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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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  • Emergent Solution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by philipkd ( 528838 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @05:44AM (#11886606) Homepage
    Why don't they just make it available on the net and see what happens.

    The net has a reputation for novel ways of propogating data. Maybe servers will be donated. Perhaps a company would sponsor the service. Perhaps bittorrents would work. Perhaps they would be uploaded into sourceforge. Perhaps one could rely on Google caches. Maybe power users, like universities, could mirror their database.

    Seriously, put it online, see what the public does.
  • Government ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by makapuf ( 412290 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @05:45AM (#11886611)
    I know I have a European bias toward this, but why couldn't the ? I mean, given the huge funds invested in private research (ahem colossal military budget), I am sure this would really be a drop in the bucket but will have great effects.

    I mean, why not just put it under a military budget or academia ?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @05:52AM (#11886642)
    Libraries already pay BIG bucks for overpiced journal subscriptions from for-profit publishers. Not to mention having to build new extensions for all the shelf space.

    If free online journals (aka eprints) []

    can be hosted by the universities and their libraries, the cost will be much less than the present.

    See tm []

    for details.

  • by Gopal.V ( 532678 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @05:56AM (#11886655) Homepage Journal
    Why isn't anyone talking about ADs ?. They are the natural revenue for an online magazine ?. Or maybe advertisements bring in an unwanted commercial touch to this ?.

    Of course ADs are not always that forthcoming. But I guess well placed book ads would be enough to solve this problem.

    And lastly, why not pick a public sponsor ?. Someone like IBM could sponsor this whole thing without a dent in the budget. Or you could ask for the public to mirror it - if the bandwidth is the real issue (of course, nothing says "COOL" as much as a local mirror of IEEE at your Uni LAN).
  • by Anonymous Cowdog ( 154277 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @05:58AM (#11886662) Journal
    I'm a IEEE member and they send me so much paper it's downright embarassing. For an organization that should be leading the way into the future, I don't know why they insist on littering my mailbox with so much newsprint and so many envelopes stuffed with important notices about the myriad of ways to spend hundreds of dollars on different stingily selected slices of content.

    I worked on a project once where we cooperated with a science journal. They told us that 80% of their costs were in production and distribution of paper. If they could do everything electronically, they could have eliminated that 80%. So my suggestion would be that IEEE do exactly that. Eliminate the paper. It's not like they are going to have to spend more to ramp up a web site with electronic versions of the content, because they already have that entire framework in place. If anything, their current web site is too complicated, and could be simplified (and made cheaper to operate) by eliminating a lot of the built-in toll booths.
  • by NZheretic ( 23872 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @05:58AM (#11886664) Homepage Journal
    The solution is simple enough. Just approach one or more advertisers and generate PDF files on the fly with the first page as a full page advert. Think google adsense with full page advertising.

    Marketers would gladly pay to for full page advertising to the target market that downloads these documents.

  • Re:Emergent Solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lovebyte ( 81275 ) * <> on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @05:59AM (#11886669) Homepage
    RTFA! They talk about this. Every recent research paper is on the net right now, but who pays for the servers, how do you maintain servers, how do you pay for format changes from currently PDF/HTML to format XYZ in 5 years from now, who pays for editors, and so on.

    It's been 5 years since the internet bubble exploded, but there are still people who believe a free for all internet is the solution to all our problems.
  • by kevb ( 816796 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @06:07AM (#11886706)
    This is more likely to be something people use once in a while. I avoided it at university because I could be bothered to go to the library, where I could read journals for free. But if the articles where much cheaper, I probably would have indulged, and I would probably still be reading them now that I don't have that library access... Just a thought.
  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @06:08AM (#11886713) Homepage

    In order to gain access to publish, require the authors to participate (no pay) in the peer review process much like moderators on Slashdot (but more formalized). Then have a meta peer review process to back that up. You get free peer reviewing by requiring authors to do some of that to continue to publish. But unlike Slashdot, the mod points would go to verified degreed people in academic or other research areas who would be selected first early access to do the reviews. When an article is submitted, distribute it to randonly selected reviewers. Then if it's not completely shot down, follow up with more review cycles until the reviewer sample size gives a good ranking.

    Do the actual distribution via BitTorrent, with the article in the clear, but cryptographically signed by the prestigious journal. The journal's web site would have the abstracts, links, and public key.

