Re: ALPSP Research study on academic journal authors

Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1999 15:07:05 +0100

I am in principle very attracted by a model where payment attaches to the
papers submitted and/or published, rather than the journal
subscriptions/licences etc purchased; it would have the great advantage of
scaling up with any increase in the amount of research seeking publication.

However, there does seem to be a flaw in Stevan's economics (I'm no
economist - perhaps Hal Varian and others can set me right if I am

In my experience (11 years running one journals list, and 4 years closely
associated with another), although the majority of learned journals have
relatively low circulations, they nevertheless have significantly more
subscribers than papers. The following figures are, I think, plausible
averages for this type of journal

Subscribers 500
6 issues of 10 papers = 60 papers per year
Rejection rate 50% = 120 papers submitted

Thus, even if Stevan's estimate is correct that the costs of organising peer
review amount to no more than 1/3 of current journal costs (I'm
unconvinced - see Bernard Donovan's paper in Shaw, Dennis, and Roger
Elliott, ‘Economics, Real Costs and Benefits of Electronic Publishing in
Science. Proceedings of the ICSU Press Workshop. Keble College, University
of Oxford, UK, 31 March to 2 April 1998.’,, September 1998; and Don
King, passim - maybe
Don can respond?), then the costs would be as follows (I have assumed that
authors of accepted papers pay twice as much as those whose papers are
rejected - the figures still stand, however, even if they all pay the same)

Cost to existing subscriber = x
Total cost = 500x

Cost for peer review only = 500x/3 = 167x

Cost per rejected paper = 167x/180 = .93x

Cost per accepted paper = 1.86x

This suggests that the institution of an author whose paper was published
would pay more than at present, and that of a rejected author would pay only
slightly less.

Have I missed something?

Sally Morris
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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