Re: A Research Physicist's Objections to a Self-Archiving Mandate

From: R. Physicist <r_physicist_at_HOTMAIL.COM>
Date: Sun, 15 Jan 2006 21:29:59 -0500

You (SH) stated:

>The self-archiving right is absolutely all that is needed and
>perfectly "OA compliant". (Actually, OAI-compliant means compliant
>with the OAI metadata tagging protocol, and that's a good idea too,
>but peripheral). IOP, by the way, is already a 100% green publisher,
>so there is no need even to specify this:

    RP: Actually, if you go by what is listed at
    then the Royal Society is a "green" publisher as well - and, so
    it seems, are the vast majority of the other standard journals and
    publishers that I know of. (However, the Royal Society of Medicine,
    e.g., is not.)

    But I think that this criterion - which is just tolerance of
    depositing some sort of copy of the papers they publish in a publicly
    accessible data base, is not the same as what people like to refer
    to as "Open Access" journals. The latter, as I said in our exchange,
    is really what I would call "Author Pays" (or, in some instances,
    100% institutionally subsidized) journals, which subscribers get
    for free (at least, in their electronic version).

    I don't think the latter is actually at all desirable, for the
    reasons that I described in our posted exchange. I would prefer
    to see the publication of journals, if they are viable at all,
    "subsidized" by the (relatively few) paper subscriptions sustained
    at those rather wealthy institutions that can afford it, while the
    electronic version is "sold" to all others, but at cost price. (By
    "cost price", I mean recovery of incremental overhead and production
    costs, beyond whatever is required to publish the paper version.)

    If this latter formula could be made to work in a stable way, the
    funding organizations could perhaps help keep such journals afloat by
    paying a part of the huge paper subscription costs at a sufficient
    number of large libraries to assure their viability. This would be
    much more effective than subsidizing large page charges billed to
    individual authors to allow them to publish in them. (Of course,
    this would mean funding certain library budgets, which research
    funding organizations may not like to be seen doing - but what
    is wrong with using a small fraction of their money, effectively,
    to fund "research libraries"?)

    The currently proposed RC UK's alternative of encouraging publication
    in "Author pays" journals, besides removing a substantial chunk from
    the funds available for their research, would also especially impair
    those authors whose grants (across disciplines) are on a relatively
    modest scale, or who have none at all. This sort of mechanism, though
    by current definitions is labelled as "Open Access" has nothing good
    about it - since it effectively subsidizes the "reader", or library,
    community, while taxing the research community producing the results.

    The "generous offer" of the RC UK's to subsidize page charges at
    such OA journals will, no doubt, turn out to be completely phony,
    of course. They will not agree to simply pay, sight unseen, the page
    charges of any author publishing in any such journal ( "Just send us
    the bill!" Ha!). What they will do is to say that putting a certain
    figure down for publication charges when calculating the budget in a
    research grant proposal is legitimate - which is already the case,
    and has always been, e.g. at NSF or NSERC - and if these rise,
    to finance such "OA" journals, then this is still legitimate. If
    they didn't do this, they would have to subtract such page-charge
    subsidies from the funds globally made available for research funding,
    since no-one is going to make more public money available to the RC's
    just because they adopt such a policy. In the end, the authors pay
    from their research grants, one way or another, if they have them,
    and from their pockets, if they do not.

    And if in one area (say, medicine, or chemistry, or high energy
    physics), these are on average of the order of five to ten times
    higher than another (say, mathematics, or mathematical physics),
    with the consequence that for one researcher, the publications costs
    only represent, say, 3-5% of their grants, while for another, it is
    more like 15-25%, then ... too bad! (Not to mention the percentage
    increments for individual researchers, which could be anywhere from
    these figures up to infinity.

    The ONLY conceivable virtue of a page charge to authors would be that,
    by paying this, they are purchasing something that is valuable to
    their work which they would not have otherwise - such as a referee
    who is willing to properly invest the time to check over the details
    of their results, and vouch - openly - for their validity. The
    author and the research area benefits (doubly) from this service,
    since it enhances the degree of credibility of such published work
    significantly, relative to other, less carefully scrutinized work. But
    the referee, who doesn't get credit for the original scientific
    content, only the scrutiny, needs to be compensated otherwise for
    his possibly considerable efforts. The journal is only acting as an
    intermediate agent in this process, and hence cannot legitimately
    charge more for it than its own overhead cost, which could be a modest
    "agents fee" for arranging for the refereeing service - say 10% ,
    at most, of the referee's fee. This would be something completely
    independent of (and in addition to) the other, currently applicable
    economic considerations involved in the publishing of the journal.

    This could become the "standard model" for most journals that want
    to keep afloat, in parallel with freely accessible data bases,
    and also to guarantee a high scientific standard.

    The other one, which is what people like the Journal of Nonlinear
    Mathematical Physics group would like to have implemented, is that the
    journal REALLY be a user (i.e. researcher) based vehicle, sustained
    by community effort. Then, everything must be done to keep costs
    at a minimum, and the page charge notion is anathema, as are high
    subscription charges. The only way to do this is that the "editorial
    board" take it upon themselves to assure the quality of refereeing,
    while keeping it strictly a nonreimbursed process. This can be
    achieved, but to a lesser degree of reliability, by doing much of the
    refereeing themselves, or asking colleagues, students and friends to
    help pitch in, as a "common interest". This could made to work, as a
    "community based effort", but would not work if it is perceived as
    a vehicle for making profit for a commercial publisher. The quality
    would probably not be as reliable as the former "standard model" ,of
    course, but people would nevertheless continue to publish in such
    a journal, since it would be viewed as an "in-house" product. The
    "impact factor" of such journals would naturally be relatively lower,
    since they cater primarily to a restricted "user community". But
    they would certainly have their useful place as well.
Received on Mon Jan 16 2006 - 02:58:29 GMT

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