Re: Cologne Summit on Open Access Publishing

From: Mark McCabe <mark.mccabe_at_ECON.GATECH.EDU>
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 2004 12:37:30 -0500

Let me respond to what Steven has described. (and by the way, Stevan, it
was nice to meet you for the first time!). The model that Chris Snyder and
I have developed to analyze journal publishing (with quality as one
dimension in the most recent paper) does not assume that authors can buy
their way into peer-review journals. Rather, it demonstrates -- using
standard economic modelling techniques -- that the quality of a journal's
editorial staff helps determine whether open access or reader pays (or some
combination of both) is optimal for a profit-maximizing publisher, a
non-profit publisher, and for society at large. In other words, for two
journals with editors of different quality, the observed pricing is likely
to be different in equilibrium.

What is the intuition? Take for example, the case of a profit maximizing
publisher. If we assume that better quality editors do a better job of
discriminating between good and bad articles, and that readers like to
avoid reading bad articles, then we show that journals with high quality
editors are more likely to use subscription fees to collect at least some
of their revenue (even if the cost of distribution is zero). The reason is
that the higher quality journal is of higher value to the reader who in
turn is willing to pay more for this benefit. The publisher, realizing
that lower prices to authors and higher prices to readers generates more
profits, adjusts prices accordingly. Let me emphasize that this effect can
be dominated by other factors, and it is not meant to apply to all cases.

Chris and I have written a number of papers on OA -- two papers for
economists, and one for a general audience (which appeared in Nature last
summer). In the case of the econ working papers I would recommend reading
the intros and conclusions if you are otherwise averse to econ jargon and
formulas. All are available on my website at Georgia Tech:

Let me apologize for any confusion at the Koeln summit.

Best, Mark McCabe!

