...Suppose we can be confident that we understand the statistics [on journal usage], does usage determine the value of journals and articles in the first place? I’m aware of the adage publish or perish, but not of one that says read or rot or download or be damned. Isn’t the value therefore more in the availability of a publication than in its usage? Isn’t there a strong value element of ‘just-in-case’ in scientific literature (like the value of insurance – where you’d probably avoid actual ‘usage’)? ...
Isn’t it so that a manuscript with potentially interesting information is only made actually interesting if the outcome of a process of peer-review shows that it’s been formally accepted and acknowledged by the scientific community as worth adding to the body of literature, and labelled as such (with a journal imprimatur)? And isn’t there then more value in the label it carries (imprimatur, certification, however one calls it) than in the information itself (which may well already be out there in cyberspace and often is)? ...
As an information exchange, many journals may already have lost their role. The internet is definitely taking over. But ‘usage’ of a journal as a formal recording and validation service has not disappeared. Arguably, that service is more valuable now than ever, given the difficulty of establishing the integrity of information available on the web.
In my view that means that the economic underpinning of journals by placing a monetary value solely on download usage is outdated. Much of the monetary value should, instead, be placed on the service of formally publishing the material. In an ‘author-side-payment’ model that is explicitly the case and such a publishing model also means that open access, i.e. universal availability, can be the natural condition of the formal, officially published articles.
Peter Suber at 10/17/2006 10:54:00 AM.
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.