Re: The cost of peer review and electronic distribution of scholarly journals

From: Ept <ept_at_BIOSTRAT.DEMON.CO.UK>
Date: Thu, 22 May 2008 15:03:50 +0100

Re 'Open access does more harm than good. . . .'

Colleagues, even though we have a personal subscription to Nature, we seem
to be unable to access Correspondence online. Therefore I can only summarise
the letter in our printed copy from Raghavebdra Gadagkar, Centre for
Ecological Sciences, IISc, Bangalore.

The letter is mostly concerned with the comparitive advantage of pay to
publish versus pay to read. The cost of peer review is not addressed, though
reference is made to the perceived bias against developing country authors
during the review process. The author only refers to OA journals, and only
to those that make a charge for publication. There is no reference to the
majority of OA journals that make no charge for publication, and no
reference to OA Institutional Repositories.
His concluding paragraph says, 'A publish for free, read for free' model may
one day prove to be viable. Meanwhile, if I have to choose between the two
evils, I prefer the 'publish for free and pay to read' model over the 'pay
to publish and read for free' one. Because if I must choose between
publishing and reading, I would choose to publish. Who would not?'

It would seem that the author is uninformed about the realities of OA and
believes the only option at present is to pay to publish in OA journals.

So I feel a letter should be sent to Nature explaining a) most OA journals
make no publication charge, b) there is a vast amount of OA matrerial in
IRs, c) the IISc already has an IR registered in OpenDOAR (its description
says, ' This site is a university repository providing access to the
publication output of the institution', but it seems Dr Gadagkar is not
aware of it). Additionally, the letter should include information on the
great amount of usage of OA Journals (eg Bioline International recorded 3.5
million full text downloads in 2007 from >70 no-fee journals published in
develping countries) and OA repositories (eg, from EPT

Dr Gadagkar can have his cake and eat it right now.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Stevan Harnad" <harnad_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>
Sent: Thursday, May 22, 2008 1:38 PM
Subject: Re: The cost of peer review and electronic distribution of
scholarly journals