At 01:38 PM 12/10/2004 +0000, you wrote:
>Claudia Koltzenburg has provided an excellent summary of the Cologne
>OA Publishing Summit at:
>I will only clarify a few points that were not quite captured as
>Claudia heroically keyed in as much of the discussion as she could!
>When Mark McCabe presented his hypothetical economic models for OA and
>non-OA publishing -- -- he included
>a component for the market effect on acceptance rate and quality for OA
>journal articles (predicting that author-pays may drive the number of
>articles accepted up and hence the journal quality standards down).
>I asked Mark whether he thought that peer-reviewers' acceptance criteria
>were bound by his economic model. He replied that if not, then those
>of the editor were. I suggested that he may have misunderstood the
>peer-review process...
>This question has been much-discussed in the AmSci Forum over the years,
>for example:
> "The quality of (and hence the author-demand for) peer-reviewed
> journals is based on the rigour and selectivity of the peer-review
> they provide. i.e., on the journal's quality standards. You can't buy
> your way into a peer-reviewed journal. Acceptance depends on the peers
> (the qualified experts, who review for the journals for free!). If a
> journal relaxes its quality standards and lowers its rejection-rate
> to get buy-in dollars, it simply loses its quality track-record and
> citation impact (and peer-reviewers), and then authors no longer
> want to be published in it! (Peer-review has its own "supply/demand"
> criteria, having nothing to do with money.)"
>In short, conventional supply/demand modeling of peer-reviewed publication
>involves some incorrect assumptions, not taking into account either the
>give-away nature of researchers' writings, the give-away nature of
>services, and the fact that impact itself translates into research
>and career income that is incomensurable with the trade transactions,
>whether they are for a product to the client user-institution (the
>peer-reviewed text) or a service (peer-review and certification) to the
>client author-institution. Mark McCabe's models completely miss this
>yet it is absolutely fundamental to this highly anomalous form of publication.
>McCabe's authors might as well be journalists selling their words, rather
>than researchers, advertising their quality-certified work free for all
>In her summary of my own presentation
>Claudia writes:
> "...It is a pity researchers do as yet not care enough for OA because
> with 92% of the journals being green, and 20% both green and gold,
> a big step has been made."
>What I said was that researchers do not yet know about or understand the
>causal connection between access and impact, and that even when they do,
>not enough of them (only 20%) provide open access (5% by publishing in
>OA, journals, 15% by self-archiving) unless they are "coerced" (by their
>employers and research funders) to do so. This is not because they do not
>care, but because researchers are a peculiar breed! They even had to be
>"coerced" to publish at all (publish or perish") -- by making
>their salaries and research funding contingent on publishing their
>findings. Otherwise many would just be putting their findings into a
>desk-drawer and moving on to do the next piece of research!
> "Harnad concludes that maybe this is a precondition since scientists
> must be 'bunkers' because otherwise they would be making money
> instead of doing research. Harnad sees the Berlin Declaration as
> nothing much more than a pious hope and points out that it is the
> researchers themselves who should act."
>The precondition for 100% OA is 100% OA provision by authors (either by
>in OA journals or by self-archiving). Although collecting and publicising the
>evidence that OA substantially enhances research impact will help OA
>grow, what is needed is that research employers and funders should make
>OA self-archiving an explicit condition on career advancement and research
>just as publishing itself alreday is. Signing abstract Declarations of
>Principle in favour of OA is fine, but we also need to sign and implement
>Declarations of Commitment to putting the OA Principle into Practice!
> "In an author survey, Swan & Brown (2004a, 2004b) report that the
> vast majority of their author sample indicated that [they do *not*
> self-archive now, but] they would self-archive *willingly* -- if
> their employer (or funding body) required them to do so!"
> Swan, A. & Brown, S.N. (2004a) JISC/OSI Journal Authors Survey Report.
> Swan, A. & Brown, S.N. (2004b) Authors and open access
> publishing. Learned Publishing 2004:17(3) 219-224.
>Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallieres, F., Carr, L., Hitchcock, S., Gingras,
>Y, Oppenheim, C., Stamerjohanns, H., & Hilf, E. (2004) The Access/Impact
>Problem and the Green and Gold Roads to Open Access. Serials Review 30.
>(3) Claudia quotes:
> McCabe (from the floor): if everyone self-archives and libraries
> cancel their
> subscriptions, how will financing journals work?
> Harnad: IF everything is OA ...
>What I actually replied was that "IF everything is OA" is already
>a tall order; and if/when it is met, the entire landscape changes,
>in many ways. So let us first actually get there (100% OA), rather
>than worrying instead about doomsday speculations regarding its
>hypothetical sequelae. We've already wasted a decade doing that.
>Meanwhile, speculations can be answered by counterspeculations:
>IF 100% OA generates cancellation pressure there will first be
>cost-cutting and downsizing, and IF/WHEN cancellations ever become
>so great that the remaining essential costs cannot be covered from
>toll-access-revenues, THEN there will be eo ipso the basis for a natural
>transition to the OA Publishing cost-recovery model, publishers' essential
>costs now being covered by the author-institution, for its own outgoing
>publications, out of its own cancellation *annual windfall savings*
>(ex hypothesi, under the cancellation doomsday scenario!), formerly paid
>by the user-institution to buy in the outgoing publications of other
>institutions -- but now cancelled, hence saved.
>But it is far better to act on the empirical evidence -- which is that
>(i) there is no cancellation pressure from self-archiving to date (some
>of it going on for over 10 years now, and having reached 100% in some
>subfields years ago), (ii) 92% of journals already have a green policy
>on author-self-archiving, and (iii) the actual demonstrated benefits of
>self-archiving for for research, researchers, their employers and funders
>vastly outweigh any hypothetical risks to their publishers -- rather than
>to just keep modeling and speculating: Hypotheses non Fingo.
> McCabe: Would it be correct to say that authors who are self-archiving
> are the ones who are better?
> Harnad: The usage impact is reflected in the download figure but the
> relation of reads and citation is as yet undeterminable. However,
> scientists should be in a position that they can pick the best
> stuff to quote, not just what your institution happens to have a
> subscription for.
>I'm afraid Claudia's notes got this exchange a bit garbled (or perhaps it
>*was* a bit garbled!). McCabe was asking whether the OA impact advantage
>was merely an artifact of the fact that higher-quality authors are
>selectively self-archiving their higher-quality work. I replied that
>this self-selection quality-bias was most definitely *one* of the (at
>least) 6 factors underlying the OA advantage, as I had listed them in
>my talk:
>But quality bias is certainly not the only factor, nor the biggest (though the
>studies quantifying the relative size of the contributions of the 6 factors
>remain to be done, and some of them are methodologically tricky to do):
>There is
>already evidence, however, that the OA advantage cannot be just a
