Re: Author Publication Charge Debate

From: Suhail A. R. <>
Date: Mon, 9 Feb 2004 13:12:06 +0000

Stevan Harnad wrote:

> I think A.R. Suhail continues to misunderstand a rather fundamental point
> here. His suggestion is that OA journals are not a good idea because
> they are unaffordable for some authors. My reply was that there is a
> free alternative for any author who either cannot afford to publish in
> an OA journal or for whom a suitable OA journal does not exist: Publish
> in a conventional toll-access (TA) journal and make your article OA by
> self-archiving it.
> Suhail unfortunately continues to pass over this point in silence,

I think that the point of contention here is that I do not think that OA
journals & OA self archiving should be lumped together as one and the same
idea about OA. They are entirely different and right now I am discussing OA
journals only. I don't understand how self archiving my TA article makes OA
journals a good idea? By self archiving my TA article, I am actually
furthering the concept that OA journals are not a good idea. We have to
either support OA self archiving or support OA journals, not both.

> returning repeatedly to his own point that if an author spends his money
> on publishing in an OA journal (as Suhail has done, once), he has less
> money to purchase access to TA articles.

This is precisely the point I am trying to make

> Suhail also repeats that (because of the OA journal affordability
> problem), delayed (embargoed) access a year after publication should be
> the goal, not OA! (Once again, passing over OA self-archiving in silence.)

Self archiving may be good, but then I consider OA self archiving a topic
distinct from OA journals, and my main concern is the threat posed by OA
journals to authors like us. Why the emphasis on OA self archiving?

> Over 95% of journals today are TA and fewer than 5% are OA. Consequently,
> the OA journal option for providing immediate OA to an author's own articles
> is a 5% option even if *every* author could afford it. The only OA option
> for the remaining 95% of articles is already self-archiving. Wouldn't
> the rational application of Suhail's observation that not all authors
> can afford to publish in an OA journal be that those authors' articles
> (whatever fraction they actually represent of the 5% for which there
> exists a suitable OA journal today) should simply be added to the 95%
> of articles for which the author provides OA by self-archiving them --
> rather than to take them as an argument against providing OA through OA
> publishing if and when it is available, and affordable?

Authors providing OA is not the issue here. The issue is OA journals
becoming more popular thus closing the doors for authors without
money. How will self archiving stop this threat? Will there be a need
for OA self archiving if TA journals convert to OA?

> (In addition, it needs to be pointed out that the OA/TA distinction mainly
> concerns institutional tolls, rather than individual-user tolls. Users
> have access to the TA journals for which their own institutions can
> afford to pay the tolls. They may occasionally take out an individual TA
> subscription, or may pay TA for an individual article on an individual
> pay-to-view basis. But the lion's share of worldwide TA expenditure -- and
> of the TA access-denial/impact-denial problem -- is in the institutional
> tolls; individual subscription tolls have long ceased to be a significant
> means of accessing the journal literature in the online age. Moreover,
> at most institutions, even the user's individual pay-to-view and
> interlibrary-loan tolls are paid by the user's institution, rather than
> by the user. Once again, one cannot and should not generalise from the
> fraction of cases where a user may still be spending money from his own
> pocket to access the journal literature to the vast majority in which
> it is the user's institution that is bearing this burden. And certainly
> not as a rationale for arguing against either OA journals or OA.)

I do not agree to this either. It is a fraction of users in USA & UK, but
for the vast majority of countries worldwide, research is done by the user
spending money from his own pocket to access journal literature. While
libraries exist even in our countries to help get access to an article,
there is no system in place to help for paying OA author costs at all.
Therfore while paying for access is bearable, paying for publication is not.

> If OA journals are unaffordable for an author's own articles because of the
> author's individual TA expenditures for access to TA articles by others, let the
> author not publish in an OA journal but make his own TA articles OA by
> self-archiving them -- and use all his available money to pay for the TA articles
> of others as before.

That is a good idea, and is precisely what I am saying. However I am also
adding that OA journals should not be allowed to take over from TA, because
then we wouldn't publish and then will not have anything to self archive.
That is logical I hope?

> Correct. Which is precisely the reason all authors should provide
> immediate OA to their own articles -- whether by publishing them in an OA
> journal (5%) or by self-archiving them (95%). What author wants a 1-year
> embargo before those would-be users who cannot afford the access-tolls
> can use his work! How does that help develop their careers?

