The Annual Costs Per Deposit of Hosting Refereed Research Output Centrally Versus Institutionally

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 31 Jan 2010 06:47:51 -0500

On 30-Jan-10, at 9:47 PM, David Prosser wrote:

>> SANDY THATCHER: it's the peer review that is the most expensive
>> part of the whole process, and arXiv is not in the business of
>> peer reviewing.
> DAVID PROSSER: Is that true, Sandy? Can we have a reference please?
> Tenopir and King back in 2004 suggested that 'manuscript receipt
> processing, disposition decision-making, identifying reviewers or
> referees and review processing' constituted 26% of the direct
> costs of producing an article (which they estimated at $1700 on
> average).
> Of course, costs may have shifted in the years since then.
> Which is why a reference would be welcome.

What Sandy said is perfectly correct:

(1) The cost of providing peer review (c. $500 per article) is indeed
the most expensive part of the process of providing a peer-reviewed
article for free (OA) by depositing it in a central repository like
Arxiv (or in the author's own Institutional Repository, IR).

(2) And Arxiv does not provide the peer review. (Nor does any other

(3) Low as it is, $7 per article just for deposit and archiving is
probably an overestimate, because Arxiv needs to do far too much work
to process and store all the world's institutions' physics deposits
centrally: It would cost even less per article for an Institutional
Repository (IR) that archives only its own annual research output (and
knows all its own researchers, hence need not do the extra generic
precautionary controls). (Be careful not to jig the estimate by
factoring in the costs of online infrastructure that the institution
already has, regardless of whether it has an IR: just the one-time IR
set-up cost, the extra server and disk-space, etc., plus the cost per
deposit and annual maintenance of the IR only.)

It would be useful to have IRs' estimates of their annual cost per
article deposited -- but only from mature mandated IRs that are
already well on the way to capturing 100% of their annual
institutional output of refereed journal articles. (Obviously the IR
price per article will be somewhat higher for IRs that are still only
capturing only 15% or less of their annual refereed research output,
as most IRs today still are, because they have not yet mandated

Another useful comparison would be the cost -- in money and time -- of
doing the unnecessary IR "quality controls" and preprocessing that
many IRs think, superstitiously and superfluously, that they need to
do. (In this case, estimates from all the immature, near-empty IRs are
relevant too.)

At Southampton ECS, the first mandated IR of all (since 2002
  ), we realized within the first year of the mandate that the
"quality control" (for the content and metadata of the deposit) was
based on a completely unnecessary and dysfunctional misanalogy with
library collections and cataloguing, that all it did was create
needless work and backlogs for the "quality-controllers" and needless
resistance and counterproductive resentment from depositing authors
who, having taken the trouble of depositing their refereed final
drafts, as mandated, were then denied the immediate satisfaction of
seeing them go immediately online and start getting downloaded:
instead, they had to go into a quality-control queue, sometimes for
days or weeks, as the volume of mandated deposits to "process" grew.
We quickly jettisoned the gratuitous process and have seen the IR's
deposits growing happily ever since:

Leave any "quality control" for your institutional authors' peer-
reviewed final drafts in the background. If something is wrong, users
will let the author know; if users don't squawk (or there are no
users!), the slip-up probably isn't even worth correcting. Focus on
solving the real problem, which is not "quality control" but capturing
the IR's target content: the institution's full annual output of
refereed research.

And remember that -- whilst journals still exist and subscriptions are
still paying for *their* quality control -- your IR is not hosting the
all-important version-of-record, but merely an OA supplement.

A word to the wise...


> David
> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> [] On Behalf Of Sandy Thatcher
> Sent: 29 January 2010 01:24
> To:
> Subject: Re: ArXiv Grows Up, Adopts Subscription-like Model
> Uh, it's the peer review that is the most expensive part of the
> whole process, and arXiv is not in the business of peer
> reviewing.
>> What really struck me about the arXiv business model is the
>> phenomenal cost-effectiveness of arXiv.
>> At under $7 per article (that's the total cost!), arXiv manages
>> all of the technical aspects of disseminating scholarly articles
>> -including storage, sustaining a heavily used system, developing
>> the search interface, and even working with publishers so that
>> arXiv also works as a submission platform for some journals.
>> wow!
>> Heather Morrison, MLIS
>> The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics
Received on Sun Jan 31 2010 - 11:48:21 GMT

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