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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 14 Dec 2001 12:52:25 +0000

On Thu, 13 Dec 2001, Andrew Odlyzko wrote:

> In general, I agree that to operate the way APS does, it costs around
> $800-$1500 per article. However, that does not preclude less expensive
> modes of operation, either with lower quality, or with shifting some
> of the explicit financial costs that APS incurs into hidden subsidies
> from editors and the like.

And there may be even more natural ways for covering the remaining
costs if they are partitioned in a more appropriate way for the new
media (as a SERVICE fee for an outgoing submitted draft instead of an
access fee for an incoming PRODUCT):

    "4. Whereas all refereed research should be fully accessible
    on-line without cost to all would-be users worldwide, it is
    nevertheless not altogether costless to produce. The main change is
    that dissemination and archiving cost incomparably less on-line
    than on-paper and hence the on-line dissemination/archiving costs
    per article effectively shrink to zero.
    This means that the only remaining per-article real costs are
    (1) dissemination on-paper, (2) any on-line enhancements by the
    publisher (special mark-up, linking), and (3) peer review. Given a
    freely accessible, on-line generic version, (1) and (2) accordingly
    become optional PRODUCTS, on-paper and on-line, that can be paid
    for by those who still want and can afford them instead of the free
    on-line generic versions. Hence peer review (3) becomes the only
    remaining essential SERVICE; but its true cost (because peers
    review for free) is so much lower than what is currently being
    spent in access tolls for the text as a user/institution-end
    product (an average of $2000 in worldwide collective institutional
    subscription, license, and pay-per-view [S/L/P] fees per article
    and as much as $5000 for the priciest journals) that it can easily
    be covered as an author/institution-end outgoing service charge if
    and when the market for the incoming S/L/P products, now optional,
    ever shrinks to where it no longer covers it. The true annual
    institutional costs of the essential peer review service (per
    submitted outgoing manuscript) can be paid for out of only a
    portion (10-30%) of the much higher annual institutional windfall
    savings on the optional product expenditures. There is hence every
    reason to be confident that these lower costs will be met by novel
    business models and that the goal of free access to the
    peer-reviewed full text is entirely attainable and neither merely
    preferable nor unreachably utopian."

>From a draft document in preparation.

Stevan Harnad

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 amsci site.

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Received on Fri Dec 14 2001 - 12:52:42 GMT

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