Re: A Research Physicist's Objections to a Self-Archiving Mandate

From: Norbert Lossau <>
Date: Thu, 5 Jan 2006 19:00:52 +0100

A "RP" is worried about journals being cancelled as result of the
&bdquo;self- archiving&ldquo; mandate. This statement relies on the
assumption, that decisions on subscriptions or cancellations at
universities are mainly based on usage, i.e. access to these journals by
the university scientists. Institutional repositories offer them a free
alternative, ergo, journals are no longer needed and will be cancelled by

The assumption and the conclusion do not reflect the reality at
universities. There is NO automatic linking mechanism from lower usage to
the cancellation of a journal. I think I can speak for the majority of
libraries, when I describe the procedure of subscribing and cancelling as
a collaborative process between librarians and faculties. In particular
cancellations are carried out in close consultation between those two
parties. I would even dare to say, that libraries will not cancel a
specific journal, if there is very strong support for it from the
scientists. But facing serious budget problems, librarians will (need to)
ask for cancellation alternatives and one criteria will be a very high
price of a journal. 

My conclusion: Yes, journals will be cancelled also in the future. But
scientists will have a key role in selecting those journals, which should
be cancelled. It&rsquo;s up to both the scientists and the librarians to
define jointly the criteria at their institutions, which journals they
judge to be relevant for the institutional holdings. 

As I mentioned earlier, relevance and price of a journal are important
criteria, if it comes to cancellations. In all the discussions, I have
about Open Access, many use the phrase &ldquo;reasonable cost&rdquo; for
an article resp. a journal. What I would like to see, is a positive
&ldquo;cost rating list&rdquo; for journals. Today insurance companies
and banks are all rated for their performance, the percentage of
administrative overhead etc. Why not applying a cost rating schema to
journals? McAfee and Bergstrom delivered recently some figures for
current costs of articles. This analysis could be extended and
publishers, together with librarians, scientists and finance experts
could define average costs for the publishing process. Those publishers
and journals, who meet the average value or produce at even lower costs,
will be listed in a directory. Other publishers with very high cost
journals will not be listed (for legal reasons, there should be no
&ldquo;negative list&rdquo;), but everybody will understand the facts
from the absence of their names. Those publishers will have to justify on
clear evidence, why they produce at such high costs. This type of cost
transparency would help both librarians and faculty, to make their
choice, if it comes to cancellations. 

A last word: if a journal is found to be relevant by the scientific
community itself AND the price is reasonable, then I feel confident,
based on the current practice, that this journal will survive, whatever
&ldquo;pay-model&rdquo; publishers may opt for and certainly not
influenced by institutional repositories. 


*  Dr Norbert Lossau
*  Library Director
*  Chief Information Officer Scholarly Information
*  Bielefeld University
*  P.O. 10 02 91, D-33502 Bielefeld
*  Fon: +49 -(0)5 21 -1 06 -40 50
*  Fax: +49 -(0)5 21 -1 06 -40 52
*  e-Mail:

Am 4 Jan 2006 um 13:49 hat Stevan Harnad geschrieben:

> (Excerpts from an ongoing exchange between RP and SH about open access,
> self-archiving, mandates, peer review, research funding and journal
> economics)
>      "RP" is a Research Physicist (who prefers to remain anonymous),
>      used to doing and using what he calls "data-basing" [what we
>      call here, "self-archiving"], but worried about the implications
>      for the survival of journals if data-basing (self-archiving) is
>      universally mandated; RP proposes some ideas of his own.
>      ("RP1" is the same physicist, from an earlier exchange)
>      SH is Stevan Harnad
>          "APay":  Author pays  (or author pays, via research grants)
>          all or part of journal production and distribution costs
>          "APay hybrid": Author pays only for "refereeing charges",
>          subscriber pays for printed version of journal, electronic
>          version remains free (OA), or is charged at a moderate rate
>          corresponding to actual production costs.
