What should society publishers do?

From: Thomas J. Walker <tjw_at_GNV.IFAS.UFL.EDU>
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000 10:06:47 -0500

With this posting, I'd like to start a new thread, prompted by a paragraph
in Stevan's first response to my reintroducing the possibility of
transition to free Web access via sales of e-reprints.

At 05:29 PM 2/21/00 +0000, Stevan Harnad wrote:

>No, in my opinion, the paid-reprint strategy is incoherent and leads
>nowhere. Yes, the self-archiving strategy is more "confrontational,"
>but what it is confronting is a conflict of interest between research
>and publication that is intrinsic in the status quo, and that will not
>be resolved voluntarily by the interests that are pitted against those
>of research and researchers. (Why should it be? If I were an
>established journal publisher, I would not let go of the S/L/P revenue
>stream unless I had to.)

Commercial journal publishers and society journal publishers have different
stakeholders to answer to. If members of scientific societies want their
societies to offer IFWA (immediate free Web access) for the price of 100
paper reprints, the society should offer it. This is especially true since
societies are strapped to fund e-versions of paper-published journals, and
IFWA sales could bring profits that could pay for e-publishing non-IFWA
articles (immediately, with restricted access) or backfiles (with free

>From 1994 until 1999, researchers that I discussed the matter with and
those attending my talks on e-publication did not personalize the advantage
of e-publication of journal articles. Starting last year, researchers seem
to realize that Web access was superior to library access _for them_ and
that free access should be affordable. For the first time, there seems to
be the likelihood that most authors want IFWA and would be willing to begin
to pay for it. [Remember, many members of this forum believe that authors
and their institutions will eventually be willing to pay for it.]

Two reasons that those running scientific societies have not already
offered their authors IFWA is that they are scared of free Web access to
journal articles and their members have not demanded that it be offered.
Now that members are beginning to yearn for IFWA and will soon demand it, I
predict society publishers will start offering it. One society has
recently started:

In June 1999 the Governing Board of the Entomological Society of America,
which publishes four well-respected entomological journals, voted to offer
IFWA in the form of "unlimited PDF reprints" for _less_ than the price of
100 reprints. In December 1999 the Board voted to post articles on PubMed
Central for the same price as ESA's unlimited PDF reprints, unless there
were significant additional expenses incurred by PMC posting. In the
latter case, the price would be increased to cover the additional cost.

Question for discussion: What should a society do relative to making its
journals Web accessible during the transition from the current system to a
system of free access to all refereed journal literature with quality
control and certification paid for by publication fees?

Tom Walker

Thomas J. Walker
Department of Entomology & Nematology
University of Florida, PO Box 110620, Gainesville, FL 32611-0620
E-mail: tjw_at_gnv.ifas.ufl.edu FAX: (352)392-0190
Web: http://csssrvr.entnem.ufl.edu/~walker/tjwbib/walker.htm
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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