Re: What should society publishers do?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2000 10:56:53 +0000

On Tue, 22 Feb 2000, Thomas J. Walker wrote:

> At 04:08 PM 2/22/00 +0000, Stevan Harnad wrote:
> >
>tw> Question: If FES's revenues from institutional subscriptions begin a steep
>tw> decline, how should FES garner enough revenues to continue publishing paper
>tw> issues until its members are willing to forego them?
> >
> >Charge more and more for paper, but don't try to stop the online
> >version from being made available free by the author. (This would make
> >the situation much more realistic.)
> Charging more for institutional subscriptions will likely cause a steeper
> decline in revenues from that source. Libraries have a serials crisis, and
> they have little excuse to continue their subscriptions as long as FES is
> giving IFWA to all its authors. When FES raised its institutional
> subscription price by 25% in 1999, it lost 11% of its institutional
> subscribers (
> Charging members more for subscriptions also has its problems. Some
> members may belong largely to receive the societies journal (in paper).
> When FES raised dues in 1999, membership suffered.

This sounds like a Catch-22, but it is not, for the simple reason that
Tom goes on to say afterward that FES allows self-archiving. Hence we
are in complete agreement inasmuch as paid journal o-prints are offered
as an available OPTION (which, if broadly taken up, might help to
stabilize the transition to providing only a QC/C service paid for by
the author instutition out of S/L/P savings); as long as self-archiving
is another available option.

For without the self-archiving option, the above would just amount to a
rationale for continuing to hold the literature hostage to paper,
text-product-provision (whether on-paper or on-line) and S/L/P (and no
real way off the Moebius strip) -- which is certainly not what Tom

So let paper demand and text-product demand take care of themselves,
via S/L/P, supplemented by optional o-print fees, likwise driven by
whatever demand they inspire.

I would say the same for individual subscribers and members: In the era
of free on-line self-archiving it will become clear whether there is still a
market for paper journals, or for society-membership (for those members
for whom the paper journal had been their only motivation in the past).
We are agreed that it would be restrict the options to those that
support the status quo. What is possible, and optimal for research and
researchers, should be the only consideration for a Learned Society.

>tw> Question: Should FES not sell publisher-provided IFWA at a fair price to
>tw> those authors who wish to pay for it?
> >
> >Yes, as long as FES does not try to stop self-archiving by those who don't.
> I've always agreed with Stevan that societies should not try to stop, and
> probably cannot stop, self-archiving. FES has never put any restrictions
> on authors distributing their articles before or after refereeing or
> publication.
> I think it is time for scientific societies to come down squarely on the
> side of providing as much free access as quickly as possible and to discuss
> honestly with members the options for, and the fiscal difficulties of,
> transitioning to what is desirable and (in the opinion of many) inevitable:
> free Web access to all refereed articles.

Dixit. I couldn't agree more!

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 providing free
access to the refereed journal literature is available at the American
Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00):

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Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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