>          "SPay": Subscribers pay full costs of journals, both
>          and printed version
>     SUMMARY by SH: I think this exchange can be summarised as follows:
>     RP recognises the benefits of self-archiving (and he self-archives)
>     but is opposed to a self-archiving mandate, because he thinks that
>     might put journal cost-recovery via subscriptions at risk. If it
>     and authors' research funders end up paying the OA publishing
>     he would not welcome sacrificing any of his research grant funding
>     for this except if it came with some reforms in peer review. My
>     reply is that we can cross those hypothetical bridges if and when
>     we ever come to them, but meanwhile we should delay no further in
>     reaping the sure benefits of mandated self-archiving.
>     SUMMARY by RP: This is not really an adequate summary of my views,
>     since it leaves out much of the point I am trying to make, which
>     begins with the assumption that journals are necessary to ensure:
>     (1) a reasonable standard of quality control, through peer review,
>     and (2) the preservation, in the long term, of a record of research
>     results for posterity. I believe that neither of these would be
>     adequately provided by the institutional or joint archive data
>     and I think it is important to anticipate the likely implications
>     for the survival and viability of journals if mandated deposit
>     of published articles in data bases makes the identical published
>     material available to everyone for free. I therefore put the main
>     emphasis on ensuring the "value-added" provided by the journals.
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> > RP: In order not to confuse the issue, let's not talk about OA
> > which really just means: author pays all (or nearly all) publication
> > costs, and the journal only charges the subscriber for the printed
> > (while "giving away" the online version). Better to call this: "APay"
> > pays), since you are using OA to refer to the genuinely free or
> > "institutions and funding organizations cover the dissemination costs
> > directly" data-base vehicle. The other journals, which at present are
> > the majority, let's call "SPay" (subscriber pays the costs).
> SH: I think that is not a useful way to cut the cake. Author-pays
> is virtually always author-institution (AIPay) or author-funder
> pays (AFPay), almost never author's pocket pays (APay). But, even
> more important, OA journals are not just AIPay/AFPay/APay journals:
> OA journals can be SPay journals too, if their online version is given
> away free for all. (Over half of the OA journals listed in the
> of OA Journals are SPay journals!) This second sort of OA SPay journal
> a second source of evidence that there can be peaceful co-existence and
> successful cost-covering even when all the online versions of articles
> are  available free (i.e., when the journal, rather than the author,
> is giving them away free).
> > RP: I am referring to the modality - and don't mean that it would
> > come from the authors pocket. As you see below, and I certainly know,
> > it would be, mostly "the author's grant pays, if he has one", but
> > can be used as an abbreviation in any case.
> >
> > I view the problematic side as being with the journals, and have
> > against encouraging data basing per se, of course. My only
> > objections are related to the coercive aspects, and the possible
> > negative impact on journals, and researchers, including something
> > I see a problem existing anyway, which could get worse, or better -
> > unreliable refereeing - that is intimately linked with their mode of
> > operation, and hence inseparable from the question. Let's begin by
> > to some of my earlier comments.
> >
> >>  RP1: It is quite possible that the greater cancellation rates
> >>  YET started in physics, because all the other areas did not as yet
> >>  the same logic, and the physicists would have screamed if only
> >>  journals had been cancelled by their librarians.
> SH: That's very possible, but notice a subtle change in your position:
> First you said that what was happening in physics was different, and
> that reason did not threaten journals. Now you say maybe it already has
> or or maybe it will. So  if it already has or eventually does, do you
> conclude that physicists should stop self-archiving?