It is not a one year embargo on access, its a one year embargo on *free*
access. Comparing this to author charges is like comparing apples to

> (1) "OA" does not equal "OA journal-publishing" (5%). (There is OA
> self-archiving too (95%)).

They are both completely distinct issues

> (2) OA is beneficial to the author as well as to the user.

I disagree in terms of OA journals. Self archiving is a different issue

> (3) OA's benefits (or feasibility) have nothing to do with whether or
> not research is "institutionalised."

For OA journals, yes. For self-archiving, no.

> (4) The feasibility of providing OA does not depend on whether or not
> the author can afford OA publishing charges.

For OA journals it does. For OA self archiving it does not.

> (5) Supporting cost-recovery for OA journals is not a mistake but
> a necessity, if there are to be OA journals at all; but neither
> publishing in OA journals nor paying its costs is a necessity in order
> to provide OA to an author's articles: There is also the 95% alternative:
> self-archiving.

It is self defeating to support OA journals if you can not publish in them

> (6) If all articles for which (i) there exists a suitable OA journal
> today (c. 5%) and (ii) their author can afford it were to be published
> in those OA journals, that would be very good for OA, and would help OA
> journals grow beyond 5%, but it would come *no where close* to "closing
> down" the remaining TA journals (95%)!

I hope we never reach close to that while we poor authors are around

> (7) Even if all the remaining articles (95%) were made OA by their authors
> by self-archiving them, it is not at all clear that that that would close
> down or convert the remaining TA journals (95%) into OA journals. That
> is a possibility, but by no means a certainty; if it did, though,
> it would also generate institutional windfall savings that would
> be more than enough to pay for all institutional author OA journal
> publishing charges without requiring a penny from the author's pocket

Assuming that an institutional system of author assistance exists - the
truth is that majority of countries worldwide don't have such a system

>ars> Finally, why should an OA journal decide who or who not to give waivers to?.
>ars> I think one way around OA is to make waiver rules that are not in the
>ars> individual journals control. In other words, if an OA journal is to start,
>ars> then it has to follow an international waiver standard by law. These waivers
>ars> would then automatically apply to non funded research regardless of where it
>ars> originates from. The journal then makes its living from funded research
>ars> work. Will this work....I don't really know.
> I suggest that these recommendations be directed to the OA journal
> publishers. They are of very little immediate relevance or interest to
> those whose immediate interest is in Open Access, Now. (Why an
> author for whom OA journal publishing is unaffordable today would prefer
> pondering OA journal "waiver" policy rather than immediately providing
> OA to his articles by self-archiving them is another of Zeno's Koans for
> which I have no answer, and can only leave to future historians of the
> research community's needlessly sluggish trajectory toward the optimal
> and inevitable outcome for research, researchers, and the society that
> funds and benefits from the research.)

These recommendations are what make open access viable. If these
recommendations are not taken seriously then viable open access boils down
to self archiving. Now will self archiving be required after the demise of
TA journals?. The answer is no. Regardless of how strongly proponents of OA
feel about its benefits the undeniable reality is that open access journals
are not for everyone. They are for the privileged few with resources.

Barbara Williams wrote:

> I'm wondering if there aren't any allowances currently being made to
> address that situation. For example, I know of one journal that has a
> "limited" amount of money it doles out to authors lacking the funds to
> pay its page charges.

Most open access journals have waivers in place for "poorer" authors. In
reality these do not work because the journal is a business venture and its
business needs have precedence over author needs. Unless an external body
regulates waivers (unlikely) this is not the way to go.

> Regarding the example the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, is
> the first year embargoed or what? I'm trying to figure out why this would be
> a good module since it seems a premium is put on current information.

Look at it from our point of view. If I am doing research on a narrow aspect
of Endocrinology, how many manuscripts on the subject would I need from the
preceeding 12 months - not that many. If I were to get these on my own or
subsidised through my library, thats still cheaper than paying author
charges for publication. Also, institutions in most of the third world may
provide asistance for access, but no one will agree to pay author costs.
Afterall, if research costs themseleves are left to authors, why then would
they pay for publishers costs? The system of research grants only exists in
select institutions and open access journals then create a bias in research
geared to these institutions and stifles creative scientific thought

Received on Mon Feb 09 2004 - 13:12:06 GMT

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