Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Journal cost v. journal downloads, usage, or impact

Jan Velterop, Value Perception, The Parachute, January 30, 2007.  Excerpt:

...From comments I come across on email lists and blogs, I detect two – conflicting – trends. One is the growing tendency to put a value on a journal according to the number of article downloads; the other a desire to base journal pricing on the actual production cost, i.e. the actual cost to the publisher of publishing an article.

Why are these trends conflicting? ...[The conflict] lies in the fact that production costs and downloads have no relation whatsoever....The cost of coaching an article through the peer-review process and of publishing it is independent of the number of downloads or other usage metrics it clocks up once published. It can be argued that one of the woes of the current subscription model is that it already has some characteristics of a cost-based model. Those characteristics are largely responsible for the price spiral of the last decade. There hasn’t been a concomitant income spiral for publishers. Due to unremitting annual cancellation rounds, if publishers wanted or needed to maintain the same income to keep a journal going, they had to secure that income from fewer subscriptions. Year on year. Voilà, the serials crisis. Not to be repeated or exacerbated, I would have thought.

The problem with value based on downloads or usage is different. The beauty of journals is that the decision to publish any given article is purely a scientific one, taken by the editors. Commerce doesn’t come into it. Should value be defined by downloads, then it is inevitable that decisions to publish will be influenced by the perceived ‘download potential’ of articles....

Open access publishing offers solutions. The process of peer-reviewing and formal publishing is valued, rather than usage. Costs are proportional to research activity. Esoteric and difficult to understand science has no problem being published. And, most important of all, anybody, anywhere, who wants or needs the material, has unimpeded access to it.