Re: Journal costs

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 24 Feb 2001 19:20:55 +0000

On Sat, 24 Feb 2001, David Goodman <dgoodman_at_phoenix.Princeton.EDU> wrote:

> I can personally promise that if any of the several hundred journals I
> have needed to cancel in the last 10 years were to decrease their prices
> by 25 or 50% and make this known to me, then if they were still relevant
> to the academic program here I would resubscribe if at all possible.
> Most of them are journals cancelled due to the high local cost/use
> ratio, not the absence of use.

One can understand why any library, within the constraints of its
resources, would say the same. We must all get by from day to day, and
try to do the best with the resources we have.

But lest anyone conclude that this means that all that journals have to
do is to cut their prices by, say, 50% and everyone will be happy and
everything will be okay, I regret to have to remind everyone (well, not
everyone, as the vast majority I am talking about here already knows
this) that this does NOT solve the problem. Not even close:

    "[W]e need to consider the total number of refereed journals
    currently published annually. A conservative estimate would be the
    20,000 active refereed journals indexed by Ulrich's Periodicals
    Directory []). A conservative
    estimate of the average number of papers appearing in each would be
    100 (the numbers range from 12 to 1200 according to ISI's Web of
    Science []) for an annual total of 2 million
    refereed papers. A conservative estimate of the number of active,
    publishing researchers worldwide, assuming an average of two
    refereed papers per year from each would be one million
    researchers. What is the average proportion of the 2 million annual
    papers that is currently inaccessible per research institution
    because of the limits on annual institutional S/L/P budgets? Even
    the most conservative estimate of 0.5 would mean that the lost
    potential access is substantial. The lost potential impact will
    also be some function of that figure...

    "The proportion will of course be different for Harvard, with
    perhaps the largest S/L/P budget in the world (but still short of
    being able to afford the annual total of 20K refereed journals),
    compared to universities in the developing world, or even the less
    wealthy universities in the U.S.
    [ ]..."

Most research libraries worldwide do not, and never will have, the
serials budget of Princeton, let alone Harvard. From the author's point
of view, and from the standpoint of what is optimal for both research
and researchers, this is a give-away literature whose accessibility and
impact will only be maximized when it is free for all.

Journal price cuts will help some, somewhat. But it will not help most.
The only solution is completely free online access to it all, for one and

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 the ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature online is available at the
American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01):

You may join the list at the site above.

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Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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