Institution supported publishing (was: Re: PubMedCentral)

From: Eric Hellman <>
Date: Thu, 23 Sep 1999 16:49:55 +0100

On Thu, 23 Sep 1999, Frank Norman wrote:
> Regarding 2), I have heard some concerns that this would unfairly
> penalise the most productive institutions/departments. Institution
> A producing 500 research papers p.a. will be liable for twice the
> level of charges of less effective Institution B producing only 250
> papers p.a. This may make the management of Institution A less
> than enthusiastic about such a move towards submssion charges.
> I'd welcome any further insights on this.

As an early advocate of the free-to-read/pay-to-publish business model for
scholarly publishing, I've encountered this argument a number of times.

One of the pleasures of going from being a scientist to being a publishing
technologist has been discovering the diversity of publishing culture in
various fields of scholarly endeavor. The inequity cited by Frank Norman is
non-existent in many fields, like physics, but is very real in other
fields. To cite one example, in some areas of chemistry, there are large
numbers of corporate journal consumers who NEVER publish. Meanwhile, the
people who DO publish are cash-starved academics. Page charges would take
from the poor and give to the rich. Luckily, advertising-supported "free"
journals are likely to be viable in many of these fields.

I think it's essential for all participants in Scholarly Communication to
realize its business models will become more diverse to better serve the
huge variety of scholarly communities. Anti-Harnadian (S/L/P) business
models will best serve some market segments, though they are unlikely to
maintain their current dominant position.

At 9:57 AM +0100 9/23/99, Stevan Harnad wrote:
>Someone will have to do the arithmetic, but for the moment it has a big
>fudge factor in it: What will the page charges actually turn out to be,
>per paper, once journal publication has down-sized to providing the
>service of Quality-Control/Certification (QC/C) alone?
>Andrew Odlyzko estimates about $10-$20 per page.:
> Odlyzko, A.M. (1998) The economics of electronic journals. In:
> Ekman R. and Quandt, R. (Eds) Technology and Scholarly
> Communication Univ. Calif. Press, 1998.

Minor quibble: $10-$20/page does not appear in this reference. Andrew's
estimate is $300-$1000/paper for a "free" electronic journal. I don't think
this changes the conclusions.

>The Journal of High Energy Physics -- which is way ahead of us all in
>this, and is in the best position to estimate, being in a field already
>softened up for 9 years by LANL self-archiving, and being a refereed,
>online-only journal that has already attained what has been informally
>estimated as an impact factor of ELEVEN (sic) in what is now only its
>thrid year -- estimates that, factoring out one-time start-up costs
>that they have already borne, and scaling up to the many journals that
>they could handle at much the same cost, rather than just the one they
>do currently, the cost per article is about $300.

The fact that jhep is at the low end of the Odlyzko range has a lot to do
with its use of Knuthian rather than Gatesian authoring software.

Eric Hellman
Openly Informatics, Inc. Tools for 21st Century Scholarly Publishing
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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