Re: Subscriptions Are Paying Publication Costs

From: Ahmed Hindawi <ahmed.hindawi_at_HINDAWI.COM>
Date: Thu, 1 Mar 2007 08:20:35 +0200

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In (1) you say most journal are non-OA today. It is true. But let me
phrase it as "Most articles are non-OA (Gold) today." It is true, only a
small percentage is (may be 1% or so), but so is the money paid for
these articles as article processing charges. In fact, the amount of
money paid by the research community per Gold OA article is smaller than
the amount of money paid by the research community per TA article.

Nevertheless you assert that we don't need to start the transition now
to Gold OA. Only when/if the subscription system collapses! But we are
in the transition process already. The total Gold OA articles from
BiomedCentral, PLoS, Hindawi, Optics Express, New Journal of Physics,
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, and all the other Gold OA journals
supported by APCs is probably in the range of 20,000 articles or so

When exactly are you willing to say a transition is underway and support
for Gold OA makes sense (since it provides much more than what
subscriptions do for equal or less money spent per article)? May be if
the Gold OA articles reaches 40,000 or 60,000 or something, but let us
know what number or percentage you have in mind. Simply asserting this
can only happens when we start seeing saving in subscriptions is not
good enough. Supporting OA Gold today will enable Gold OA publishers to
compete for authors which is the only way for Gold OA to become main
stream and have significant impact (in terms of how many articles are
published under this model--providing much more benefits to the research
community at equal or lower cost).

What mechanism do you suggest for growing Gold OA (even one that you
like which is scaled down to almost peer-review only) other than telling
us to wait because when the publishers are close to bankruptcy (or may
be even a little after that) they will have to support Gold OA by
changing their business models. But some publishers already changed
their business models or were created under the new business model from
the start. Some publishers are expressing their willingness to switch to
the new model if there is a transition mechanism that does not call for
complete destruction of the old system before a new one is build on its
ruins. Why do you insist that we should wait until/if there are savings
coming from subscriptions to pay for Gold OA?!

If there is no cancellations, there is no need to pay "twice" for
publications, you insist. But how about new journals that don't need
only non-cancellations but new subscriptions? Are you happy with a
system where there is no cancellations for existing journals but no way
for new ones to come especially from smaller publishers?

Your argument is: we should not pay PLoS, Hindawi, or BiomedCentral any
article processing charges because we already are paying Elsevier,
Springer, and T&F enough and we should not double pay! What argument is

I went through your post below very carefully, and honestly cannot see
your argument behind this. In (2) you say, that means their publication
costs are being paid by subscriptions. Of course this is true, for TA
articles. Not for Gold OA articles. Your statement applies to TA
articles only, which never asked for another payment, did they?
Publishers are asking only for one payment in compensation to their
services: either a subscription fee or an article processing fee. I know
of no publisher who asked for both at the same time for the same
article. Do you know of any such publisher? Aggregating all articles
regardless of their publication model and all publishers regardless of
their underlying business model and simply stating that enough payment
is already made and no "extra" or "double" payment is not helping
clarifying the issues here.

You cannot reply to any sentence "X" by essentially saying "but X is
irrelevant because Green OA will provide 100% OA at no extra cost." I
can believe some of these Xs debated on this list are indeed irrelevant,
but certainly not all of them. We need augments and counter arguments on
how to move forward, not only assertions.

Three assertions is not a proof, not even a thousand I am afraid.

Best regards,

Ahmed Hindawi

Stevan Harnad wrote:
> On Wed, 28 Feb 2007, Ahmed Hindawi wrote:
>> 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...
>> Some would take 50% while others may be 60% or even more...
>> Let us assume 60%...
> No matter how one analyses the pennies and their provenance, the
> following is very clear, and indisputable:
> (1) Most journals are non-OA today.
> (2) That means their publication costs are being paid by
> subscriptions.
> (3) Institutional libraries pay most of those subscriptions, out of
> their current journal budgets (whatever the provenance of those budgets).
> (4) If there is ever to be a transition to OA Gold publishing,
> *that's* the money to be redirected to pay for OA Gold, not other
> money. The provenance of that subscription money is not at issue:
> what it's currently tied up in is.
> (5) That money is not being redirected today, because (as just
> noted above) it is being spent on subscriptions, for non-OA journals.
> (6) Hence if any money today *is* being redirected toward paying for
> Gold OA journal publication costs, it is not coming from the money
> that libraries are currently spending on subscriptions (which, to
> repeat, is still paying for non-OA publication costs).
> (7) Unlike (paid) Gold OA, Green OA mandates just provide OA. They
> don't cost extra, and they don't depend on either redirecting
> subscription funds nor on redirecting research funds.
> (8) If and when Green OA mandates ever do make subscriptions
> unsustainable, those savings can then be redirected to pay for Gold
> OA publication costs instead. Not before.
> (9) But what does come before, as a result of Green OA mandates, is
> OA: 100% OA.
> (10) Hence none of this penny-counting and library-budget source
> analysis has anything whatsoever to do with what research needs,
> today, which is exactly what OA self-archiving mandates will provide.
> (It is merely Gold OA, pre-emptively counting the chickens before they
> are hatched.)
> Stevan Harnad
> On Wed, 28 Feb 2007, Ahmed Hindawi wrote:
>> 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 Thu Mar 01 2007 - 13:18:30 GMT

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