Re: Royal Society Offers Open Choice

From: Velterop, Jan Springer UK <Jan.Velterop_at_SPRINGER.COM>
Date: Sat, 24 Jun 2006 17:48:52 +0200

Stevan Harnad on Saturday 6/24/2006 on the AMSCI Forum list:
"... if mandated SA does generate substantial institutional subscription
cancellations, then those very same substantial institutional
subscriptions cancellations will generate the institutional windfall
savings out of which PA costs (again determined by the market and not
by a-priori fiat) could be paid without taking any money away from
research funding."

I'm afraid Stevan fails to appreciate three things here:

1. Access to scientific literature and the formal publishing of articles are not optional, but essential parts of doing research, so the cost of access and publishing is an essential cost of doing research, and in that regard entirely comparable with the cost of laboratory equipment, reagents, et cetera;

2. If the cost of essentials is seen as 'taking money away from research funding, then money is already being 'taken away' from research funding because subscriptions are largely paid out of the overhead that institutions take out of research grants (often more than 50%);

3. Shifting payment patterns from subscriptions to open access via institutional self-archiving mandates (the 'windfall' argument) is unnecessarily disruptive and as such only delays open access as it inevitably causes entirely predicatable and understandable doubt as to the real intentions and ulterior motives of the OA 'movement' (which often seems more about money than about access), and consequent defensive attitudes amongst publishers and scholarly societies, and even amongst researchers themselves.

Advocating open access should not be conflated with advocating cost-evasion (the ultimate free-ridership). Access and costs are two independent variables. Lower costs do not necessarily bring open access; and open access does not necessarily bring lower costs. But we would be able to make a great deal more progress on an equal-revenue basis, were that advocated more widely. The amount of money now being spent, Academia-wide, on subscriptions, could, almost by definition for the vast majority of journals, also fund full open access. That's what we should be focussing on.

Jan Velterop
Received on Sat Jun 24 2006 - 22:14:13 BST

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