    It's not totally paid for this way, but the cost of distribution gets covered, and peer reviewers come free.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @06:23AM (#11886777)
    If the group you are trying to help is college students, they do not usually need knowledge about the latest trends. Most non-research university programs are behind the cutting edge.

    People will still pay for a subscription for new content and new information about new and emerging technologies. IEEE simply needs to stagger out the release of issues to free access by some period. I think 6 months makes sense. The magazines being released are outdated enough to justify the subscription, but new enough to help people researching for school.

    Archival versions of the articles is a poor income source. Often these articles are availible in library backcopies, microfilm, or a magazine archiving service (ex. ProQuest). By allowing people free access they encourage people to understand new technologies, as well as considering older ones.
  • Re:Emergent Solution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thepoch ( 698396 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @06:36AM (#11886831)
    How about setting a "quota" of sorts on payments. Once it reachers a certain amount collected, then release it for free. I'm sure there are plenty who would like to pay to get the stuff first and just to support them. The more popular the stuff is, the more people would be willing to pay. After they've reached the quota, release. Those who can afford and want to contribute will get it first. The rest can just either pay and get it, or hope it reaches quota. If it doesn't reach quota. Then pay for it if it's that important.

    Warning: I did not read TFA.
  • Re:Emergent Solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mishmash ( 585101 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @06:44AM (#11886862) Homepage
    They could charge a premium rate for current and "advance publication" material. Older material could be made available for free - funded by the purchase of the newly released papers.
  • Re:Government ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @06:51AM (#11886888)
    Because money given == control. The gov would then like to have a say in everything the IEEE does, and over time it would not be possible to refuse them.
  • GDP? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @07:02AM (#11886917) Homepage
    Umm.. why are you comparing the military budget to GDP? Strangely enough most people think the military budget is huge because it's a large percentage of federal spending. GDP has nothing to do with that, other than being a number that the military spending is small in comparison with. I find your entire argument to be patently dishonest.
  • by mezigue ( 722609 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @07:15AM (#11886954)
    In terms of fairness, I think getting people who cite an IEEE paper to pay something to the IEEE would be a reasonable solution since they have clearly benefited from reading that article.

    But of course, it is not easy to implement. It is also a negative incentive to citing that paper which is bad since the one thing authors want is to be cited.
  • Re:Emergent Solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hachete ( 473378 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @07:25AM (#11886988) Homepage Journal
    Yes, yes, but also use Wikipedia as a model for editing. Of course, it may not be as "respected" (see Encylopaedia Britannica v Wikipedia) and it may be a different form of information paradigm but seriously, how much money do researchers make out of reviewing journals? Would it be missed?
  • by malsdavis ( 542216 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @07:31AM (#11887008)
    Such an issue is a common one:
    The non-profiting resource is obviously of great benefit to society and the country at large, helping to provide a poole of knowledgable people who can help society in this field.

    Just like with all the similar things which serve society but do not make a direct profit the federal government, and therefor indirectly everyone, should contribute to maintaining a resource which is indirectly of use to everyone.

