To get a sense of the scholarly output of this institution, I searched the Web of Science and found that U. Calgary faculty published nearly 3,000 articles in 2007 (a conservative estimate considering the limited scope of ISI). This means that if the new Author’s Fund is successful, they can aspire to cover about 1% of Open Access author processing fees.
While some argue that the majority of Open Access journals charge no fees, these are generally not the same caliber of journals that a research-intensive university faculty submit their articles. We should not expect that authors will start submitting their manuscripts to Acta Médica Portuguesa instead of JAMA....
When did publishing in Open Access journals become a sustainable and responsible course of action? Even early calculations at $1,500/article demonstrated that research-intensive institutions like the University of Calgary would pay far more money in an author-pays model than the traditional subscription model. Moreover, author charges are exceeding the price inflation of subscription journals by orders of magnitude. Is this an argument for sustainability? It certainly isn’t one for fiscal responsibility....
"[T]hese [no-fee OA journals] are generally not the same caliber of journals that a research-intensive university faculty submit their articles...." If this is a claim about quality, or about future submission patterns, as opposed to present submission patterns, then it's an assumption for which there is no evidence. Nobody has done the studies. Davis compares Acta Médica Portuguesa to JAMA, almost at random, as if they were representative of their categories. But of course the comparison isn't really random and the journals aren't really representative. If the idea were to use ridicule in place of evidence, someone could just as easily name a high-quality OA journal and a low-quality TA journal. But what would that prove? In the absence of studies, this is all we know:
[T]here are strong and weak OA journals, just as there are strong and weak TA journals. Hence, any analysis focusing on weak OA journals and strong TA journals (as if to show the superiority of TA journals) would be as arbitrary as one focusing on weak TA journals and strong OA journals (as if to show the superiority of OA journals). Without some additional argument showing that the journals on which they focus are typical of their breeds, they would be guilty of cherry-picking and generalizing from an unrepresentative sample.
This is true whether we are comparing OA journals with TA journals (which Davis ended up doing) or no-fee OA journals with fee-based OA journals (which he started out doing).
"Even early calculations at $1,500/article demonstrated that research-intensive institutions like the University of Calgary would pay far more money in an author-pays model than the traditional subscription model...." Davis did this calculation at Cornell, and I pointed out its weaknesses in the article he cites in his blog post. The calculation rests on two simplifying but unrealistic assumptions: (1) that all OA journals charge publication fees and (2) that universities are the only institutions willing to pay those fees. Both assumptions are false today and I've never seen an argument that they will become more realistic as time passes. The most that can be said for them is that they simplify the calculation and --depending on your point of view-- that they scare universities away from supporting OA journals. Either way, the calculation doesn't show the future under OA journals so much as the consequences of the initial, simplifying and simplistic assumptions.
In his blog post, as opposed to his Cornell calculation, Davis rectifies this to some extent by making clear that he is talking about fee-based OA journals (which he misleadingly calls "author pays" journals) rather than OA journals in general. But for the same reason, he weakens his argument against Calgary. Once we acknowledge that not all Calgary faculty publishing in OA journals will publish in fee-based OA journals, whether the fee-based publications are a majority or a minority, then we have to redo the calculated cost to the institution to see how it compares to the cost of subscriptions.
When Davis calculates that the Calgary fund would only cover 1% of Calgary's annual research output, he's making the same false assumptions: that all of OA journals charge publication fees, and that there are no other institutions (like funding agencies) to pay those fees. Even if all of Calgary's research output were published in OA journals, we'd see that the fund would cover more than 1% of it once we acknowledged that some serious fraction of those publications would be in no-fee journals and that some serious fraction of the fees at fee-based journals would be paid out of faculty research grants.
Much of Davis' criticism of the Calgary fund seems to presuppose that Calgary thought the fund would cover the entire research output of the institution. But I don't see any evidence for that assumption. The fund is a first step to help authors pay publication fees when they choose to publish in fee-based OA journals and don't have research grants to cover the fees. It's one step to help support a new, OA generation of peer-reviewed journals. This makes sense in part because OA has unmistakable benefits over TA. But it also makes sense because there is reason to doubt the sustainability of the conventional, non-OA peer-reviewed journals. Davis believes that OA journals are unsustainable (though he doesn't mention that Hindawi and Medknow OA journal programs are already profitable). But the real question is how to give them support in proportion to our need for them, or how to give them a fair chance. Calgary understands this well. So does the U of California, which concluded in January 2004 that "The economics of [subscription-based] scholarly journal publishing are incontrovertibly unsustainable."
Peter Suber at 6/28/2008 03:04:00 PM.
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.