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Who Will Pay For Open Access? 390

babble123 writes "IEEE is thinking about providing everyone with free access to its publication database (which has saved many a grad student from a trip to the library). The problem is, where will they get the money to fund the journals if not from subscriptions? In this article, they discuss one proposed alternative, 'author-pays,' but they certainly aren't enthusiastic about it, and I don't blame them. And yet, the money has to come from somewhere. Any better ideas?"
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Who Will Pay For Open Access?

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  • IEEE Membership (Score:5, Informative)

    by crusty_architect ( 642208 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @05:51AM (#11886635) Homepage
    Access to this online content is one of the only reasons I keep up my IEEE membership. It's a *lot* of money ($250AU P/A). I would think that the IEEE would suffer greatly when people such as myself fail to renew if this content becomes free.
  • Re:Emergent Solution (Score:5, Informative)

    by ghoti ( 60903 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @05:57AM (#11886661) Homepage
    This isn't about the bandwidth, at least not primarily. The problem is paying the people for doing the editing, etc. Also, getting something published in a scientific journal is a quality criterion. If everything was "put on the net", you wouldn't be able to tell if something really was accepted for publication by an editor and reviewers, or somebody just modified their torrent ...
    Another aspect is that of journals being archival. You want those papers to be available forever basically, so relying even on Google or probably isn't such a great idea.
  • In astronomy... (Score:3, Informative)

    by mbrother ( 739193 ) <> on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @06:31AM (#11886816) Homepage
    ...The author pays a bit over $100 a page for the major US journals. You budget for it in your grants. Still, we have subscriptions at huge cost, despite very common free preprint servers. My colleagues in many other fields don't pay, and the universities do. Yes, I agree there should be a better model.
  • by lost in place ( 248578 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @06:36AM (#11886829)
    The professionals in the field want to publish in prestigous journals for their reputations, journals become prestigous in part through extensive peer-review processes and widespread publication, and all that takes time/staff/money.

    It takes time but not money. In my field (CS/AI) the reviewers, editors and authors aren't paid for their work. And they do wonder where all the money goes that publishers collect.

    As for adoption, it's certainly happened. Two examples: Journal of AI Research ( and Journal of Machine Learning Research ( are both prestigious web-published journals, with citation statistics at the top of the field.

    Being published in a web journal is not the same as throwing a paper up on your web site. Papers still go through an extensive review and editing process.

    In the end, it's the reviewers and editors who determine the quality of a journal, not the publisher.
  • Re:Government ? (Score:4, Informative)

    by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @06:38AM (#11886840)
    Why the hell would you compare military spending to the GDP? That doesn't make any sense, unless you are looking for something to dwarf military spending, and there isn't much that does. In fact, GDP is about the only thing that *does* dwarf the US military budget!

    Your "reference" page lists the military budget as 49% of the discretionary spending in 2003 (the last year listed). I suspect that that number doesn't even *count* the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are left out of many budget reports (hey look, we've decreased the budget deficit. All we had to do was not count all the money we spend, wee!).

    The US spends more money on the military than every other nation combined (the site you linked to has that number at just above 90% of the rest of the world's spending for 2002, on an upward trend). It's half of US discretionary spending. Only a moron could claim that that's not 'colossal'.
  • Re:Emergent Solution (Score:5, Informative)

    by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @06:42AM (#11886854)
    Wait a second... I was under the impression that "the people doing the editing, etc." were other researchers (hence the term "peer review") and weren't getting paid (much) anyway. Haven't there been stories on Slashdot in the past complaining that the publishers of academic journals are useless middlemen as it stands now?

    It seems to me that these papers are written for free, peer-reviewed for free, and could very well be hosted on the internet for free. This is really the kind of thing that universities and places like sourceforge and are designed to handle, and volunteering to help with the production of this knowledge ought to just be part of being a researcher.
  • by NNWizard ( 863065 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @07:14AM (#11886947)
    In the machine learning community, one of the most important journal is JMLR []. From the beginning, this paper decided to go free, online. As a results, the time to publish were very small, and since reviewing was very strict, the paper quickly gained a high Impact Factor. Now it appears that JMLR is also published as paper volumes. I don't know about their economic model, but surely this success-story shows it is feasible to publish scientific free journals.

    Furthermore, many authors (like me) do post a copy (called 'draft' for copyright reasons) of their paper on their webpages. Sometimes some googleing avoids having to pay for scientific journals...
  • by tigersha ( 151319 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @07:35AM (#11887027) Homepage
    I can attest to this. I once donated money to the IEEE (about 15 dollars added to my membership fee) and they sent me a glossy brochure with a list of all donors and a certificate to thank me.

    I do not live in the US and I am pretty sure that more than half of that 15 dollars (earmarked for developing countries) was blown by the international packaged thank-you mail.
  • by jtogel ( 840879 ) <> on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @07:40AM (#11887049) Homepage Journal
    In the field of AI we have at least two highly respected journals which do not have paper editions (even though libraries can buy bound collections of papers on a yearly basis) and which make their content available for free to everyone:
    Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research [] and
    Journal of Machine Learning Research []

    This works because an academic journal does not really have any expenses for peer-review. Academics review for free as part of their job - it gives status to review for a prestigious journal. If you don't have any costs for editing and printing a paper edition, you suddenly have almost no operating expenses at all. Cost of bandwith is negligible. A typical research paper in pdf format is a 100k download, so any one of us could operate one of those servers from our home. Furthermore, the cost of bandwith is continually decreasing.

