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

From: Andrew A. Adams <a.a.adams_at_READING.AC.UK>
Date: Fri, 23 May 2008 12:46:38 +0100

> 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?'

There is a significant fallacy in the assumptions here, though. In order to
publish one must first have been able to read. All scholarly work, whether it
is HE Physics or postmodern cultural theory, requires access to the existing
body of work before sensible writing can be produced.

The comment that "we _have_ publish for free and read for free" is so gross a
simplification that it amounts to a lie. I don't care, as an individual, that
my University subscribes to atmospheric physics and meteorology journals (and
since my University has a highly rated Meteorology department they subscribe
to many of these) because even in my highly interdisciplinary work I have
never yet come across a need to consult one. However, I am regularly coming
across journal from sociology, economics, computer science, history, and law
that I need individual access to but for which my University has either never
subscribed or does not have access to the particular issue (old or new) that
I wish to read a paper in. I am then faced with fees of up to hundreds of
dollars for access to one article. This is the reality of the monetary costs
inhibiting research today. I do NOT have "read for free". I am particularly
disadvantaged by this because I work in a highly interdisciplinary field
(social, legal and ethical impacts of computer and communication technology)
and because I am building a new (to my university) research group. The
blessed who work in large long-lived groups dedicated to a narrow field of
research and who therefore never have an access problem themselves should
recognise that they are losing impact because their deep research is an input
to broad research such as mine, and that I'm losing out because the nature of
my field militates against the few economies of scale that current publishing
models generate. In the world before the internet I would have had no option
but to spend my time travelling to other institutions to use their libraries
or paying for some form of inter-library loan. But the internet is here and
SHOULD provide me with the access I need but it is prevented by academic
inertia and publishing vested interests, the former often generated by a
combination of lack of understanding of scholarly communication in the
broader community and a lack of courage in dealing with change all of which
is exacerbated by publisher FUD.

Dr Andrew A Adams, School of Systems Engineering
The University of Reading, Reading, RG6 6AY, UK
Received on Fri May 23 2008 - 14:46:26 BST

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