> > RP: It isn't a change, but a further viewpoint.  I don't know which
> > mechanism is foremost - they are all present, in any case, as prior
> > conditions.  The physics data bases arose through a process that was:
> > spontaneous, non-coercive, and gradual,  which distinguishes it from
> > what you and RCUK propose. If it is the case that no cancellations
> > occurred because of it (which I rather doubt), attributing the causes
> > is necessarily speculative. It COULD be because of the gradual nature
> > of the transition, and it COULD be because physics was the only
> > in which [self-archiving] was occurring on a large enough scale to
> > theoretically consider using the data bases as an alternative mode of
> > access; and NOT cancelling journals because of it was only happening
> > physics. Both these factors could be relevant simultaneously.
> SH: Past evidence (whether positive or negative) is never a guarantor
> the future will continue in the same vein -- but it is certainly  the
> best predictor. Given a choice, I think there is a lot more empirical
> weight behind the evidence-based prediction that self-archiving does
> not cause cancellations than the evidence-free "prediction" that it 
> > RP: You can use past evidence which does not exactly (or even
> > reproduce the projected scenario only as a supportive argument - but
> > not as PROOF. There is conjecture involved, and one should make all
> > reasonable assumptions (including guesses) when trying to predict the
> > future outcome.  You are trying to persuade the skeptics there will
> > no negative impact upon SPay journals.  Common sense says that if all
> > domains have the same articles available on the net for anyone, for
> > the libraries WILL begin cancelling subscriptions if they cannot
> > the subscription costs. And journals relying on such subscription
> > for their continued existence WILL either have to keep increasing the
> > charges to survivors, or change their mode of revenue generation to
> > APay (or hybrid), or stop functioning.
> SH: Perhaps. No evidence at all for it yet, but one can certainly make
> that speculation. And it's fine with me if publishing adapts in that
> way.
> > RP: No conclusive evidence exists either way. (The physics experience
> > is not the presumed scenario, since it is not universal, or mandated,
> > and hence can just be used to help clarify the perspective, not to
> > anything.) Common sense must therefore prevail, rather than dubious
> > arguments tending to "prove" something that is not provable.
> >    You say: switching over to APay is no problem, because the
> > would then have a windfall, and could then cover the costs!
> SH: Plus there are the research-funders, who are already ready to cover
> APay costs.
> > RP: But this is based on unproved assumptions.  The research funders
> > (and this does not just concern  RCUK) would likely not make new
> > available to researchers over and above what they already receive -
> > the publication costs would therefore have to be  covered from
> > grants, and hence diminish the amount usable for "actual" research
> > purposes by the researchers themselves.  And remember, RCUK does not
> > function in a vacuum; it is only UK researchers they fund. The rest
> > of the world would also be affected by a switch to APay publishing,
> > and the bills would have to paid by sources elsewhere, who perhaps do
> > not have the same views as RCUK about funding of publications.
> SH: Also, APay costs would be at least 2/3 less than current SPay
> expenditure (if/when the print edition is abandoned, which is what
> we are imagining, when we imagine catastrophic cancellations as a
> of self-archiving).
> > RP: I don't believe that at all. Simply abandoning a proportion
> > of the printed version would not lead to such huge reductions in
> > even if it amounted to reducing volume by 2/3, since they are not
> > simply proportional to the volume of printed material produced.
> > Invariant overhead and personnel costs would remain largely
> > And journals could not suddenly function, with the same end product,
> > on 1/3 their current revenues, just because they go over to an APay
> > (or hybrid) mode. You are only looking at part of the formula. There
> > can be no miracles. The SAME costs have to still be covered, and if
> > subscribers don't pay, the authors will have to take up the slack.
> > It is just a shifting of the accounting; nothing suddenly becomes
> > cheaper.
> SH: I'm not imagining covering the same costs: I am imagining that
> subscriptions are cancelled; that means no one is paying for the print
> version because there is no longer any demand for it. The online-only
> costs are 1/3.
> > RP:  If subscriptions are cancelled, and no-one is paying for the
> > version, the journal would go out of business; no publisher would be
> > interested in functioning as a charitable institution at their own
> > If only a portion of the paper subscriptions are cancelled, and the
> > version is virtually free, the revenues will have to either be
> > by increasing the subscription rates proportionately or shifting the
> > to the authors and whoever supports them.