  • by harnad ( 715639 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @07:43AM (#11887058)
    IEEE, has already gone "Green" [] -- i.e., it is among the 78% of publishers (publishing 92% of the 8950 journals surveyed to date) who have already given each of their authors the green light to provide open access to their own articles, if they wish, by self-archiving them in their own institutional OA archives. IEEE is now contemplating also going "Gold" [] -- i.e., becoming one of the 5% of publishers that are open-access publishers, making all of their articles open-access (and many of them recovering their costs by charging the author-institutions for publication by the article instead of charging the user-institutions for access by the journal or article). Going Gold is not without an element of risk, so IEEE are to be highly commended if they actually decide to try it, but let us not foget that, being already green, IEEE are already on the side of the angels! It is the authors (and their institutions and funders) -- i.e., the research community itself, the very ones for whom the benefits of open access are being sought -- who are to blame for not yet going when the going is Green, by self-archiving their own articles so as to make them open access. Relief may be on the way there too, however, in the form of a proposed new recommendation to the 55 major research institutions worldwide who have signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access" [] that they should now implement an explicit Institutional Self-archiving Policy [] of providing open access to their own research article output. (A summary will appear in the March issue of D-lib magazine [].) Two recent international surveys [] have found that whereas most authors do not yet self-archive, 79% will do so willingly, but only if and when they are required to do so by their employers and/or funders.
  • by Phoe6 ( 705194 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @08:13AM (#11887170) Homepage Journal
    I dont know how many people here feel some kind of a Deja vu!
    The U.S. Congress set us on this road in 1982, when it created a centralized appellate court for patent cases called the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. A decade later, Congress ordered that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), which up until then had been funded by tax revenues, instead fund itself through application and maintenance fees. Both changes were described as administrative and procedural rather than substantive.
    From my thought store []
    So, it is certainly a bad idea!
    Some improvements over the existing system should be thought about, rather than this.
  • by misterpies ( 632880 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @08:21AM (#11887202)
    I used to work for a journal. Reviewing a paper is not like moderating a slashdot comment. It's an in-depth editing process that takes a lot of time. Firstly, most papers are on very specialised subjects. You can't randomly distribute it to a reviewer - it's quite possible that there will only be a small number of people out there qualified to review it, and half of those are probably working on the same problem so you can't send it to them in case they nick all the ideas and then reject the paper. (Oh yes, scientists will do that) Once you've found some decent reviewers, it's not a question of the reviewer reading it in 5 minutes and marking it +1 insightful. It will probably take them a few days to read and understand the paper properly. Then they need to consider whether it makes sense and, just as important, whether what it reports is worth publishing. (Someone reviewing a paper for Nature or Science is going to have a very different view on whether it should be accepted than someone reviewing it for the Journal of Pointless Periwinkle Research.) If the paper seems good enough on those grounds, then the reviewer will still usually suggest a raft of changes to make it better. The review then has to go back to the author so that the author can make the changes. When that's done, it goes out to review again, & so on until finally the reviewers think it's ready to publish. It's true that the reviewer generally does all this work for free (and peer reviewing can be one of the biggest demands on a scientist's time). But someone has to choose the reviewers and act as go-between (since for obvious reasons, the identity of the reviewers and the authors are kept secret from one another); most importantly that go-between needs to act as a fair referee and realise where a reviewer is making unreasonable demands or being too easy and so find more reviewers. Someone has to perform those little tasks like sub-editing (which can be a major task with a paper submitted in English by a group of Japanese researchers - and let's face it, most american scientists aren't great writers either). Then there's those little matters of layout, style and consistency that are necessary in a professional product. And finally, people still like paper journals. It's a lot easier to read a long paper on paper, the diagrams are better quality than most office printers can manage, and some people just prefer it. And paper journals add a new layer of costs - not just the cost of paper and ink but typesetting, delivery etc. As for cost, if journals seem massively expensive compared to consumer magazines, remember that most of the cost of consumer magazines is paid for by advertisers, not subscribers. And when people complain about paying $10,000s for a journal - that's usually for access to be shared between hundreds if not thousands of subscribers at that lab or university. Per-reader costs are comparatively low.
  • Re:Emergent Solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gerddie ( 173963 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @08:34AM (#11887271)
    Problem is that many authors ignore or do not use the formats provided. They use whatever they want, whenever they want and tell you to fly to hell.
    That's interesting, because as far as I experienced it (from the author side), especially at conferences obeying to the formatting rules is a requirement to get the paper printed. Besides, using the Journal/Conference provided TeX-template is usually all it needs to get the formatting right - so it's not really a burden for the author. I guess with MS Word templates it's a complete different story.

    each paper has, say, 5 reviewers.
    Wow, that's a lot, so far I've never seen a conference or journal with more then 3 reviewers. I wonder what field you are working in?

    I see that there is a difference between a conference where you get a lot of submissions that have to be reviewed in a very short time and a journal, where articles come continiously but probably at a lower rate. However, at a conference the author usually must register to get the paper printed, and more often then not, the registration fees are quite high. Therefore, i guess, for most conferences the costs for editing, preparing and printing the proceedings are already paid and a further distribution of articles does only require the "online" costs (whatever that includes).
  • by blacklily8 ( 780659 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @08:42AM (#11887317)
    I have been researching and exploring this topic for my own dissertation and think I can share some insight here. I tend to see the problem as one of "paradigms." There's an old way of doing scholarship that is best suited for print, and another way that involves some pretty radical changes that is better suited for the net. I'm not just talking about scanning in a paper journal and making it available as a PDF (which is what many journals and databases like JSTOR are doing these days). What I see is the biggest problem of moving to an online format is the serious threat to a professor's hiring/tenure/promotion.