> ** Apologies for Cross-Posting **
> On Thu, 22 May 2008, N. Miradon wrote:
> > The current issue of Nature has correspondence from Dr Raghavendra
> > Gadagkar.
> > The abstract of his letter (available at [1]) compares and contrasts
> > 'publish for free and pay to read' with 'pay to publish and read for
> > free'.
> > To read the letter in full will cost you USD 18.
> >
> > N Miradon
> >
> > [1]
> > Nature 453, 450 (22 May 2008) | doi:10.1038/453450c; Published online 21
> > May
> > 2008
> Here is the part you can read for free:
> Open-access more harm than good in developing world
> Raghavendra Gadagkar
> Centre for Ecological Sciences,
> Indian Institute of Science,
> Bangalore 560012, India
> The traditional 'publish for free and pay to read' business model
> adopted by publishers of academic journals can lead to disparity
> in access to scholarly literature, exacerbated by rising journal
> costs and shrinking library budgets. However, although the 'pay to
> publish and read for free' business model of open-access publishing
> has helped to create a level playing field for readers, it does more
> harm than good in the developing world...
> It is easy to guess what else the letter says: That at the prices
> currently charged by those Gold OA publishers that charge for Gold OA
> publishing today, it is unaffordable to most researchers as well as to
> their
> institutions and funders in India and elsewhere in the Developing World.
> This is a valid concern, even in view of the usual reply (which is that
> many Gold OA journals do not charge a fee, and exceptions are made by
> those that do charge a fee, for those who cannot afford to pay it).
> The concern is that current Gold OA fees would not scale equitably if
> they became universal.
> However, the overall concern is misplaced. The implication is that
> whereas the user-access-denial arising from the the unaffordability
> of subscription fees (user-institution pays) is bad, the
> author-publication-denial arising from the unaffordability of Gold
> OA publishing fees (author-institution pays) would be worse.
> But this leaves out Green OA self-archiving, and the Green OA
> self-archiving mandates that are now growing worldwide.
> Not only does Green OA cost next to nothing to provide, but once it
> becomes universal, if it ever does go on to generate universal
> subscription cancellations too -- making the subscription model of
> publishing cost recovery unsustainable -- universal Green OA will also
> by the very same token generate the release of the annual user-institution
> cancellation fees to pay the costs of publishing on the Gold OA
> (author-institution pays) cost-recovery model.
> 9w
> e152.htm
> The natural question to ask next is whether user-institution costs and
> author-institution costs will balance out, or will those institutions
> that used more research than they provided benefit and those
> institutions that provided more research than they used lose out?
> This would be a reasonable question to ask (and has been asked before)
> g+
> amsci+%22net+provider%22&btnG=Search
> -- except that it is a fundamental mistake to assume that the *costs* of
> publishing would remain the same under the conditions of universal Green
> OA.
> It is far more realistic to expect that if and when journals (both their
> print editions and their online PDF editions) are no longer in demand
> -- because users are all instead using the authors' OA postprints,
> self-archived in their IRs -- that journals will convert to Gold OA
> not under the current terms of Gold OA (where journals still provide
> most of the products and services of conventional journal publishing,
> apart from the print edition), but under substantially scaled-down terms.
> Harnad, S. (2007) The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged
> Transition. In: The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of
> the Electronic Age. L'Harmattan, pp. 99-105.
> In particular, all the current costs of providing both the print edition
> and the PDF edition, as well as all current costs of access-provision
> and archiving will vanish (for the publisher), because they have been
> off-loaded onto the the distributed network of Green OA IRs, each hosting
> their own peer-reviewed, published postprints. The only service the
> peer-reviewed journal publisher will need to provide is peer review
> itself.
> That is why Richard Poynder's recent query (about the true cost of peer
> review alone) is a relevant one.
> As I have said many times before, based on my own experience of editing
> a peer-reviewed journal for a quarter century, as well as the estimates
> that can be made from the costs of Gold OA journals *that provide only
> peer review and nothing else today*, the costs per paper of peer review
> alone will be so much lower than the costs per paper of conventional
> journal publishing today, or even the costs per paper of most Gold OA
> publishing today, that the problem of the possibility of imbalance between
> net user-institution costs and net author-institution costs will vanish,
> just as the the subscription model vanished.
> Alma Swan has forwarded the link to a JISC-funded study of such questions
> being conducted by John Houghton (Australia) and Charles Oppenheim
> (UK) (in the context of UK research, where there are, I assure you,
> author-institutions that are every bit as worried about current Gold
> OA publishing fees as Developing World institutions are) and RIN has
> released a study:
> larlypublishing.aspx
> Alma also forwarded this study, by RIN:
> Peter Suber has pointed to Fytton Rowland's 2002 estimates of the
> cost of peer review alone:
> Rowland, F. The Peer Review Process. Learned Publishing, 15(4) 247-58.
> Peter writes:
> "Rowland does a literature survey to determine the costs of peer
> review (see Section 5). He concludes (Section 7) that it's about
> $200 per submitted paper, or $400 per published paper at a journal
> with a rejection rate of 50%.
> "I'm not in a position to vouch for the results, but it's the only
> paper I've seen trying to answer this narrow question.
> "Note that the paper came out in 2002 and doesn't reflect the latest
> generation of journal management software. This matters because
> steadily improving software (including open-source software) is
> steadily taking over the clerical chores of facilitating peer review,
> and thereby reducing its costs."
> I would add that even at $400 per paper, that would make peer review
> alone cost only 10% of the average price of $4000 that Andrew Odlyzko
> estimated was being paid per article in 1997 (i.e., the total collective
> contribution summed across subscribing institutions) and less than
> a third of most Gold OA publishing fees per article today.
> Odlyzko, A. (1997) The economics of Electronic Journals.
> First Monday 2(8)
> Stevan Harnad
> .h
> tml
> If you have adopted or plan to adopt a policy of providing Open Access
> to your own research article output, please describe your policy at:
> BOAI-1 ("Green"): Publish your article in a suitable toll-access
> journal
> OR
> BOAI-2 ("Gold"): Publish your article in an open-access journal
> if/when
> a suitable one exists.
> in BOTH cases self-archive a supplementary version of your article
> in your own institutional repository.
Received on Thu May 22 2008 - 15:15:52 BST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:49:19 GMT