> >      As for this being  covered by their institutions, on the grounds
> > that the libraries will be making a huge savings by canceling their
> > paper subscriptions, when have you ever heard of any researcher's
> > LIBRARY paying for his publication costs!  These are entirely
> > budgets, and I see no realistic expectation that institutions would
> > suddenly, for the first time in history, decide that they should be
> > the big bucks involved by researchers having to publish in APay
> SH: People made the same "when have you ever heard" arguments against
> self-archiving mandates, yet they are quite possible, quite practical,
> and quite possibly coming now, at last. The exact same thing is true
> It is quite possible to redirect a portion (< 1/3) of  institutional
> windfall subscription cancellation savings if/when there are ever
> catastrophic global cancellations, toward covering institutional APay
> costs.  Necessity is the mother of invention.
> > RP: It is possible, but you are confusing an "is" with an "ought",
> > and you cannot be the spokesman for those who control university or
> > library budgets. I rather doubt they would ever be persuaded to
> > library money saved by subscription cancellations, or reduced rates,
> > to the subsidization of research publications costs. It would have to
> > come from another direction - and, most likely, out of the author's
> > research funds (for those who have them).
> >    So, this would more than likely mean that the publication costs
> > have to come out of the researchers' research grants, as in the bad
> > days, and not from his institutions library fund!
> SH: Who knows; who cares? This is a hypothetical problem, based on
> imagining this and that, for none of which there is as yet any actual
> evidence; whereas daily access/impact loss is a real concrete problem,
> with a real concrete solution, that has been tested, and works:
> self-archiving.
> > RP: I care. I am a researcher. I don't want to have to support fewer
> > students or postdocs, or buy less equipment, or take fewer trips,
> > because my research grant has to pay annually some $1000 - $2000  for
> > research paper I publish!  (Although, who knows, globally such a
> > might be beneficial, by making people more judicious about what they
> > or do not choose to publish! More stuff would perhaps go into non -
> > APay conference proceedings, or such.)
> >
> > But I have to add: IF I have to pay such charges, I would feel MUCH
> > better about it, if I knew that they were all (or mostly all) going
> > pay for high quality refereeing. I would feel that the benefit gained
> > by such a switch would largely counterbalance the sacrifice of
> > $$'s for the purpose.
> >
> >   It seems to me that a "hybrid" model might, in the end, be the most
> > effective:  There should be a "refereeing charge" (not a page
> > charge), which could be made to the author - (if the article is
> > - and would entirely go to paying the referees (plus a small amount
> > overhead). This could, and should, be of the order of $30 - $50 per
> > in highly technical areas, where each page requires that much work to
> > check through, or a much lower rate in easier areas, where the
> > can quickly read through many pages, without, e.g., laboriously
> > to check calculations, look up background sources, etc.
> >
> >      Then there could be a further charge to subscribers which only
> > covers the production and distribution costs. If the journal is
> > electronic, these could be pretty low (basically, payment of
> > staff for its time, plus pertinent overhead.) and entirely  within
> > of any modest library's budget, or given fortuitously to institutions
> > that cannot even afford this.
> >
> >     Then, there could be a further charge, for those who can afford
> > for the "Printed edition". Since this would be the "prestige
> > in part, for posterity, and would not be very frequently accessed
> > it could be given something like the current, high subscription rate
> > and the libraries can just decide to take it, or leave it.
> > a few  libraries will take it (LC, e.g., or the richest universities
> > and laboratories), and the others may decide to leave it, opting only
> > for the much cheaper electronic version, which most people would be
> > accessing from their offices anyway (and) are so doing right now).
> >
> > This formula would mean that everyone is paying for what they are
> > the authors,  for good refereeing procedures, and dissemination, the
> > readers (institutions), for access, and those who can afford it, for
> > "prestige versions", that lasts as long as paper lasts (as now).
