ALPSP statement on BOAI

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 17 Feb 2002 21:44:41 +0000

> The "Budapest Manifesto" -- response from the Association of Learned
> and Professional Societies (ALPSP)
> ALPSP represents some 200 members from numerous countries; the substantial
> majority of these are not-for-profit publishers of scholarly and
> professional information (societies, university presses and others). As
> not-for-profit publishers, our members share a commitment to the widest
> possible dissemination of information for the good of scholarship; making
> money from the process is secondary, and where publishing surpluses are
> made, these are used to support the mission of the parent organisation.
> We know, from our own research, [see ** below]
> that formal publication continues to have
> great value to scholars, and that peer review is only one part of what they
> value. However, the processes of formal publication cost money.

Here is a very important point on which to pause and ponder:

The ALPSP indicates that formal publication is valuable to scholars.
That is certainly a point of complete agreement. One must next ask:

In the online, digital age, exactly what constitutes "formal
publication"? Is it, as in the Gutenberg age, appearing in a
publisher's journal, either on-paper or in the publisher's online
page-images (PDF)?

Or is "formal publication" rather the formal certification of a text as
having met the peer-review standards of a particular journal (name)?

ALPSP goes on to say (on the basis of its research -- on which see the
comments in the links at the end of this commentary) -- that formal
publication costs money (agreed) of which the costs of peer review are
only a part (agreed).

The question, however, is: how much do scholars value the part of
publication above and beyond peer review?

This is an empirical question, and one that the ALPSP opinion survey of
a few years ago could not possibly answer. Only the market can answer
it, by testing whether scholars (actually, the institutions who pay for
their subscriptions) value the part of formal publication that goes
above and beyond peer review to pay for it EVEN IF IT IS NOT FORCIBLY
CO-BUNDLED WITH PEER REVIEW: If given a choice between paying for peer
review alone, and paying for the rest, of which peer review is only a
part, will institutions (on behalf of their scholars) want to keep
paying for the rest?

> The advent
> of electronic publication has reduced these costs much less than was hoped;
> indeed it has added new ones, such as database creation and maintenance,
> provision of the searchability and usability which users want, and
> permanent archiving and preservation. In order for the core functions of
> formal publication to continue, they must be paid for at some point in the
> communication chain.

Again, ALPSP is forcibly co-bundling more and more add-ons (and costs)
with the peer review, not testing whether those add-ons are needed or

The true cost of peer review averages $500 per article. The amount of
revenue that journals average per article (mostly from institutional
subscription/license fees) is $2000.

> ALPSP recognises that there is a growing problem, driven by the continuing
> growth in the volume of research literature, and the much lower growth, if
> any, in the library budgets available to buy it. Many of our members
> already make archival content freely available, and do not restrict authors
> from posting and re-using their own articles;

If I understand this correctly, it means that many ALPSP publishers
make their full-text content openly accessible after a certain time has
elapsed after publication. This is very welcome (though one would want
to know how many journals, and after how much time has elapsed), but it
is too little, and too late. Research results are published so that
they are accessible to all potential users, immediately. And the
reality is that most users (more specifically, their institutions)
cannot afford the access tolls for most published (refereed) research.

The second ALPSP clause is potentially much more important: Does
"posting and re-using their own articles" include self-archiving them
online? I will provisionally assume that it does (otherwise I have no
idea what "posting" means here).

The only remaining question here is: how many ALPSP journals have this
very welcome self-archiving policy, and which ones are they?

But now we are about to run into a rather glaring contradiction:

> we encourage publishers to
> adopt the most scholarship-friendly policies that they can afford.
> In addition, a number of our members are actively engaged in developing and
> testing alternative funding models which might be more sustainable than the
> present library subscription/licence model. However, we are convinced that
> all of our scholarly communities will be ill-served by an initiative which
> promotes systematic institutional archiving of journal content without
> having in place a viable alternative economic model to fund the publication
> of that content. This can only serve to undermine the formal publishing
> process which these communities value, and we find it alarming that a
> responsible organisation proposes to subsidise such an initiative.

It is not at all clear how ALPSP can, in recognition of the access-problem,
"not restrict" authors from self-archiving, yet be "convinced that all
of our scholarly communities will be ill-served" by systematic
promotion of self-archiving.

A clarification from ALPSP would be very welcome. It would also be
helpful if the clarification took into account the fact that a
transition scenario and alternative economic model for downsizing to
peer-review costs only has indeed been proposed (though its viability
and its alternatives must wait on the growth of self-archiving to
evolve and be tested):

Stevan Harnad

**"ALPSP Research study on academic journal author"
Received on Sun Feb 17 2002 - 21:44:57 GMT

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