Re: PostGutenberg Copyrights and Wrongs for Give-Away Research

From: Arthur Smith <apsmith_at_APS.ORG>
Date: Wed, 25 Jul 2001 14:30:31 -0400

Ok, I'll admit I've taken the bait...

Stevan Harnad wrote:
> On Tue, 24 Jul 2001, Arthur Smith wrote:
> [...]
> >
> > Is it perhaps that evaluating according to these criteria is NOT
> > necessarily provided free?
> The journal's subject matter and slant are a (trivial) part of
> the peer-review costs.

Note my phrasing: "evaluating according to", not merely defining. The
fact that a journal has a particular subject area and slant is
presumably given. The fact that every article HAS to be evaluated by an
editorial person according to these criteria is NOT, and is where many
costs come in. For example, for one of our journals (Phys Rev Letters)
most of the cost is in rejecting articles that don't fit the journal's
criteria for importance and general interest, not merely the criterion
of correctness or "quality".

> [...various compliements - appreciated...]
> But I think even the APS cannot make a realistic
> estimate of what it would cost them if the ONLY service they provided
> were peer-review (no paper, no PDF).

Actually, we can. It's really not very hard. Our editorial operation is
completely separated from our copyediting and production services (which
are done by outside vendors: AIP, or Beacon graphics). We have 9 staff
members who enter new manuscripts into the database and deal with
problems in authors' electronic files, and 3 more staff members who deal
with hard-copy mail (manuscripts or correspondence), and 3 staff members
who deal with some pre-marking copyediting for Phys Rev Letters. And
that's it out of a staff of 110 (not counting any of the IS staff in
this). If 100% of our authors used OAI compliant archives to submit
papers, and we didn't bother with the manuscript files at all except to
verify titles/authors etc. information, we could probably cut 8-10
positions, out of the 110. Now, as we've given numbers here before, the
current editorial office costs here (again not counting the computer
staff) add up to about $700-$800 per accepted article. So, by cutting
8-10 positions out of 110, we're down to perhaps $640-$740 per accepted
article. Woohoo!

> [...]
> Arthur, all I advocate is ubiquitous author/institution self-archiving,
> now. Whether the actual figure for peer review turns out to be 10% or
> 30% does not matter very much.

Then PLEASE stop repeating the 10% or $200 figure. A factor of 3 or more
error in your statements diminishes your credibility, and severely
misleads anybody who believes your number. Just stop it. Now. That's all
I ask.

> > There are other
> > models out there - think about the rating and review system at
> >, for example. Can the sciences adopt something along those
> > lines? That could cut costs...
> I think you know that I am opposed to such systems (as untested and
> unlikely to be able to maintain current quality levels).

In contrast, I don't think we are opposed to such a system in principle.
It could be a great new way to do things. I'd love to have the resources
to try some experiments in this area. Amazon of course has not proven it
can recover its costs doing what it is doing either.

> > but if we don't look at other models
> > we'll all just keep doing what we're doing, and it's always going to
> > cost about the same, and libraries or institutions or whoever foots the
> > bill will just have to keep it up. And Open Archives will continue to be
> > basically irrelevant.
> Alas I could not follow the logic of that. Self-Archiving can and
> should free the refereed literature now. How to cover the essential
> peer review costs if and when S/L/P can no longer do so is a bridge we
> can cross when we get to it. Even at 30% there would be plenty to cover
> it. So what are we disagreeing about? And how does it follow that S/L/P
> continues to have to be paid at current levels, and that self-archiving
> is irrelevant?

Either author self-archiving is sufficient to provide access to the
peer-reviewed literature, or it isn't. If it is, then journal S/L/P as
it currently exists can be cut by libraries and institutions with no
loss to those institutions, and publishers will have to go begging to
keep doing the peer review stuff, or will simply abandon it. If author
self-archiving is NOT sufficient (which is what I interpreted Sally
Morris' comments to imply) then my statement follows, and the open
archiving is basically irrelevant to the journal pricing problem which
it is supposedly addressing. And looking at the evidence, as
demonstrated in fields such as High Energy Physics for which even
commercial journals seem to be still quite viable (after 10 years of
pretty complete author self-archiving), author self-archiving is not
sufficient in this sense.

Author self-archiving is fine in itself, and certainly it can greatly
increase access for remote and poorer places in the world, but it won't
be doing anything to cut costs to libraries unless the 3rd party forum
represented by peer review and journal editorial processes itself starts
to be absorbed and overlayed in some new and innovative manner.

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

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