Re: The Logic of Page Charges to Free the Journal Literature

From: Paul M. Gherman <Gherman_at_LIBRARY.VANDERBILT.EDU>
Date: Thu, 23 Sep 1999 15:55:57 +0100

> Mark Doyle said:
> > There are two big hurdles: 1) reducing the cost of handling electronic
> > manuscripts and 2) author/institution/funding agency acceptance of
> > paying submission fees up front.
> Regarding 2), I have heard some concerns that this would unfairly
> penalize the most productive institutions/departments. Institution
> A producing 500 research papers p.a. will be liable for twice the
> level of charges of less effective Institution B producing only 250
> papers p.a. This may make the management of Institution A less
> than enthusiastic about such a move towards submission charges.

I recently wrote an "Opinion" piece for the SPARC Newsletter
on this issue. And I have been struggling with the same
issue that Mark raises. That productive institutions would
carry a disproportionate cost using pages charges. I have
now begun to realize that if an organization like SPARC
were to collect page charges from universities based on
faculty head count and their journals budget, SPARC could
then negotiate with publishers for standardized page
charges and pay these charges for the consortium of
universities who were SPARC members. SPARC could act
somewhat like the serials jobbers we now have who pay for
our subscriptions to publishers.

If a faculty member from a non-SPARC subscriber university
submitted a paper to a cooperating journal, they would be
expected to pay the full charges themselves. I am sure
faculty would quickly pressure their library to join SPARC,
much quicker than they would pressure the library to
purchase a new subscription. Having SPARC play this role
would solve Mark's concern, and give universities added
bargaining power with universities to control page costs and
the number of articles published per year.

Indeed, SPARC could negotiate with each publisher for the
number of articles or pages to be published each year and
the cost per page. This number would be based on past
publishing history. Publishers would therefore have their
budget met upfront without fear of subscription
cancellation, and they would have a target number of
submission to accept. Year by year the number of articles
could be negotiated up or down with SPARC with feedback
from the academic community on the value of articles
published the year before. Low quality journals could
expect SPARC to support fewer article the following year.
This system might then slow the publication rate of trash
and unneeded, repetitive articles.

Paul M. Gherman
University Librarian
611B General Library
419 21st Avenue South
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN 37240
Office: (615) 322-7120
Fax: (615) 343-8279
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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