December D-Lib piece

From: Robert Apfel <>
Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2000 19:36:15 +0000

Dear Professor Harnad:

I enjoyed reading your December D-Lib piece "Free at Last: The Future
of Peer Reviewed Journals." I agree with your basic arguments.

The development of metadata tagging conventions that will allow for
open archives is an important initiative that will serve authors and
readers everywhere.

I am involved a new experiment for the Acoustical Society of
America---one that confronts your basic premises concerning the future
of peer reviewed literature. We have developed Acoustics Research
Letters Online (ARLO), which is currently a letters part of the Journal
of the Acoustical Society of America, a subscription journal. But as
of this July, it will be a free-to-individuals journal. Unique
features of this journal are that it accepts multimedia (e.g., audio
and video files), and it features an online Manuscript Management
Systems for handling the peer review process. The accepted peer
reviewed articles, which include copyediting, are then handed off to
the American Institute of Physics for secure posting, managing
multimedia files, archiving, indexing, etc. This process permits a
submitted article to be peer reviewed and published in as little as one

As your properly pointed out, the QC/C costs are modest, but not
negligible. We handle them by charging a per-article author charge of
$350 for accepted articles, and nothing for rejected ones. This is not
optimal, but until the S/L/P savings come back to us, we have no
alternative. The costs cover a fee for the Manuscript Manager,
copyediting, posting, indexing, and archiving, etc. (The poor Editor
does not take a fee!)

Although individual readers are not charged for accessing the articles
online, we plan to ask libraries to pay a modest fee ($150/yr) to
support the development of this approach, as well as the long-term
archiving and migrating of material (especially multimedia files),
which was not directly addressed as a long-term cost in your article.

Of course, the problem is that the publisher, who has the QC/C costs,
must somehow recover costs from the libraries and other subscribers who
now have the S/L/P savings. The mechanism by which this transfer takes
place still eludes me.

Another approach for funding is to put on the hat of the taxpayer. I,
the taxpayer, fund science and technology research funded by
governments. For every dollar (or pound) of my tax money, I should
insist that the government insist that the researcher spend a certain
portion (1%?) on dissemination of research. Yes, grantees ask for
money for publications, but often they do not use it, but rather
rebudget it for salaries or supplies. They then go to the publishers
that have no author fees, which are, of course, the for-profit
publishers that tend to charge the libraries the greatest subscription
fees for their journals. By requiring the expenditure of a certain
expenditure for dissemination (use it or lose it), we can pay up front,
thereby eliminating downstream costs and complications (like fulfilment
of subscriptions, etc.).

Thank you for laying out such reasonable arguments in your article. If
we can only get entrenched constituencies to look not only at their own
operations but also at the new paradigms demanded by the new
technologies and opportunities, the path ahead will become much


Robert Apfel
ARLO Editor

Robert E. Apfel
Yale University
Voice: 203-432-4346
Fax: 203-432-7654
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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