Re: ALPSP Research study on academic journal authors

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1999 23:45:06 +0100

On Thu, 22 Jul 1999, ALPSP wrote:

> 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
> 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

Yes, you've done the arithmetic wrong. Here's the way to do it:

The TOTAL institutional S/L/P income for all refereed journals is


That is the current total cost. That is what will go down to $S/3
but let us do the arithmetic as if it will remain unchanged at 100%.

Any particular institution i will buy only a proportion of all those
journals; let us say it spends


The correct way to do the arithmetic is simply to note that
institution i will continue to pay $si, but not for a subscrition to the
journal, but to pay for the quality control and certification of its
own author's papers refereed and accepted by that journal.

End of story. The only relevant details to work out (and they have been
discussed before in this Forum, but no one has supplied hard data)
concern what is to become of any possible discrepancy between "net
provider" institutions and "net consumer" institutions.

Some institutions may provide more of the papers (in the 14K refereed
journals in Ulrich's). Others read much more than they publish; the
latter will get a free ride. If the imbalance is significant, some
system will have to be found to rechannel their former S/L/P budgets
too. Until we see the data we won't know, but my hunch is that the
institutions with the biggest S/L/P budgets are also the biggest net
providers, and vice versa, so the imbalance will be minimal.

Now I don't for a minute believe that 100% is the correct figure. I
believe it is below 1/3. If so, the net provider/consumer issue is
less significant, because 2/3 is a big buffer for any imbalance between
net providers and net consumers.

The reason you are misconceptualizing this is because you are
continuing to think of the articles as the product to the
reader-institution, whereas the product in the era of online
self-archiving will be the service of quality control to the
author-institution, whereas the articles will be free for all, just as
the authors would always have preferred them to be.

Your figures don't make sense because you are trying to calculate on a
Moebius strip, holding onto the article-as-product notion. Drop it and
you will see that even at 100% the figures have to balance; it's just a
question of which end they are paid at.

About the fees: I happen personally to believe that a small submission
fee, creditable toward the full publication charge, should the paper be
accepted, would be a useful deterrent to frivolous multiple submission,
wasting journals' and referees' time. But that is controversial and
untested. So assume that all the residual costs (whether 100% or <30%)
will be wrapped into the accepted article fee only.

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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