> >
> >    The "page charges" get converted to "refereeing charges" and are
> > proportional to the amount of work and expertise needed in the
> > refereeing.  (And - since, I am setting the rules here - the referees
> > names get attached, partly to give them credit for the work - which
> > can henceforth honestly cite in their CV's - and partly to make them
> > responsible for the guarantee of quality. And the "prestige" of
> > is determined, henceforth, not by snobbery, prejudice and hearsay -
> > but by the objectively verifiable calibre of their refereeing. )
> >
> > The cost- revenue balancing formula would then be pretty well
> > correlated with the value-added benefits:
> >    I, as a researcher, pay from my grant, to have high quality
> > refereeing. Also, it saves me time, indirectly, by helping me to know
> > is, or isn't worthwhile reading in the vast literature. Meanwhile,
> > remaining costs are covered equitably, and correspond to the
> > "value-added": small additional charges, or none, for electronic
> > which costs very little to the publisher anyway; higher costs for the
> > traditional, printed versions, which are the most expensive
> > cost from the publishers viewpoint.
> >
> >    For the researcher, this is a "luxury" item  that he can survive
> > without - but still, wants to have exist , at least, in "limited 
> > for posterity. The sum of the three:  (1) reasonable  "refereeing
> > ( high, or not so high,  depending upon the typical amount of time,
> > within any domain, for papers to be checked conscientiously by the
> > paid by the author, and used (almost) entirely to  reimburse the
> > for his efforts, time and expertise  + (2) very small, or no
> > version subscription costs +  (3) pretty high paper subscription
> > with an expectedly somewhat diminished number of library subscribers,
> > together, provides adequate revenue to keep the publisher in
> > without shutting out those who cannot afford high subscription costs.
> SH: All very reasonable and possible, but not happening, not soon
> to happen, not clear how to make it happen, and even if one could and
> did it happen, it still leaves the problem of OA, which, by definition,
> is the would-be users who cannot afford online access no matter how low
> the tolls!
> It is fine, but rather premature, being based only on speculation.
> APay can be both for submission and for publication. Those are all
> possibilities, if/when their time ever comes.
> But you have just reverted (in speculation-space) to lowering journal
> subscription costs, which is fine (if we are speculating about library
> budget problems). I was interested in something completely different:
> Providing 100% OA, to everything, now, with no further waiting or
> speculation. And lowering journal prices will not do that.
> > RP: I am trying to view it from the journal's functioning viewpoint
> > the assumption that it must coexist with (OA) data bases.  Mandating
> > data base solves one problem (OA), but potentially creates another
> > one (journals disappearing). I  am concerned about the need to solve
> > THAT aspect of it! The solutions should be beneficial to researchers,
> > underfunded institutions, libraries without killing the essential
> > that journal publishes play by strangling them.
> >
> >    From my viewpoint, ONLY the change in refereeing mode and
> > compensation could justify the switch to APay or hybrid mode.
> > Otherwise,  I would feel  cheated of my research funds, which would
> > then only benefit library budgets, and I would receive nothing in
> > compensation as a researcher.
> SH: These are all fine conjectures and suggestions, if one's interest
> is in either second-guessing or guiding the possible eventual future of
> publishing. I am not interested in doing that. My interest is in 100%
> OA, now.
> > RP: That means you addressing the "front-end" of the problem, and 
> > "apres moi le deluge".  That will not convince those people very
> > who care about the further implications.  Furthermore. everything is
> > conjecture. One can "use" statistics to  prove anything - true, or
> > if it is based on data about only a "reasonably related" set of
> > rather than representative statistics about the actual scenario
> > envisioned (which don't, as yet, exist here).
> >
> >    In the absence of definitive proof, it is reasoning, experience,
> > and common sense  that must prevail.
