... And yet I doubt that they would want to lock themselves
> into giving it away for life! To start with, by way of promo, perhaps,
> but forever? Is that really what you think? (Where there's life, there's
> hope!)

Look at the data---hardly any authors actually make their living from
writing. And the ones that do make a very poor living. I conclude that
even for trade authors, economic compensation is not the primary factor
leading them to write. Undoubtedly, they would be happy to be paid for
writing, but academic authors would be happy to be paid for their writing

> Whereas refereed journal article authors do not have the slightest
> desire to deter a single pair of potential eye-balls for their findings
> on the off-chance there might be gate-receipts to be made! They never
> have, and they never will. There is a profound and significant divide
> here, despite the statistics on the earnings and success of the average
> trade author.

No author *wants* to deter eyeballs, even trade authors. Some are willing
to do so because they are compensated monetarily. If academic authors
were *sufficiently* compensated for detering eyeballs, I expect many would
be happy to do so. If a referred journal offered you payment for an
article, would you turn it down? (Several refereed journals in business
and medicine do pay for articles, by the way.)

Furthermore, even academic authors make money from their publications,
albeit indirectly. If you regress earnings on publications and citations
you find a large and significant coefficient on refereed journal
publications and citations. Academic authors who publish more are paid
more, and part of the motivation for academic publishing is the prospect
of academic advancement and higher salaries.

> Online self-archiving may be a means for authors to launch their trade,
> but I doubt you'll find many for whom it's an end in itself (apart from
> the ones who were only destined for a Vanity Press anyway)...

Well, there is an awful lot of vanity publishing on the Web. Of course
these authors would love to be paid for their writing, but I suspect they
will continue to write, paid or not.

The point of my note is that motivations are not as far apart as you
claim: there is an (indirect) financial motiviation in publication for
academic authors and there is a large component of desire to communicate
in trade authors. There is certainly a difference in the economic model
in the two industries, but the divide in the motivations of the authors is
not as "profound and significant" as you claim.

But again, I don't think this point makes much difference for the rest of
your argument.

Hal Varian, Dean voice: 510-642-9980
SIMS, 102 South Hall fax: 510-642-5814
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-4600
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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