Re: PR's 'pit bull' ... A final thought?

From: J.F.B.Rowland <J.F.Rowland_at_LBORO.AC.UK>
Date: Thu, 1 Feb 2007 11:27:06 -0000

Learned Society publishers are certainly important in scholarly
communication, and as Dana's figures demonstrate, their prices per page tend
to be much lower than those of commercial publishers.

It is important to note, though, that learned society journals fall into
three categories. Large societies run their own in-house publishing
operations, and in spite of their more reasonable prices, in the OA debate
they have tended to side with the commercial publishers. This is probably
because their publishing departments are run as arms-length quasi-commercial
activities anyway, and are not run on a day-to-day basis by the voluntary
officers of the society. Middle-sized societies often publish through a
commercial publisher, so any statements about OA will tend to be made by
their commercial partner rather than the society itself. Small societies
may publish themselves on a more or less amateur basis, with members of the
society doing much of the work, assisted by a small number of largely
clerical/administrative staff. In my experience, this last group are often
sympathetic to the principled argument for OA, but they can see no OA
business model that would give them any sense of long-term security.

There is a clear and urgent need for business models that can enable
not-for-profit learned societies to be active in the long term in scholarly
communication - which is a major reason for societies' existence, after
all - in a future that is inceasingly OA, whether green or gold. Such
models do not exist at present, in my view.

Fytton Rowland, Loughborough University.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Dana Roth" <dzrlib_at_LIBRARY.CALTECH.EDU>
Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2007 12:52 AM
Subject: Re: PR's 'pit bull' ... A final thought?

I find it somewhat surprising that there has been very little mention of
the importance of scientific societies in the publication of their
respective scholarship.

I was reminded of this by an ironic news item in the latest Elsevier
Library Connect newsletter entitled "A
Student Perspective on the Serials Crisis".

This article was based on a Master of Engineer Project in Cornell's
School of Operations Research and Industrial Engineering designed as an
"Operational Analysis of Scholarly Journal Publication and Access
Alternatives in the Digital Age." Their "call to action was a call for
compromise from all sides: Authors pay a little, libraries continue
paying via reduced subscription fees, and publishers reducing fees and
broadening revenue streams.

This is exactly the business model currently followed by the
Electrochemical Society and the Society for Neuroscience and was the
general practice for society publications (e.g. ACS, APS) before Robert
Maxwell and the crush of commercial journals which began in the 1960s.

Because of their very modestly funded business model, societies were
reluctant to publish new titles, a chore that commercial publishers
relished because they did not require author page charges and could
easily afford to launch new titles with revenue from their substantial

I hope we can put the 'Serials Problem' in perspective and recognize
that society publishers are and will continue to be absolutely essential
and that the main cause of the problem we are discussing is commercial
journal profit margins.

In this regard, compare, for example, the 2005 price/page for:

Inorganic Chemistry(ACS) $0.26
Inorganica Chim. Acta(Els) $1.88

Organic Letters(ACS) $0.65
Tetrahedron Letters(Els) $1.60

Biomacromolecules(ACS) $0.30
Biopolymers(Wiley) $3.70

The avoidance of distinguishing between society and commercial
publishers seems disingenuous at best and the distinction must be part
of any serious discussion. Additional data is available at

Dana L. Roth
Millikan Library / Caltech 1-32
1200 E. California Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91125
626-395-6423 fax 626-792-7540
Received on Thu Feb 01 2007 - 14:24:12 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:48:44 GMT