> SH: No "proof" here, one way or the other. And what evidence there is
> no sign of any impending deluge. And what the statistics say (without
> assumptions or interpretations) is that self-archiving enhances usage
> impact and has not yet caused detectable cancellations, even in fields
> where it has gone on for a decade and a half and even in fields where
> it reached 100% years ago. All empirical good sense suggests that these
> empirical findings should now be *applied*, so as to generate still
> more self-archiving, still more research impact. RCUK is proposing
> to apply the findings. If and when there are any detectable signs of
> the possibility of a deluge, the experiment can be reconsidered,
> if we wish. It is still just an experiment, and UK research output
> does not even account for a significant proportion of any international
> journal. So it will not even go as far as it has already gone in
> alone (unless other countries follow suit, as I hope they will!).
> > RP:  No proof, and hence, as I said, reasoning, experience,  and
> > common sense must prevail. Whether impact is enhanced
> > by data-basing one's publications or not, the survival of a
> > mechanism for assuring the filter of credible peer-review of
> > published scientific work, and the long term guarantee of its
> > availability for posterity, are of primary concern to all
> > If an experiment is made without adequate forethought for
> > the consequences, which leads to the extinction of many of
> > the leading journals in an area, or to the compromising of
> > the quality of peer review, it would be a bit late to say "We
> > can try another experiment instead."
> >
> >     I think that we are addressing different priorities. I would
> > only become a supporter of any global scheme that changed the
> > paradigm to guarantee OA if it also guaranteed no negative impact on
> > quality and dissemination, and permanence of scientific work, and not
> > just a shift of the costs from the libraries to me. Only a global
> > that takes all sides of the formula (in which the journals are
> > into account can do this.
> >
> > The scenario I am proposing (the whole picture, not part) would be
> > desirable to aim for. But it is not, by a long-shot, the "primitive"
> > "OA" scenario, which seems only suitable for librarian's purposes,
> > and makes no one else (in particular, not the researchers) happy.
> SH: The OA scenario -- at least the OA self-archiving, "green" scenario
> that I promote -- has next to nothing to do with librarians' purposes
> or with changes in publishing. It is strictly a
> matter...
> > RP: This is because you are choosing to ignore the possible negative
> > implications for journal operations and survival, or you are
> > that they do not exist. Others don't agree and want to address the
> > possible consequences.  They want to take them into account before
> > coming down in favour of a decision that will  have impact that goes
> > beyond just the data base (OA) aspect in isolation.
> SH: I think it's just fine that people should keep speculating -- or
> even planning -- for a change in publication cost-recovery models, or
> even for what to do in case of a deluge.  But, if you look at all the
> actual, existing evidence (rather than the "possible negative
implications," for
> which there exists no evidence) then you will find that the picture
> is simple: Self-archiving is feasible; it works; it enhances usage
> and impact; and so far it has not caused any detectable decline in
> subscriptions, not even in the fields where it has been going on the
> longest, and reached 100% years ago. By all means plan for how to
> "possible negative implications"; but meanwhile full speed ahead for
> the certain positive implications! (A decade of delay has been long
> enough.)
> > RP:  What exists to date can only provide evidence for plausible
> > arguments about what might occur in the future. Since no scenario
> > has ever existed in which OA data basing of all published articles,
> > in all fields receiving support from a major national funding
> > agency is mandated as a condition for such funding, any conclusions
> > about the implications for the traditional peer-reviewed journal
> > publication methods can only consist of plausible conjectures.
> > Some may be more optimistic than others that no major damage
> > will be incurred regarding two of the features of the process that
> > of considerable concern to researchers: adequate standards of
> > peer-review, and preservation of published results in a form
> > accessible for posterity. But you shouldn't be surprised that
> > many are cautious about supporting such an initiative, and
> > concerned that the implications not turn out to include either an
> > impairment of these aspects of scientific publication, or a
> > transference of the costs of publication to their research
> > grants, even if the benefits might possibly include enhanced global
> > rates of citation.
Received on Thu Jan 05 2006 - 18:41:50 GMT

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