Re: Exchange Regarding Open Access Journals

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 3 May 2007 13:30:14 +0100

On Thu, 3 May 2007, Martin J. Osborne wrote:

> > SH:
> > (3) This journal will charge about $1000 to publish, which is within the
> > current going rate for OA journal publication fees.
> MJO:
> The "going rate" surely depends on the field. Theoretical Economics,
> an Open Access journal (of which I happen to be the Managing Editor)
> charges a submission fee of $75 and no publication fee for authors who
> use the software standard in our field (LaTeX).

You are quite right. In fact, as Peter Suber frequently points out, the
majority of the Gold OA Journals listed in the Directory of Open Access
Journals (DOAJ) do not charge for publication at
all. They either continue to cover publishing costs out of subscriptions,
while making their online version freely accessible to all, or they have
other sources of funding, such as subsidies or voluntarism.

The (unidentified) journal under discussion here, however, as well as all
of the high-profile journals usually associated with OA (such as the PLoS
and BMC journals) do charge for publication, and in the same range as the
(unidentified) journal under discussion (not yet listed in DOAJ). In
addition, there is now a very large number of hybrid-Gold OA journals
that offer OA as an option to the author, likewise in the price range
in question. (Those journals, not being OA journals, but merely offering
an extra OA option to the author are, rightly, not covered by DOAJ.)

So I think the description "current going rate for OA journal publication fees"
was quite representative and accurate.

Please note that although I of course endorse publishing in Gold OA
journals for authors who can afford to do so today, and I also happen
to believe that one day all journals will convert to Gold OA, I am not
an advocate of publishing in Gold OA journals as the means of providing
OA today. There are nine reasons for this, the decisive three being
*(3) - *(6).

Publishing in OA journals in order to provide OA to one's research output,
is nonoptimal and premature today because:

(1) Most journals (90%) are still subscription-based journals today.

(2) Institutions' potential publication funds are still tied up in paying
for ongoing journal subscriptions today.

(3) OA publishing charges are still far too high today; they need to
be reduced to just the true costs of implementing peer review alone
(and the price you quote, though on the low side, is much closer to
those true costs).

*(4) 100% OA can be achieved, immediately, today, through (Green) OA
self-archiving, by authors, in their own Institutional Repositories,
depositing their own articles, published in today's conventional,
subscription-based journals (90%).

*(5) Green OA self-archiving can be, and is being, mandated by researchers'
institutions and funders worldwide, in order to maximize research usage and
impact, and thereby research productivity and progress:

*(6) 100% OA is needed today, indeed it is already greatly overdue; research
usage and impact, productivity and progress are being lost daily, and
cumulatively, as long as we delay mandating Green OA self-archiving (e.g.,
waiting instead for Gold).

(7) 100% Green OA may also force cost-reduction and downsizing to the true
essentials on the part of conventional subscription-based journals, eventually.

(8) 100% Green OA may also force conventional subscription-based journals to
convert to Gold OA, eventually.

(9) 100% OA, however, is needed today, not eventually, and Green OA
mandates can and will provide it, today, without continuing to wait and
hope for an eventual, affordable conversion to Gold OA by all journals.

> > SH:
> > (5) This means that for now OA publishing charges are over and above
> > what is already being spent on subscriptions.
> >
> MJO:
> I don't understand the meaning of this claim. Suppose journal X
> charges a subscription and then journal Y, which is OA, enters the
> scene. If everyone who used to submit to X switches to Y, the
> subscription fees will be replaced by submission/publication fees. If X
> charged $500 per volume to 300 libraries and Y publishes 40 papers per
> volume, even with a publication fee of $1000, the scientific community
> will save $110,000 (= 300*$500 - 40*$1000).

Your calculation is absolutely correct -- and I have made it many, many
times before: apologies for not posting the links to the Forum this time:
they were included in the blogged version of the same posting:

    "The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review)"

    "Hypothetical Sequel" [To 100% Green Self-Archiving]

However, that calculation misses the critical elements for this transition:

(a) Subscriptions are paid by user-institutions; publication fees are paid by

(b) Individual authors, not institutions, decide, article by article,
which journal to publish in and when.

(c) Institutions, collectively guided by their users, decide which journals to
subscribe to, yearly, journal by journal.

(d) Publishers decide whether and when to convert to Gold OA publishing fees, and
at what price, journal by journal.

Hence one can do the hypothetical a-priori arithmetic all one likes, but that
does not convert journals to OA, let alone Gold OA at a price that reflects its
true costs; nor does it convert committed institutional subscription budgets to
institutional publication-fee budgets for paying those true costs, across all
subscribing institutions.

The downsizing and transition to Gold OA is likely to happen eventually,
but only after it has first been preceded (and driven) by the transition
to 100% Green OA. The transition to Green OA, however -- unlike the
transition to Gold OA -- is entirely within the hands and reach of the
research community (researchers, their institutions and their funders)
today: It merely has to be mandated.

The good news is that the transition to Gold OA -- which is *not* in the
research community's hands -- is far less urgent or consequential than
the transition to Green OA, which *is* in their hands. And the transition
to Green OA will already provide the 100% OA that the OA movement is
all about, and for.

OA is *not* about journal affordability; it is about research
accessibility! Although it will not solve the journal affordability
problem, 100% Green OA will reduce it to a far more minor problem, lacking
the urgency it has today, when it is still wrapped up with the research
accessibility problem. Research accessibility is the true motivation for
OA, for the research community, who are the only ones who can provide
OA, and are also its primary beneficiaries.

    "The green and the gold roads to Open Access"

Stevan Harnad

> --
> Martin J. Osborne
> Department of Economics
> 150 St. George Street
> University of Toronto
> Toronto
> M5S 3G7
> Canada
> +1 416-978-5094
> Have you seen
Received on Thu May 03 2007 - 13:58:52 BST

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