Re: Author Publication Charge Debate

From: Suhail A. R. <>
Date: Mon, 9 Feb 2004 17:55:40 +0000

Stevan Harnad wrote:

> Before replying, I would like to summarize the reasoning of A.R.
> Suhail as I understand it:
> (1) Many researchers have to pay for access to toll-access (TA)
> journals and articles out of their own pockets. (Their research
> institution, if any, is not the one that pays.)
> (2) If they in addition had to pay to publish in Open Access (OA)
> Journals out of their own pockets, they would not be able to afford
> to publish.
> (3) Therefore (i) OA journals are not a good idea.
> (4) Nor is (ii) OA self-archiving a good idea (because it might lead
> to OA journals and hence author payment).
> (5) Hence only embargoed access -- i.e., free online access after a
> one year delay, as offered now by a few TA journals -- should be
> sought, not OA.

This is correct

> Suhail is somewhat careful about his conditional probabilities: Pointing
> out that he is writing from the standpoint of those authors who have
> to pay for access to TA journal articles out of their own pockets,
> Suhail estimates that that corresponds to 2/3 of authors publishing in
> TA journals today -- but that that 2/3 does not apply to the number of
> *articles* appearing in TA journals today.

Yes, this is exactly what I meant

> I do not know where the 2/3 figure comes from, but clearly if the actual
> proportion of *articles* published by those authors were far smaller --
> say 10% of the total number published in the top half of the journal
> hierarchy -- then the natural solution so that the entire research
> community worldwide should have the benefits of OA would be to cover
> all OA costs only from the 90% of articles published by institutionally
> affiliated authors (out of their institutions' annual windfall 100%
> toll-savings), and add the cost of the 10% unaffiliated authors to
> the annual cost per article.

If this were to be implemented, then authors like us would have no
objection. We object because there is no system in place for this to be
implemented and this has never been on the OA agenda as far as I am aware.
The current OA agenda is simply focusing on open access for users, not
authors AND users.

> As far as I know, this is *already* what BMC and PLoS are doing -- so
> far informally and pre-emptively -- even now, when there has not yet
> been a penny of institutional windfall toll-saving (because there is
> not remotely enough OA yet to allow the institutional cancellation of
> TA journals!): They are not charging authors who cannot afford to pay.

Not true. BMC & PLoS do not charge a few selected authors and my guess is
that this has to do with an attempt at advertising their rightous intent,
seeing that all revenue is now author generated. The true exemption can only
exist if externally (independently) regulated.

> Suhail paid, once. Perhaps that was a mistake. He should have requested
> not to have to pay. That would be the better strategy next time, rather
> than to suggest that OA should come to a halt worldwide -- which is
> rather like suggesting that public transport or medicare should come to
> a halt because I have once paid a bill needlessly.

For the record, I have never paid author charges to an OA journal. All my
papers in OA (two, to be exact) were free, not through waivers, but in the
inception when there were no charges. I am simply responding to the feedback
from dozens of my peers who were denied the request not to have to pay. By
the way OA does not even accept an article for review till payment is

> Then let the author (i) continue publishing in TA journals, (ii) continue
> spending his money to purchase access to TA articles (by other authors)
> *and* (iii) provide OA to his own articles (for other authors) by
> self-archiving them. If those other authors do the same, that just might
> start saving this author some of the money he is spending to purchase
> TA articles. Forget about the spectre of unaffordable OA publication
> charges: They are counterfactual conjectures at this time, and there
> are good reasons to believe they will never happen.

I completely agree with you here. At the same time we must make sure that TA
survives by giving them ideas to survive the arrival of OA journals. One of
these is embargoed access.

> Because they are a means of providing OA, and this is all about the benefits and
> feasibility of providing OA. If OA journal publishing is unaffordable for
> you, *just don't do it*! Self-archive instead.

I am not campaigning here for my individual rights. It is the long term
rights of the publishing community in the *third world*. I attempt to speak
for *our* future.

> There is no "threat" from OA journals: Most journals today are
> TA. Immediate OA can be provided by self-archiving. OA itself is not a
> "threat" but an immense (attainable, and long-overdue) benefit.

I agree there is no immediate threat. But there is the possibility of a
future threat. I am trying to nip the problem at its budding stage. I cannot
visualise an *immense* benefit for us in the OA future.

> > It is self defeating to support OA journals if you can not publish in them
> Support the two roads to OA and take the road that is suitable to you.

As I said previously, supporting OA journals, defeats the purpose of self
archiving. We cannot support both.

> (1) These recommendations (about ensuring that provisions are made for
> all authors who cannot afford to publish in today's OA journals, today)
> are *not* what makes OA viable. What makes OA viable is whatever provides
> OA. There is still very little OA being provided today, but three times
> as much of it is being provided via OA self-archiving (under 15%) as via
> OA journal-publishing (under 5%) -- but the green road of self-archiving
> is the more underused one, for its immediate capacity is already 55%
> at the absolute minimum, and in reality 100%!

Well, I guess it all boils down to institutional versus solitary authorship.
We cannot support OA journals today if we think of our future, and
institutions believe that by leaning towards OA (based on the OA adverts)
that they are helping authors like us. The logical move for us therefore is
to inform them that while that may be true for now, it holds out a bleak
outlook for our future. None of us in this discussion group will benefit
from this discussion personally. However the outcome of this discussion will
decide our future.

Received on Mon Feb 09 2004 - 17:55:40 GMT

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