Re: Institutional Membership (was: True cost of essentials)

From: Jan Velterop <jan_at_BIOMEDCENTRAL.COM>
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2003 16:57:40 +0100

I agree with Fytton that even though the concept of paying for publication
at input -- leading to open access -- rather than at output -- leading to
restricted access to those who paid -- is straightforward and simple,
misunderstandings are rife. Maybe it isn't as simple as it looks.

Unfortunately, he seems to be adding to the confusion by making the
distinction between 'library expenses' (payments on behalf of the reader,
such as subscriptions) and 'departmental expenses' (payments on behalf of
the author, such as article processing charges for open access). Aren't both
'support expenses' for the academic population of an institution? By the
way, where would expenses for servers, software and overheads for
self-archiving repositories fall? Library or department? We have called it
'institutional' membership, since we don't have any desire to tell
individual institutions from what specific budget it could, might, or should
be paid.

We don't believe that introducing institutional membership as an open access
stimulus was a mistake. Uptake is extremely widespread and we generally do
get more papers from member institutions than from non-members. That said,
in a previous contribution to the discussion I made the point (apologies for
repeating myself) that the basis of BioMed Central's business model is the
Article Processing Charge. The ideal model for BioMed Central is that the
cost of open access publication is seen as an integral cost of doing
research and thus covered by research grants. Membership is not the basis
for the BioMed Central economic model, but merely a way of a) removing the
financial burden from the shoulders of individual researchers, and b)
helping to kick-start a sustainable open access model by making a clear
commitment to it. Membership is not a 'paradigm'. As soon as the cost of
publishing is habitually included in the cost of a research project, and
article processing charges (APCs) are paid upon publication, the function of
membership may mean no more than an entitlement to discounts on APCs for
paying (a portion of) them in advance, based on expected numbers of papers
to be published by researchers from the member istitution.

Jan Velterop

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Fytton Rowland [mailto:J.F.Rowland_at_LBORO.AC.UK]
> Sent: 22 July 2003 03:45
> Subject: Re: The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing
> Peer Review)
> 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:
> (snip)
> > 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).
> (snip)
> > > 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.....
> (snip)
> > 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).
> (snip)
> > > 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!
> (snip)
> > > 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).

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Received on Tue Jul 22 2003 - 16:57:40 BST

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