Re: Online Self-Archiving: Distinguishing the Optimal from the Optional

From: Arthur P. Smith <apsmith_at_APS.ORG>
Date: Thu, 5 Dec 2002 10:38:16 -0500

On Wed, 4 Dec 2002, Stevan Harnad wrote:

> >sh> -- it would not solve the far more fundamental
> >sh>problem of needless impact-loss (unless you imagine that distributing
> >sh>the toll costs more widely would somehow make anywhere near all
> >sh>20K peer-reviewed journals affordable to all the world's research
> >sh>institutions!).
> >
> > Actually, yes it would, or should. I believe it will actually happen, as
> > prices adjust to institution size (the other thing that wasn't possible
> > in the print world).
> I don't see that at all! As I said, even if the tolls shrank to just
> cost, that still would not come anywhere near making access affordable
> for all would-be user/researchers and their institutions. Only shrinking
> to peer-review service provision for outgoing research, with everything
> self-archived, would do the trick.

I assume you don't think journals, right now, as a whole, are unprofitable.
So costs are definitely being covered right now. Libraries may be having
difficulty paying for what they want, but they are at least paying for what
they're currently paying for, right now. Extending access for any one
journal electronically from those who currently pay to those who don't,
for free or a very nominal fee (as is being done with many consortium
agreements) makes access "affordable for all would-be user/researchers
and their institutions" with essentially no change in payments at all -
no need for tolls to "shrink to just cost" or worse "shrink to peer-review
service provision" if current subscribers keep paying the same amount.

So it could be done right now - and in fact it is already happening,
through differential pricing and these consortium agreements: publishers
for the most part do see the benefits to everybody from expanding access
and have been very openly pursuing these options.

What I just said applies to "right now" but the bigger worry has been about
the future. Assuming, however, that my earlier statement was accurate, that
the primary recent problem has been from new countries entering research
activity with initially large activity/publication expense ratios, it seems
like the future looks very promising too, and we need only wait for
publication spending in these countries to catch up, as it appears to
be starting to.

The long term promise of electronic delivery is this ability for expanded
access where communication costs grow only linearly with worldwide
research output, not quadratically. We're making that transition now,
and access to published materials (still subject to access tolls) is
now expanding, reversing the shrinkage of the last 4 decades. The
time when self-archiving could make a real difference has come, and gone,

Received on Thu Dec 05 2002 - 15:38:16 GMT

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