A note of caution about SCOAP3 and the pre-emptive "flip" model for conversion to Gold OA

From: Richard Poynder <richard.poynder_at_btinternet.com>
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2008 12:08:13 +0100

In expressing caution about SCOAP3 Stevan Harnad says:

"Collective, bundled annual institutional subscriptions (for *that is
exactly what they would be*!) are simply the wrong model for paying for
individual, per-article peer review services. Twenty-five thousand
peer-reviewed journals (publishing 2.5 million articles annually) cannot
each agree in advance to *accept* an annual quota of N(i) articles from each
of N (c.10,000) institutions worldwide (and vice versa), even if many, most
or all of the journals are "bundled" into a collective, bundled
omni-publisher "Big Deal." Authors choose journals, journals compete for
articles, and *referees * (not consortial subscribers) decide what gets
accepted, where. (This could conceivably all be done in bulk for bulk
publishers, on an annual pro-rated basis, based on last year's institutional
publications, but then that would hardly be different from -- and certainly
not simpler or more accurate than -- just paying each journal by the

Commenting on my blog, BioMed Central's Matthew Cockerill says

"This article overlooks a crucially important distinction between the
pricing of article processing charges and the pricing of subscriptions. With
article processing charges, publishers are operating in a genuinely
competitive market to offer a service that is good value for money.

"Under the open access publishing model, if a journal charges over-the-odds
for the service that it provides, authors are free to choose an alternative
publication outlet for their research. In contrast, under the subscription
model, if you need access to the published results of a particular piece of
research, there is no true substitute for access to the journal article
concerned. This lack of substitutability allows subscription prices to rise,
largely unchecked by competitive pressure."

Cockerill cites the 2006 EC report into Europe's scientific publication
system (http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/06/414)
to support his argument:

"In comparison with the current reader/library-pay model, both the
author-pay and the pay-per-download models would raise price sensitivity -
this is especially true of the author-pay model, since substitution
possibilities among journals are higher for authors than for readers - and
could therefore be expected to lower prices and raise access to knowledge."

Question: Is it true that a Gold OA article-processing-charge model will
create a situation in which "publishers are operating in a genuinely
competitive market to offer a service that is good value for money"?

If it is true, then is not Stevan Harnad's concern that before moving to
Gold OA we must first "downsize publishing and its costs to just the costs
of peer review" by "offloading access-provision, archiving and their costs
onto the network of Green OA Institutional Repositories
(http://roar.eprints.org/)" a misplaced concern?


Richard Poynder
Received on Wed Jun 25 2008 - 18:00:09 BST

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