Re: BioMed Central and new publishing models

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 26 Dec 2003 19:11:46 +0000

Alexei Koudinov is tilting at the wrong target: The target is open-access
provision for the 2,500,000 yearly articles in the world's 24,000
journals. We will not reach that target faster if we spend our time
quarreling with the few journals (<1000) that provide open access
already! 23,000 journals-worth of articles -- 2,400,000 -- still await
open-access. Why is Alexei going on and on about BiomedCentral?

On Fri, 26 Dec 2003, Alexei Koudinov wrote:

> Aren't subsidy and volunteerism the key elements of academic science
> that needs to be published?

Yes, but contributing my services as a researcher and as author and as
referee is not quite the same as contributing my services as the manager
of the peer-review process (and perhaps as copy-editor as well).

Before assuming that this too will be covered by volunteerism and subsidy, please
read some more of the 6 years' worth of discussion that this topic has already
received in this Forum:

    "Savings from Converting to On-Line-Only: 30%- or 70%+ ?"

    "2.0K vs. 0.2K"

    "Online Self-Archiving: Distinguishing the Optimal from the Optional"

    "Separating Quality-Control Service-Providing from Document-Providing"

    "Distinguishing the Essentials from the Optional Add-Ons"

    "The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review)"

    "The True Cost of the Essentials

    "Re: The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review - NOT!)"

    "Journal expenses and publication costs"

    "Re: Scientific publishing is not just about administering peer-review"

    "Author Publication Charge Debate"

    "BioMed Central and new publishing models"

> (representing today NEAR HALF of all BMC journals)
> To run these journals editors had to accept the following BMC Conditions:
> BioMed Central is the sole publisher and owner of the journal...
> BioMed Central will pay the journal and its officers no monies, except for
> the possibility of a payment relating to the number of published articles.

It seems to me that if BMC had not proposed and supported the creation of those
open-access journals, we would have had even *fewer* open-access journals than
the few we have now, and correspondingly still less open access.

No one is forcing journals under the BMC umbrella. Nothing prevents those
who are minded to do so from founding their own open-access journals,
as Alexei did. So why this animus against one active force for increased
open-access provision?

> The question is: Will the public's (not BMC corporation's) interest be better
> served if these journals are published by Editorial Groups, perhaps with
> modest support from a grant or a library/communication technology expert
> at their Institution so there need be no article publication cost
> at all [to pay BMC profits or cover the cost of the PLoS launch]?
> If so, why not include grant or other funding mechanisms for
> Open Access in the proposed letter?

So it's about seeking those subsidies that were supposedly so readily

If it were up to me, I would *strongly* advise institutions not to provide
*a single penny* to subsidise open-access journal publication until they
have first implemented a policy of providing open access to *all* their
own toll-access journal article output through self-archiving. Until
then, it is throwing (and fighting over) pennies for the 5% solution,
while the 95% solution (self-archiving) is neglected.

I too would feel more comfortable if the 5% open-access provision that
is coming from open-access journals were noncommercial, but the field
is wide open: There is 95% space there for noncommercial open-access
publishers to occupy, if they wish to.

But in the meanwhile, I'd rather not wait; and I'd certainly not advise
institutions to waste their resources and energies on trying to create more
open-access journals one by one while there are still 23,000 to go -- when
open access to all of their articles can be provided virtually overnight
by institutional self-archiving.

Take care of the 95% that is already within reach first, now, and *then*
worry about what *more* to do. (It may well turn out that the windfall
institutional toll-savings from cancelling journal subscriptions because
the self-archived versions of their articles are accessible toll-free
will not only provide just the funds that the subsidies would have
provided to cover open-access publishing costs, but it may even hasten
the conversion of the 23,000 toll-access journals to open access!)

How many open-access articles per year would one get per institutional dollar
spent subsidising Neurobiology of Lipids compared to what that institution
would get per dollar spent on self-archiving its own toll-access journal
articles? (Self-archiving costs next to nothing per article.)

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online is available at
the American Scientist Open Access Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01 & 02 & 03):
    Post discussion to:

Unified Dual Open-Access-Provision Policy:
    BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a suitable open-access
            journal whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1 ("green"): Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable
            toll-access journal and also self-archive it.
Received on Fri Dec 26 2003 - 19:11:46 GMT

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