>quality bias, because (i) the OA advantage persists even as the percentage of
>self-archiving increases and (ii) even at 100% OA (as in astrophysics),
>there remains an OA advantage in the form of 3 times as many downloads
>per article, compared to pre-OA.
>Also, given the fact (true for every single one of the 2.5 million
>articles published in the world's 24,000 peer-reviewed journals) that each
>of those articles is today inaccessible to many of its potential users
>(because their institutions cannot afford toll-access to the journal in
>which it appears), it is rather far-fetched to imagine that fulfilling this
>*necessary* (even if not sufficient) condition for research usage and
>impact does not actually generate usage and impact! We already know it
>substantially increases usage in the form of downloads, and we already
>know that downloads correlate significantly with citations. The rest of
>the details will unfold with time.
>This point was further elaborated in connection with Jan Velterop's
>(friendly) question:
> Jan Velterop (from the floor): do the best authors self-archive?
> Harnad: The best scientists seem to self-archive first, so for the
> time being there is the advantage of a certain quality bias (if this
> correlation holds true); [but[ by the time 100% is OA, there will
> no [longer be] a quality bias [by definition!].
>(4) Following Tim Brody's talk :
> Koch (from the floor): The UK Institute of Physics (IOP) says the
> number of downloads is about the same for OA journals as for their
> non-OA journals. Question: Does a high quality journal show the
> same effect as a low-quality journal?
> Brody: Good question, something to look into.
>ISI compared OA and non-OA journals (equating for field) and found no impact
>differences. This is comparing apples with oranges (as no two journals
>have the
>same a-priori impact).
>The right way to make this comparison is by comparing OA and non-OA articles
>within the *same* journal, same issue/year. Tim did, and found a
>significant OA
>impact advantage.
> Koch: Is the Latency inherent to OA or to technology use at large?
> Brody: in Physics, e.g., there is a strong pre-print
> culture, i.e. hits are generated through an alerting function rather
> than by browsing behaviour.
>This refers to the fact that the peak of citations is getting earlier
>and earlier across the years for OA content (in ArXiv): It is getting
>cited earlier and earlier, because both the cited work and the citing
>work are available earlier and earlier. This is factor 1 -- "Early
>Advantage" -- of the 6 components of the OA advantage. But it is not
>just for preprints! A self-archived postprint of a published article
>also has this early-advantage over non-self-archived postprints in the
>same journal/issue. And, as with preprints, the advantage is not just a
>phase-advancing of the same citation curve (everything simply happening
>earlier), but a true and permanent overall increase in the area under
>the curve (i.e., the total number of citations).
>But there is no denying that the early-advantage is most dramatic for
>(and it should be interpreted as yet another incentive to self-archive
>too!). The primary focus of the OA movement, however, continues to be the
>peer-reviewed, published postprint, not the preprint.
> Harnad summary (from the floor): if an article is freely accessible
> online, it has a higher impact. Sceptical about comparing journals,
> rather compare same author's results re citation ranking.
>This rather cryptic paraphrase has now been amplified in the discussion above.
> Frank Gannon, European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)...
> should governments and agencies interfere (e.g. NIH, Wellcome
> Trust)? (No scholar wants constrictions here, and the marketing
> of one's career should stay a personal freedom.)
> Prosser (from the floor): Telling researchers where to publish is
> not being practised; however, there is a proposal re funding bodies
> to claim to have a copy of the paper.
>David Prosser's correct rebuttal did not come through sufficiently load
>and clear,
>nor did mine:
> Harnad (from the floor): No one is proposing mandating OAP. The
> purpose of self-archiving is to make research available, and it is
> irrevelevant where it is put if it is put on an OAI compatible location.
>The point is that none of the governmental, institutional and research-funder
>OA mandates is a mandate to publish in Open Access journals! How could it be?
>How can anyone tell researchers where to publish (other than that they should
>aim for the highest-quality/highest-impact venue they can, as they do
>*All* the mandates, without exception, are OA *self-archiving* mandates,
>not OA
>publishing mandates! Yet their critic keep arguing against them (irrelevantly,
>hence ineffectually) as if they were mandates to publish in OA journals!
> "Guide for the Perplexed: Re: UK Select Committee Inquiry"
> "Critique of PSP/AAP Critique of NIH Proposal"
> "Critique of STM Critique of NIH Proposal"
> "Critique of APS Critique of NIH Proposal"
> "The UK report, press coverage, and the Green and Gold Roads to Open
> Access
> "AAU misinterprets House Appropriations Committee Recommendation"
> Gannon: What is the aim of the OA movement?
> (a) Reduce the power of big publishing companies?
> (b) Move away from impact factor driven decisions made
> by authors and selection committees?
> (c) Reduce (excessive) profits made from publication?
> (d) Make research results more available?
> (Gannon: this last aim is highly desirable);
>The *only* aim of the OA movement is (or should be) (d): OA is
>intended to solve the article access/impact problem, not the journal
>affordability/pricing problem.
>It is not the OA movement's business to (a) reduce the power of big
>publishing companies (though 100% OA itself might eventually do that).
>It is not the OA movement's business to (b) move anyone away from "impact
>factor driven" decisions (though 100% OA will certainly give them a much
>richer and stronger repertoire of objective impact indicators to use).
>It is not the OA movement's business to (c) reduce anyone's profits
>(though 100% OA itself might eventually do that).
>The sole business of the OA movement is to make peer-reviewed research
>100% OA so as to maximise their research impact by maximising potential users'
>access to them webwide.
> Re: Jan Velterop's presentation:
>Because Jan had said during his talk that he thought OA self-archiving
>was merely treating the symptom (head-ache) and not curing the cause,
>I asked:
> Harnad (from the floor): What is the purpose of the OA movement?
> Velterop: Can only answer for BMC: BMC believes OA is good, and that
> it can be done on a commercial basis.
>And one can only add, for other than BMC, that OA is not only good,
>but it is the purpose of the OA movement! And OA can also be done on
>a non-commercial basis, by author/institution self-archiving!
> Harnad: Non-Open Access is the pain.
> Velterop: BMC is also killing the cause of the pain.
>The cause of the pain is needless impact-loss from Non-Open Access and
>100% OA self-archiving cures that pain, completely. The rest is purely
>speculation about the *consequences* of 100% OA self-archiving, not
>causes. (Hypotheses non Fingo.)
>Stevan Harnad
>A complete Hypermail archive of the ongoing discussion of providing
>open access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
>is available at:
> To join or leave the Forum or change your subscription address:
> Post discussion to:
>UNIVERSITIES: If you have adopted or plan to adopt an institutional
>policy of providing Open Access to your own research article output,
>please describe your policy at:
> 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 10 2004 - 17:37:30 GMT

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