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

From: Andrew Odlyzko <odlyzko_at_DTC.UMN.EDU>
Date: Sun, 16 Dec 2001 07:58:29 -0600

Arthur Smith wrote:

> 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?

We definitely do want to encourage publication of clearly readable research.
The question is how to provide this.

Although there is little evidence of it as yet, I still feel that the
dominant mode of operation may well end up with most of the costs shifted
to authors' institutions. Now the trend has so far been in the opposite
direction: Page charges are on the decline, and universities have been
cutting back on secretarial support for faculty. However, that may

Bringing back secretaries to do basic typesetting does not make sense, as
almost all scholars find it easier to do this themselves. On the other hand,
I feel there will be increasing pressure to provide expert Web design as well
as editorial assistance to make articles easy to access and read. As papers are
increasingly accessed in their electronic preprint formats (as is documented
in various places, including my paper "The rapid evolution of scholarly
communication," which is available, along with other papers, at
<>), the incentive for
scholars will be make those forms attractive for readers. This incentive
will increase dramatically when results such as those compiled by Steve
Lawrence (in his note in the Nature online forum at
<>) become widely known,
since they show that free access to one's papers not only leads to more
reading of them, but also to more citations in the literature, and thereby
a higher reputation, better chances at grants, promotion, etc.. Already
in my "Tragic loss or good riddance ..." paper I noted that scholars in
some areas where getting a paper into a prestigioug conference was more
important than publishing it (theoretical computer science being the
prime example of that) were putting a lot of efforts into making their
submissions look nice.

In general, as we move towards a continuum of publication, it makes less
and less sense to concentrate the copyediting and other costs at the
formal publication stage. What I expect scholars will want is provision
of "clearly readable research" (in Arthur's words) from the very beginning.
It really is a "war for the eyeballs," in scholarly publishing as well as
in more commercially-oriented areas, as my papers and those of Steve
Lawrence demonstrage/


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  Andrew Odlyzko
  University of Minnesota
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Received on Sun Dec 16 2001 - 14:33:33 GMT

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