Re: How many journals sell authors Open Access by the article?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 8 Jul 2004 12:58:33 +0100

I extract here the essence of David Goodman's longish posting and reply
to the main points:

On Wed, 7 Jul 2004, David Goodman wrote:

> [Springer] authors have the option of paying a publication fee of
> $3000... the fee seems rather high...

Yes, the fee is high compared to PLoS's $1500 and BMC's $500, as noted
in my posting. It is even higher compared to the cost of self-archiving,
which is nothing, and provides full OA too.

> if half their authors pay the author/sponsor fee, the subscription
> price of the journal next year will be half.
> In other words, as their authors/sponsors switch to a "gold" model,
> so will the journal.
> I believe this to be a novel approach to the problem that "Becoming
> gold entails some risk"

Springer's is a straightforward implementation of Thomas Walker's 1998
transitional model, as noted.

    "For Whom the Gate Tolls?"

> On balance, if I were publishing in a good Springer journal I would try
> to find money to pay the fee, knowing that not only would I receive the
> benefit of being more widely read, and my readers receive the benefit of
> having easier access to my article, but the library subscription costs of
> all universities subscribing to that journal would decrease. If I could
> not find the money. the reasonably good option of posting the author's
> version would still be there.

This is a (harmless) example of the conflation of the library's
affordability problem with the researcher's access/impact problem.

The fact is that only about 20% of authors are providing Open Access
(OA) to their articles any-which-way today (whether by publishing in a
gold journal [5%], or by publishing in a green journal and self-archiving
[15%]). Hybrid gold/green journals on the Walker model are still too few
to make any detectable contribution to these estimates, but David thinks
that the researchers' desire to remedy libraries' affordability
problem may not only motivate them to provide OA (as only 20% do now),
but to provide OA via the costlier route [$3000], having not done so at
all until now via the cost-free route.

I think this is another example of the library community not quite
understanding the research community, projecting onto it the library
community's motivation rather than addressing the research community's
intrinsic motivation:

The research community's intrinsic motivation is to maximise the usage
and impact of their work, but they do not yet realize in sufficient
numbers that providing OA will do this for them. And even when they do
realize it, they are paralyzed by a long list of prima facie worries
along with the same inertia and tendency to want to move on to doing the
next piece of research -- rather than getting what they have already
done peer-reviewed and published -- for which the university "publish
or perish" reward system was invented as a remedy.

David imagines that researchers may now want to provide OA *and* pay $3000
-- emboldened by the thought that if they do so, "the library subscription
costs of all universities subscribing to that journal would decrease."

I am more inclined to believe the results of the Swan & Brown (2004)
that I have quoted so frequently: They

    "asked authors to say how they would feel if their employer or
    funding body required them to deposit copies of their published
    articles in... repositories. The vast majority... said they would
    do so willingly."

      Swan, A. & Brown, S.N. (2004) JISC/OSI Journal Authors Survey

      Swan, A. & Brown, S.N. (2004) Authors and open access
      publishing. Learned Publishing 2004:17(3) 219-224.

Note that the critical factor is adding their employer's mandate, not
adding a price-tag of $3000.

But one cannot second-guess human nature; so let there be OA by whatever
means it takes to get researchers to provide it...

Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu Jul 08 2004 - 12:58:33 BST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:47:30 GMT