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

From: Fytton Rowland <J.F.Rowland_at_LBORO.AC.UK>
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2003 03:44:31 +0100

I think this interesting exchange between Stevan and a member of an unnamed
university illustrates the enormous misunderstanding of the BMC model that
exists among both academics and academic librarians, which, if BMC (and come to
that PLoS) are not careful will lead to their early and unjustified demise.
The same could be said of the other exchange a day or two ago between Stevan
and an unnamed learned society editor. Stevan's exposition of the situation is
accurate and clear, but unfortunately most of the confused won't read it.

i am an admirer of Jan Velterop and his teacm at BMC, but with hindsight, I
think it was a mistake for them to introduce their "institutional membership"
scheme. It has caused confusion. Many universities seem to have charged this
fee to the library budget rather than to the budgets of academic departments,
and this has muddied the water and led to some librarians believing that they
are being charged twice over for the same material (which of course they are
not). Some say that BMC is no different from other commercial publishers -
they think of the BMC institutional membership fee as just another journal
subscription (which it is not). The clear, simple, $500 per article fee
payable by each author (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is obviously *not* a library
expense. It is also about the right sum, in my view based on my 2002 research
into the costs of peer review.

There is a head of steam building up against the "author pays" model now,
partly due to these confusions, and partly due to the long-term dislike of
authors for page charges. Many authors do not distinguish between charges
levied by journals that also charge subscriptions, and charges levied by open-
access journals. This may lead to the early death of the new model and the
continuation of toll-access and the journals crisis for libraries. Stevan may
not mind about that, but his preferred model of institutional open-access
repositories depends on someone else doing the refereeing.

Fytton Rowland.

Stevan Harnad wrote:


> In short, the BMC open-access publication model has not been thought
> through by the research and library community *at all*, whereas BMC
> itself
> has only thought it through (understandably) from its own bottom-line
> standpoint (and improvising as they went along, helped along by the
> rising tide of pro-open-access sentiment in the research community).


> > PARAPHRASE: BMC charges my University -- "University X" -- about
> > $500 x 10 = $5000 [actual figures altered so as not to identify any
> > institution, but ballpark is the same] for its yearly membership.
> > (Our faculty were not in favor of the deal.) About 20 University-X
> > researchers are already publishing in BMC journals annually so far
> > [actual figures altered, but ballpark is the same].
> The faculty disinclination toward the BMC deal is quite understandable
> (though in itself it is certainly no evidence that it's not a good
> idea)! From your own figures, this amounts to a publication subsidy to
> about 20 University-X (biomedical) researchers per year right now,
> while everything else stays the same: All of University-X's other incoming
> journal-tolls still have to be paid. Universal open-access by this
> route is nowhere in sight.....


> a time when these membership-fees must all be paid *in addition to*
> toll-access costs (with no sense of when and whether those toll-costs
> will diminish).


> > PARAPHRASE: With 20 articles instead of 10, that already makes
> > it $250 per article instead of $500. Any more and BMC will have to
> > raise its rates, causing financial hardships for member universities.
> Don't worry for BMC! If they manage, they manage. If they later raise
> rates and institutions balk, cross that bridge when you come to it. Worry
> now about the *rest* of University-X's research output, over and above the
> 20 articles in question!


> > PARAPHRASE: I hear that each article in the 95 BMC journals averages
> > one per month.

> I think that's a considerable underestimate. I'm sure that BMC
> open-access articles do not get, on average, more or less downloads and
> citations than other comparable-quality open-access articles
< (whether self-archived or
> published in open-access journals) -- which is, on average, a lot more
> downloads and citations than comparable-quality toll-access
> articles get (4.5 times as many, according to Laurence 2001
> )
> In other words, the impact-enhancing benefits of open access are not
> in dispute (whereas the instrinsic quality-level of BMC articles is a
> separate matter, on which I have no views, or information).
Received on Tue Jul 22 2003 - 03:44:31 BST

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