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

From: Arthur Smith <apsmith_at_APS.ORG>
Date: Fri, 14 Dec 2001 14:19:23 -0500

In response to Stevan and Andrew, a question for all to consider...:

Stevan Harnad wrote:
> On Thu, 13 Dec 2001, Andrew Odlyzko wrote:
> > [...] 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):

Obviously a service fee to authors or their institutions would help with
our "gentle persuasion" process, but the service fee may not be small...
and is it actually advantageous to science to put in economic incentives
that effectively discourage publication of clearly readable research? Do
we really want "lower quality"? Is this an unfulfilled need?

> [...]
> 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.

By (2) I assume Stevan is referring to the copy-editing process, which I
cited, with markup being one of the issues. Any publisher would like to
do this cheaper if they could be sure of the same level of "quality".
The real question, which needs to be answered not just by this group,
but by all those within the "audience" for science, whether other
researchers, other scholars, media, public, etc., is, what level of
copy-editing is actually justified, on grounds of the need for
accessibility of that scientific research?

Commercial companies may be more attuned to the economic justification
for copy-editing than we are, as a non-profit. So it would certainly be
of interest to see whether they are spending more, less, or about the
same as us per paper on copy-editing. As for-profit entities, it's
unlikely any company would spend much more than is absolutely necessary
to create a journal that meets the expectations of their market. Andrew
Odlyzko's argument suggests that they may be spending more than us - if
so, why is that?

Note that I'm not worrying about freeing the literature here; if
publishing free literature really involved no copy-editing, we would
likely never do it, as a publisher with a historical interest in certain
publication standards. Stevan's arguments for that are fine, and it'll
go however far it'll go pretty much whatever we do. It may have some
effect on the market for "quality", but we seem not to have experienced
too much of that effect yet. But we still would like to reduce the high
costs libraries (or institutions who may replace them in funding
publication) have to bear, and if "lowering quality" at copy-editing is
really acceptable, perhaps that will actually happen.

So, the question again: what level of copy-editing is actually
justified, on grounds of the need for accessibility of that scientific

Received on Fri Dec 14 2001 - 20:03:05 GMT

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