Re: Separating Quality-Control Service-Providing from Document-Providing

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 1999 21:53:54 +0000

On Tue, 30 Nov 1999, Donald King wrote:

> One important point is that institutions are currently already "paying"
> for nearly all the costs of journal systems: authors' time, most
> refereeing, publishers' services through library subscriptions (and
> personal subscriptions in many non-academic institutions), library
> services, and readers' time.

But it's the library subscriptions that seem to be really draining
them; it means they can't afford many journals at all, and consequently
countless potential readers have no access at all. THAT is the reason
for dissociating QC/C (Quality Control/Certification) service provision
and its costs from document provision -- which should instead be done
through author self-archiving in Open Archives.

> Evidence suggests that the total cost of
> authors' time, publisher services and library (and other intermediary)
> services are roughly equal, but each is less than one-tenth of the cost
> of readers' time. Since institutions are willing to compensate authors
> (and referees) and pay for libraries (and publisher services through
> libraries), there is no particular reason that they should not directly
> purchase the article QC/C services; as you suggest.

However, I don't suggest paying for them ON TOP OF paying
Subscription/Site-License/Pay-Per-View (S/L/P) but INSTEAD!

> Your clear distinction of article QC/C service and product is very
> useful and should be kept in mind by everyone when discussing the
> future of journals. In our book we refer to the two as (1) making
> information content and appropriate information attributes available
> and (2) medium distribution/access (your product/paper, but with
> digital access included). In so doing we arrive at a different
> conclusion. Consider only the distribution/access costs to the article
> media provider. The provider cost per hit from a digital database is
> surely very small, near zero. However, the same is approximately true
> of a well read subscription. The publisher's cost per paper
> subscription for reproduction and distribution typically is about $30
> to $40 per paper subscription and about $5 to $10 for electronic
> distribution (to cover subscription maintenance). Thus, the providers'
> cost per reading of subscriptions becomes very low with a sufficient
> amount of reading, say over 100, by library users. Thus, low "per hit"
> costs are essentially independent of the medium (paper or electronic)
> or where it is held. It depends on frequency of reading.

True, but this does not take into account those who cannot afford to pay
at all; nor does it take into account the deterrent effect on literature
use of having to pay-per-view (be that ever so little, to those who can
afford to pay it at all). But most important of all, it is not necessary.
Paying the QC/C costs up-front out of S/L/P savings, coupled with open
self-archiving by all authors, takes care of all costs and makes access
free for all.

> This, to me, is one of the powers of your suggestion that
> authors/institutions pay for the article QC/C service. Now
> readers/subscribers can choose from among paper subscriptions,
> electronic subscriptions, or online access to separate copies of
> articles depending on the purpose of reading, frequency of reading,
> their own processing and/or access costs, ease of use, and personal
> preference of versions.

As long as there is a market, the proprietary versions can continue to
be sold via S/L/P -- but I cannot imagine users will prefer the for-fee
version over the for-free version, once public self-archiving makes the
latter available.

> The point is that we should all support whatever distribution/access
> means are best for scientists and the scientific community and this may
> not necessarily be only one version or another. If the
> author/institution payment for article QC/C services is adapted, this
> can result in little risk, but with huge benefits.

Yes, but if it is adopted ON TOP of S/L/P and without public
self-archiving, it is only adding insult to injury!

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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