    In sum, I don't understand what the IEEE is whining about. Let those who want a journal on paper pay for the paper, and let the rest of us have it for free!
  • Re:Emergent Solution (Score:5, Informative)

    by pedantic bore ( 740196 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @07:49AM (#11887081)
    It depends on the publication. Most conference papers are written and edited by the authors (with help from reviewers and shepherds, who are more or less volunteers). Most journals, in contrast, employ copy editors to clean up the English, make sure that everything is formatted just so, make sure that all the citations are complete and in the correct format, etc. This is a non-trivial amount of work, and requires professionals.

  • This old chestnut... (Score:5, Informative)

    by DuranDuran ( 252246 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @08:17AM (#11887184)
    has been discussed before.

    Steve Harnad posted this [] to describe the problem. Text reproduced below.

    [The following concerns refereed research report publication.]

    What is wrong with the following picture?

    (1) A brand-new PhD recipient proudly tells his mother he has just
    published his first article. She asks him how much he was paid for
    it. He makes a face and tells her "nothing," and then begins a long
    complicated explanation.

    (2) A fellow-researcher at that same university sees a reference to
    that same article. He goes to their library to get it: It's not
    subscribed to here; can't afford that journal; subscription budget
    already overspent.

    (3) An undergraduate, same university, sees the same article
    cited on the Web; clicks on it. The publisher's website demands a
    password: only paid subscribing institutions can have access.

    (4) The undergraduate loses patience, gets bored, and clicks on
    napster to grab an MP3 file of his favorite bootleg music CD to
    console him in his sorrows.

    (5) Years later, the same PhD is being considered for tenure; his
    publications are good, but they're not cited enough; they have not
    made enough of a research impact. Tenure denied.

    (6) Same thing happens when he tries to get a research grant: his
    research findings have not had enough of an impact: not enough
    researchers have read and cited them.

    (7) He decides to write a book instead. Publisher declines to
    publish it: It wouldn't sell enough copies because not enough
    universities have enough money to pay for it -- their purchasing
    budgets are tied up paying for their inflating annual journal
    subscription costs.

    (8) He tries to put his articles up on the Web, free for all, to
    increase their impact; his publisher threatens to sue him for
    violation of copyright.

    (9) He asks his publisher who the copyright is intended to protect.

    (10) His publisher replies: You!

    What is wrong with this picture? (And why is the mother of the PhD
    whose give-away work people cannot steal, even though he wants them
    to, in the same boat as the mother of the recording artist whose
    non-give-away work they can and do steal, even though he does not
    want them to?)
  • by graphicsguy ( 710710 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @12:48PM (#11889640)
    What's wrong with this picture is that it is a fantasy, at least with respect to IEEE. As it turns out, IEEE already allows authors to distribute their publications on their own websites []. The following is from the IEEE Publication Services and Products Board Operations Manual []:
    Personal Servers. Authors and/or their companies shall have the right to post their IEEE-copyrighted material on their own servers without permission, provided that the server displays a prominent notice alerting readers to their obligations with respect to copyrighted material and that the posted work includes the IEEE copyright notice as shown in Section 8.1.10A above. An example of an acceptable notice is: "This material is presented to ensure timely dissemination of scholarly and technical work. Copyright and all rights therein are retained by authors or by other copyright holders. All persons copying this information are expected to adhere to the terms and constraints invoked by each author's copyright. In most cases, these works may not be reposted without the explicit permission of the copyright holder."

    Sure, it is still a somewhat lame policy to transfer copyright to IEEE, but the dictator is not as malevolent as some here would make him out to be.
  • Already Working (Score:2, Informative)

    by robotninja ( 866362 ) <mj@rob[ ] ['otn' in gap]> on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @02:48PM (#11891409)
    Several journals are already implementing Open Access with different levels of success. I develop and publish a relatively successful online Open Access journal, the Journal of Medical Internet Research [] (apologies for the plug), and we use the author-pays model based on a $750US fee to cover (most of) the costs. Often this amount can be written into or otherwise covered by a grant supporting the research in question.

    We also have additional sources of revenue, including advertising (albeit very little), and one of the most promising areas is what would traditionally be called "value-added" content. While the full-text of all articles is freely available, "extra" things like PDF versions, on-demand printed versions, etc. are on a fee/membership basis. This seems to work quite well in covering costs while not restricting access. As well, other journals such as BMJ [] use time-delayed access (ie. articles older than 6 months become open), which is just another way of creating "premium" content. Another interesting publisher is PLoS [], who have several resources [] on the costs of OA publishing.

    As some have said in other threads, the main cost is in the actual process of reviewing/copyediting/proofing, not the actual hosting/bandwidth. Open Source journal publication software such as OJS [] is lessening this barrier, as are other tools. For example, we use OpenOffice to convert articles to the NLM XML [] schema, automating XML/layout editing and decreasing the cost. By finding alternative, "non-traditional" sources of revenue (like tiered access/content), and using Open Source tools to simplify and automate the publishing process, bringing the overall cost of online academic publishing down to a level where Open Access is cheap is already being realized.

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie