Re: How to compare research impact of toll- vs. open-access research

From: Michael Kurtz <>
Date: Tue, 17 Jun 2003 00:33:24 +0100

Stevan Harnad wrote:

> *Indeed, the benefits of fee-based access (over
> non-access) are precisely what the Kurtz study
> shows in the very special case of astrophysics:
> For the astrophysics community is perhaps unique in being:
> (1) a relatively circumscribed community worldwide, mostly
> located only at the well-funded universities (perhaps because
> of the resource-intensiveness of the research?),
> (2) having a relatively small, "closed" literature, involving
> a small specific set of journals in which all the relevant
> papers and citations appear. As a consequence
> (3) virtually all astrophysicists have institutional site-licensed
> access (i.e., for-fee) to the entire astrophysics literature,
> as confirmed by Tim Brody's finding that (unlike all other fields
> of physics, and unlike all other disciplines)
> (4) astrophyicists self-archive only their unrefereed preprints,
> to get them out early (like other physicists); they do not bother
> to self-archive their postprints, knowing that they will all be
> available to everyone for-fee (as Peter Boyce of ASA has been
> telling me for years).
> I am sure there will be postings from astrophysicists who
> report that they do *not* have access to all of the astro
> journal literature for-fee, but astro is still probably the
> field that is *closest* to the kind of "universal for-fee
> access" that some publishers hope to provide, but that will not
> prove even faintly affordable for most fields other than astro

Dear Stevan,

It may be of interest to you to know that all the main astronomy
journals allow free access to their articles after three years.
[Yet] If you look carefully at figure 8 of my paper
you will see no effect at three years old; the curve is essentially
smooth, and follows the model. This could be taken as proving your point
that essentially all astronomers have access via the fee-based structure
(else there would be a discontinuity at three years as the hoards of
poor astronomers can suddenly read an article.)

Because everyone who needs it has near total access to the astronomy
literature in electronic form, astronomy provides an example of what
can happen elsewhere, once that is achieved. The funding model for our
journals, while useful, can probably not be duplicated in other fields.

Astronomy is dominated by four large journals, owned by three large
non-profit scholarly societies. The subscription cost for all four
journals is currently $10,615, about $0.20 per page. To put this in
perspective, the four journals, combined, cost slightly less than the
single journal Chemical Physics Letters, and publish about five times
as many pages.

Best wishes, Michael Kurtz
Received on Tue Jun 17 2003 - 00:33:24 BST

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