Re: Budapest Open Access Initiative

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 16 Feb 2002 18:24:29 +0000

On Sat, 16 Feb 2002 [identity removed] wrote:

> High quality publishing still requires real time and costs involved at the
> editorial and production levels. The page printing and mailing costs may be
> obviated, but that leaves a real kernel of costs that must be covered. The
> alternative is a literature filled with unreviewed garbage, formatted in a
> haphazard and increasingly chaotic way.
> There is nothing in this world that is free. Food, clothing,
> transportation, shelter all cost money, and someone, somewhere has to pay,
> even for these necessities of life.
> It is so much more reasonable, then, that non-necessities should be
> recognized as having costs, and that the reasonable costs should be paid.
> You can argue that the costs should be paid by the users, or you could argue
> that they should be paid by governments, but the undeniable reality is that
> they must be paid. These costs run to about 30% of the budget of most
> journals, and you cannot pretend that they do not exist.

Dear Professor [identity removed]:

I completely agree with you that there is a real kernel of costs
that must be covered. The BOAI is fully cognizant of this, and
is taking it fully into account in its initiative.

It might help, though, to look very briefly at the arithemtic
(on which our estimates appear to agree fully with yours!):

The amount that the entire planet is paying, collectively, per paper
currently (mainly in institutional subscriptions and licenses) is
$2000-$5000 per published article. The cost of implementing peer
review, again per article, is $200-$500.

If and when institutions are no longer paying their annual 100%
subscriptions/license fees, they will have plenty of windfall savings
out of which to pay the 10-30% of them that went toward peer review
-- but per outgoing institutional paper published now, instead of per
incoming paper subscribed to.

Does the "real kernel of costs" extend to more than the cost of
implementing peer review (peers review for free)? That is for the
market to decide. If institutions want to keep paying for more
paper subscriptions and/or for publishers' PDF page-images, they
can do so. And while they do so, there is no problem about covering
the peer-review costs, for they are already wrapped into those
subscription/license costs.

But the test of whether or not there would still be a market for those
added-values even if the peer-reviewed versions were accessible online
(but not the paper edition, nor the publisher's formatted PDF) is to
allow users the choice. That is precisely what self-archiving is
intended to do: Researchers self-archive their own peer-reviewed final
drafts (not the publisher's PDF) in their university's OAI-compliant
Eprint Archives. That makes them openly accessible to all (and
interoperable), and it allows users and their institutions to make the

If, as you predict, user-institutions find authors' peer-reviewed
final drafts insufficient for their needs, then they will register this
by continuing to subscribe to the publisher's print and/or PDF edition
for a fee. If your prediction instead proves incorrect, and users are
satisfied with the peer-reviewed final draft in the OAI-compliant
Eprint Archives, then they will not continue to subscribe, and the
peer-review costs -- the "real kernel" -- will be amply covered from
10-30% of their annual institutional windfall savings, per outgoing
published paper (instead of as incoming access tolls on incoming
papers, as now).

So, as you see, there is no disagreement between us here.


Stevan Harnad
Received on Sat Feb 16 2002 - 18:25:11 GMT

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