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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 1999 20:07:05 +0000

On Tue, 30 Nov 1999, Sally Morris ALPSP wrote:

> 1) I thought the issue of the cost of PR was originally raised on the
> grounds that, if it could be reduced to zero by some such means as 'open
> peer review', then no costs would have to be recovered from authors at all.
> Economically, perfectly logical

Incorrect. The "open peer review" option was criticized, not advocated,
in this Forum.

> 2) However, the strong message from academia seems to be that PR (whether
> as it is, or in some 'evolved' form) is extremely important and should not
> be thrown out with the bathwater. See, for example the recent paper from
> AAAS on 'defining publication' (

That has also been a position advocated repeatedly in this Forum.

> 3) The figures being bandied about for the full cost per paper seem to me
> to be on the low side. See, for example, the results of the survey carried
> out by Professor Bernard Donovan, a couple of years ago, of a sample of
> learned society publishers (

Rather than looking at surveys conducted a couple of years ago, it might
be better to look at actual costs of current on-line-only journals.
I can only repeat that JHEP's Editor says it's $300 per paper (after
start-up costs). And their extremely efficient peer-review software
and tracking system could handle 10 journals as readily as 1.

> 4) Until about 5 years ago I was running a list of some 50 medical
> journals - some for learned societies, some not. In every case the
> publisher was covering not only the editor's expenses (several thousand
> pounds per year) but also some kind of royalty or honorarium. The expenses
> consisted not only of direct costs such as postage and secretarial help, but
> also office accommodation (even when this was in the editor's own
> university); every university these days seems to find it necessary to
> recover such costs, and in many cases they add a hefty overhead percentage
> on top. In addition there will be in-house administrative costs.
> Sally Morris

Overhead for an online-only quality-control/certification (QC/C) service
provider (the new breed of refereed journal publisher) will not be zero,
but it should be less than these old, paper-based figures.

Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton

NOTE: A complete archive of this ongoing discussion of "Freeing the
Refereed Journal Literature Through Online Self-Archiving" is available
at the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99):
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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