Re: Author Publication Charge Debate

From: Michael Eisen <>
Date: Sat, 10 Jan 2004 23:25:57 +0000

    [Moderator's Note: Redirected from the "Archivangelism" thread
     to this existing thread, which corresponds more closely to its
     subject matter.]


It's a fundamental misconception to frame the issue this way. Framing this
as a "reader pays v author pays" question makes it sound like their is some
fundamental conflict between the interests of readers and authors who, I
probably need not point out to this audience, are mostly the same people.

The question is not who should pay - readers don't pay now and authors
wouldn't pay under the open access model - in either case, the overwhelming
majority of the money that supports scientific publishing comes from the
governments, independent funding agencies, universities and other research
organization that support research.

The question is how should they (the institutions that fund science) pay?
What system best advances their interests as sponsors of scientific
research. Should they continue using a system (the "reader pays" model) that
is economically inefficient, unnecessarily expensive and needlessly restrict
who can access to the papers that describe the results of the research they
have funded, or should they use a system that will almost certainly be
cheaper, will ensure that everyone in the world has immediate free access to
their scholarly output and will encourage (rather than inhibit) creative new
uses of the scientific literature.


Michael Eisen, Ph.D. (

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and
Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
University of California at Berkeley

Lead the Next Scientific Revolution
Publish Your Best Work in PLoS Biology

----- Original Message -----
From: "Iain Stevenson" <w.i.stevenson_at_CITY.AC.UK>
Sent: Saturday, January 10, 2004 2:32 PM
Subject: Re: Archivangelism

> Matthew Cockerill wrote:
> > There is still genuine irony in the claim that 'both forms of access can and
> > do provide "free at point of use" access'
> >
> > Subscription-only content is free at point of use, *if* your institution
> > pays for it and you are accessing from a context in which you gain access to
> > your institutional access rights.
> >
> > Open Access content is unconditionally free at point of use to anyone at any
> > time.
> Matthew is being disingenous. Open-access CANNOT be free compared to
> subscription journals because authors pay and when they can't, they don't
> get past first base.
> It has not been explained to me what the fundamental difference is
> between a library subscribing to a journal so a member can read it
> for "free" or in another part of the forest, a research funder paying
> a publication access fee so the same reader can read it for free at
> biomedcentral? both models have costs hidden from the reader, but the
> costs are real nonetheless.
> It couldn't be (wicked thought) that Matthew has a competitive commercial
> publication model to promote--or perhaps milkmen in his neighbourhood
> pay him to deliver his breakfast pinta!
> Seriously, I'm not arguing that either model is better than the other--they
> are opposite sides of the same medal. I don't believe in fairies, santa
> claus or toll-free publishing. Every act of publication MUST involve real
> costs in the information chain. An archiving system isn't just "there";
> someone pays for it, ditto the access fees that pay Matthew's salary.
> Nothing wrong with that, but don't claim that it's just "economics". Si
> eppur muove, as a certain non-peer reviewed scientist once remarked, but
> then he took on the Vatican.........
Received on Sat Jan 10 2004 - 23:25:57 GMT

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