Re: Stevan Harnad's misconception 7

From: Ahmed Hindawi <ahmed.hindawi_at_HINDAWI.COM>
Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2007 22:36:22 +0200

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Jan^“s message below is very much related to something I never really
understood: the emphasis on the importance of re-channeling the
subscription money to pay for OA publishing costs. I have heard the
argument countless number of times: we can/may pay the cost of OA
publishing only when/if we can free the money paid now for subscriptions.

As Jan says, universities get an overhead percentage of all research
grants. The percentage varies from a university to another (this
variation is an important fact). Some would take 50% while others may be
60% or even more (correct me if I am wrong). Let us assume 60% for the
sake of this discussion. These 60% pay for office space, secretarial
support, light, electricity, communication systems, etc. Somewhere
around 1% of this overhead goes to funding journal acquisitions (and
another 2% or so go to shelving them, serving them, heating them in the
winter, cooling them in the summer, as well as to all other library
functions such as collection development, etc.). Most of these 2% will
go away in an OA environment, but since a significant part of them are
going to go away in an online only environment anyway, I am not going to
take them into account.

The remaining 40% goes to more direct research needs (equipment,
chemicals, wages for graduate students, postdocs, technicians, attending
conferences, etc.).

Thus research funds can be represented as 40% + 59% + 1%. This 1% is
what goes to publishers in return of their publishing services.

Now, let us assume research funds agree that researchers can/should pay
for OA publishing from their 40% slice. In an OA environment, the
university will not have to buy journals (yes, we will have a mixed
environment for a long time to come and may be forever, but for that
part of research that is published in OA journals, universities will not
have to buy it). This will indeed reduce the money available to what I
called above ^”direct^‘ research needs (equipment, chemicals, etc.).
However, the university now has an extra 1% for non-journal acquisition
needs. The research funds is now represented as 39% + 60% + 1%. The 1%
goes to publishers in return of their publishing services (with the
added advantages of having universal access to everyone and better
market competition between publishers which is certainly going to lower
the cost and improve the level of service).

There is no re-channeling of money here. Libraries are not asked to pay
for open access publishing costs. Libraries will either use the 1% for
other purposes (books, training, whatever) or simply freeing that money
for other uses of the university. In this scenario, a 1% was transferred
from the ^”direct^‘ research needs (equipment, chemicals, etc.) to
^”overhead^‘ needs by the universities (office space, communications
systems, etc.). Surely this is not hurting the research, is it? If you
think 40% + 59% is much better than 39% + 60%, why not try to go for 50%
+ 49% or 70% + 29%? I didn^“t hear any claims that universities that have
higher than average overheads are hurting the research. If 1% change
from ^”direct^‘ to ^”overhead^‘ would have that negative effect on research,
would be a threat to ^”research,^‘ why research funders accept different
overheads at different universities?

Some might object to the above based on the notion that a switch now to
OA publishing funded by article processing charges coming from the
^”direct^‘ research needs piece is paying twice for publishing. I fail to
understand this argument as well. Why would librarians pay for articles
published under the Gold OA model? If the whole journal is Gold OA, then
no one should be paying to buy the content, right? If the journal is
hybrid, it is the duty of the librarian to figure out how much of it is
open access and how much is toll access, and to realize that what they
pay is only for the TA part of the journal. If the price is too much (by
whatever standard you are using) for that part, then don^“t buy the
journal (you still have the OA part of course since it is freely available).

You can object by saying, the prices of the TA articles are going up
(from a particular hybrid publisher who didn^“t lower the subscription
rate as a result of publishing some of the content under the OA model),
but you cannot say I am paying twice, because you are not. You are
paying once for the OA articles (via article processing charges) and
once for the TA articles (via your subscription). If one of the two
payments is too high for what you get, stop paying for it.

Ahmed Hindawi

Velterop, Jan, Springer UK wrote:
> Misconception: The notion that OA publishing takes away from scarce
> research funds.
> I'm tempted to start believing in one of the religions of the physics
> domain, parallel universes. Stevan seems to live in the universe where
> OA publishing - 'gold' - costs money and subscriptions don't.
> In the universe where I live, formal publishing in peer-reviewed
> journals costs money. In rare cases, and very small journals, this cost
> may be hidden. But there are costs nonetheless. The costs are not all
> that different for OA journals or subscription journals. In that
> universe, research budget allocations and research grants typically
> include earmarked overhead charges. These overhead charges are taken by
> the research institution to pay for all manner of infrastructural costs,
> including the library budget. From which subscriptions are paid.
> Formal publication is part and parcel of research, and thus the cost of
> publication is part and parcel of the cost of research. Any kind of
> formal publishing 'eats away' a portion of scarce research funds. But
> unpublished research is pretty much regarded as research not done, so
> money on publication is generally well-spent.
> Compare:
> -OA publishing, with an aggregate cost to the scientific establishment
> of X per article published (total per article: X);
> -OA via self-archiving of non-OA articles, with an aggregate cost to the
> scientific establishment of all the subscriptions taken (necessary in a
> self-archiving model), amounting to X per article published, plus the
> aggregate cost of thousands of institutional repositories and the
> staffing to keep them going, amounting to Y per article (total per
> article: X+Y).
> Which is the greatest drain on scarce research funds?
> Jan Velterop
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: SPARC Open Access Forum []
>> On Behalf Of Stevan Harnad
>> Sent: 28 February 2007 04:09
>> To: SPARC Open Access Forum
>> Subject: [SOAF] Reply to Jan Velterop, and a Challenge to
>> "OA" Publishers Who Oppose Mandating OA via Self-Archiving
>> ** Cross-Posted **
> [cut]
>> And the objection isn't primarily to the redirection of
>> scarce research funds to pay for needless Gold OA costs. If
>> the research community is foolish enough to want to do that,
>> it is welcome to do so. The objection is to any further delay
>> in mandating Green OA, wasting still more time instead on
>> continued bickering about paying pre-emptive Gold publishing
>> fees. Let research funders and institutions mandate OA Green
>> self-archiving, now, thereby guaranteeing 100% OA, now, and
>> *then* let them spend their spare time and money in any way
>> they see fit.
> [cut]
>> Gold OA now, when Gold OA is neither needed, nor are the
>> funds available for paying for it (without poaching them from
>> research) because the funds to pay for publishing are still
>> paying for subscriptions.
>> Caveat pre-emptor.
>> Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Feb 28 2007 - 21:33:13 GMT

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