Re: Journal Publishing and Author Self-Archiving: Complementary Or Competitive?

From: Velterop, Jan <Jan.Velterop_at_SPRINGER-SBM.COM>
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 16:38:40 +0200

Self-archiving and publishing are both complementary and competitive. How so? Because what we usually call 'publishing' (or 'formal publishing') combines a few functions: organising and managing peer-review; quality control of text, figures and the like; attaching the respectability 'label' (conveying, among other things, credibility, impact factor, place in the pecking order, et cetera); and dissemination (the actual 'publishing' in the sense of 'making public') electronically and in print.

There is complementarity because publishers, on the whole, do not do the 'making public' optimally, and self-archiving in OA repositories does not perform the other functions such as organising and managing peer-review, QC, 'labelling' and print distribution.

The competition comes from the fact that, in order to recoup their costs, most publishers load the charges for all their services just on dissemination, via subscription/licensing fees. Historically logical, but now, in the internet world, ironic, given that it is the service they perform least optimally. Self-archiving competes, because potentially it can perform the dissemination function much better. Moreover, there is no charge.

It is clear where the problem arises. The competition takes place precisely in the area of electronic dissemination from where the publishers derive their income, yet have few costs. Self-archiving, too, has very few costs (none of the costs of the whole certification process), so doesn't need to charge at all. However, as much of the value of a published article derives from its formal certification, and self-archived articles are not nearly as valuable without that (non-peer-reviewed articles always have the 'vanity publishing' cloud hanging over them), this is an inherently parasitical situation. Organisms can live with a certain amount of parasites, but it usually means compromised health.

Access to the full body of knowledge is good for science. Very few would dispute that. Now that it is technically possible, calls for open access will only increase. Fortunately, the solution to the problem of competition seems to present itself clearly as well. Publishers could stop loading their charges on dissemination (which they don't do too well, because dissemination needs to be restrictive to yield any income at all). Instead, they could start charging for the other functions, which they perform much better, and, more importantly, uniquely. Then there would be true complementarity without much overlap and parasitism.

In order to make such a transition smoothly, established journals could offer the choice to authors (and their funders and institutional backers): pay for the services of 'formal publishing' and have complete on-line open access for your article -- or don't pay, but then accept the necessity for the publisher to charge for subscriptions, with the sub-optimal dissemination that may entail.

This is precisely what Springer Open Choice offers to authors (and their funders and backers): the option of open access to the full, published article. For all its (more than 1200) established journals. I wouldn't have joined the company if I didn't consider that progress. How fast the transition goes is up to authors and funders, as long as publishers offer the possibility.

Jan Velterop
Springer, Director Open Access

-----Original Message-----
From: American Scientist Open Access Forum [mailto:AMERICAN-SCIENTIST-OPEN-ACCESS-FORUM_at_LISTSERVER.SIGMAXI.ORG] On Behalf Of Stevan Harnad
Sent: 24 August 2005 21:43
Subject: Re: Leading academics back UK Research Councils on self-archiving

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2005 08:50:33 -0400
From: Michael Kurtz <>
To: Stevan Harnad <>

Hi Stevan,

I thought I sent it to the group, but perhaps not.

In any event your note said much of what I said. I do not understand how my saying complementary not competitive can be construed as supporting the disruptive technology thesis.

Jean-Claude Guédon wrote:

>At the same time, one may puzzle as to why, when so many articles are
>already available in open access, the rate of use is so low.

I should make clear that my comparison was of use during July 2005 of articles published during 2004 in the Astrophysical Journal. These articles were published in 2003 and 2004 in astro_ph. The main use of astro_ph, like almost every publication, is for newly published articles. astro_ph is very heavily used in this manner, indeed it is likely that the readership of any particular article is greater in the
~6 months it is only available as a preprint in the arXiv than it is in the first couple of years it is available from the journal.

Because the main use of astro_ph is before the article is available from the Astrophysical Journal, and after it is published the use is mainly from the ApJ (for the same article) the two services are more complementary than in competition.

Dr. Michael J. Kurtz
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics 60 Garden Street Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
VOICE: +1-617-495-7434
FAX: +1-617-495-7467
Received on Thu Aug 25 2005 - 17:08:51 BST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:47:59 GMT