[linux-elitists] GENERAL: open-access publishing (fwd from rmichael@NORTHWESTERN.EDU)

Karsten M. Self kmself@ix.netcom.com
Sat Dec 6 14:28:17 PST 2003

on Sat, Dec 06, 2003 at 01:21:16PM +0100, Eugen Leitl (eugen@leitl.org) wrote:

> This week, Lancet (published by Elsevier) has an article by Wiley
> vice-president Brian Crawford, who claims that science could be weakened by
> open access: "The primary weakness inherent in open-access models is that
> they are based on authors paying for publication. As a result, science will
> either have a less effective filter, or will require the introduction of
> new post-publication filtering mechanisms."  The issue also has a defense
> of open access by Biomed Central's Pritpal Tamber.

Hal Varian (Dean of the School of Information Management Science at UC
Berkeley) addressed this issue in several papers.  A key point is that
peer reviewers aren't compensated, though editorial staff are.  Combined
with the small circulation (several thousand copies) of many peered
journals, per-issue costs are high, and aren't much affected by
transition from paper to electronic distribution.  However, a
publication model which bypasses much of the editorial staff _would_
reduce costs appreciably without much impact on peer review.

There's also an outfit currently operating from the Presidio in San
Francisco which offers what's essentially free scientific journal
publishing in electronic format.  Possibly peered.

    The Future of Electronic Journals
    June 1, 1997


    [Tenopir and King(1996)] have provided a comprehensive overview of
    the economics of journal production. According to their estimates,
    the ``first-copy'' costs of an academic article are between $2,000
    and $4,000. The bulk of these costs are labor costs, mostly clerical
    costs for managing the submission, review, editing, typesetting and
    setup costs.

    The marginal cost of printing and mailing an issue of a journal is
    on the order of $3. A special-purpose, nontechnical academic journal
    that publishes 4 issues per year with 10 articles each issue would
    have fixed costs of about $120,000. The variable costs of printing
    and mailing would be about $12 per year. Such a journal might have a
    subscriber list of about 600, which leads to a break-even price of
    $212.gif Of course, many journals of this size are sold by
    for-profit firms and the actual prices may be much higher: prices of
    $600 or more are not uncommon for journals of this nature. 


    [Varian goes on to describe re-engineering the process and net
    savings entailed.  KMS]

    [Odlyzko(1997)] estimates that the cost of [Ginsparg(1996)]'s
    electronic preprint server is about between $5 and $75 per paper
    These papers are formatted entirely by the authors (mostly using
    TeX) and are not refereed. Creation and electronic distribution of
    scholarly work can be very inexpensive; one has to wonder whether
    the value added by traditional publishing practices is really worth



    Pricing Electronic Journals
    D-Lib Magazine, June 1996 


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
   If spam is the question, Spamassassin is the answer.
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