    The truth is, many folks sitting on these boards are locked into a mindset--Print Article in Prestigious Journal = Credibility++, Electronic Article in Online Prestigious Journal = 0. Nevermind that by the time an article hits print, it's a year or more old (in some cases, two years old!) and, in a field like IT, probably obsolete. Thus, the print journals serve as a sort of "fossil record" of where the field has been, but it's also useful for professors hoping to move up the er..Ivory ladder. I think this problem will go away eventually as the old codgers die off, but professors are infamous for refusing to retire, and senility is something of a virtue, it seems.

    As far as what IEEE is looking at now, I'd say the best thing is to do what others have already suggested and allow others to mirror the site. Perhaps they could release everything under a CC license. I agree that editing is important; however, there is an important source of revenue already in place (conference fees, membership dues). Despite what one person says, many, many people aren't going to cancel their membership just because they can get the articles for free. They already have to pay a large fee to present/attend the conferences, and membership looks good (and is even essential) on many CVs. Finally, most professors are pretty damn ethical (almost to a fault). They'll want to support their professional organization, and many feel strongly about making their articles freely available anyway (after all, they don't get paid!)

    Many print journals already charge authors steep publication fees. This is especially apparent in the medical field. We're talking about authors shelling out hundreds and possibly even thousands of dollars to an editor before she'll publish the article. Aw, poor author, right? Actually, it doesn't matter one whit to the author, because the publication expenses are covered by the grant he received to conduct the research. The same is most often true for his journal subscriptions and membership dues.

    Many journals are subsidized by universities, others are subsidized by private or corporate donors. Plenty of journals also have advertisements, though these ads are much lower-key than magazine ads.

    Chances are, IEEE could garner support from universities, corporations, private donors, author payments, and advertisers with no problem.

  • by pjrc ( 134994 ) <> on Wednesday March 09, 2005 @12:31PM (#11889415) Homepage Journal
    Those for whom this library is relevant should afford to pay their IEEE membership costs

    To give you one tiny example, several months ago I was working on a rewrite of the floating point library for the SDCC C Complier []. Yeah, I'm a small-time free software developer, and in that project you can find code I've contributed (mostly in the libraries).

    I started working on the trig functions. There's a method called CORDIC (the alternate approach is polynomial approximation). Sine, Cosine and Arctangent are pretty documented for the CORDIC method. For Arcsine and Arccosine, not so easy. The widely published methods work, but they're not very accurate over the whole range needed.

    Turns out, there's one paper in an old IEEE journal with a modification to the standard CORDIC algorithm which makes it accurate for these functions over the entire 0 to 1 input range. I searched for days, and found lots of brief mentions of this paper, and lots and lots of descriptions of only sine, cosine and arctangent with only brief hints that it's possible to apply CORDIC to the others.

    I wasn't willing to pay about $80 to download the paper, and not $250... this was just a little side project to improve the float library for that compiler for a particular architecture (coding it in assembly).

    Fortunately, one of the other developers was an IEEE member and had access to the paper. After a couple days of fiddling, I figured out the matrix multiply embedded in the equation (funny how those papers hide the messy details like that), and I wrote some C code as a prototype for the algorithm.

    I did end up committing lots and lots of float library code to the project.... assembly optimized versions of all the basic operations, conversions and comparisons, and natual log and e^x. Someday I'll probably get back into those trig functions... but the CORDIC code isn't a big win anymore, now that the basic operations and heavily optimized and are used by the old polynomial approx code.

    So, in this one little case, there was no way I was going to shell out lots of real dollars for access to an old IEEE published paper for that algorithm. It was old, published many years ago. Having it on-line for free download probably wouldn't cost IEEE anything in lost sales of recently journals.

    But not having access to the information would have cost me and the SDCC project access to the algorithm, which someday (when I get the time to get back into the project) may get coded nicely into the library and benefit all sorts of people who may use the compiler and need those two trig functions. Especially on such small chips, assembly optimized libraries are a big deal and end up saving precious bytes of ram and code space. CPU speed is also improved... but not a giant win over the polynomial approach built on top of assembly optimized basic functions.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"