Re: [CHMINF-L] re: Paying for open access / Adequate thought on Open Access

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Eugen Leitl

Aug 12, 2013, 8:50:41 AM8/12/13
----- Forwarded message from Jean-Claude Guédon <> -----

Date: Sat, 10 Aug 2013 18:18:15 -0400
From: Jean-Claude Guédon <>
Subject: Re: [CHMINF-L] re: Paying for open access / Adequate thought on Open Access
Organization: Université de Montréal
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Hmmmm I am not so sure that the letter in question is so excellent.

The first paragraph is fine: researchers and their societies are indeed
at the center of the research process. This is incidentally a point that
many publishers seems to forget, used as they are to speaking with
librarians. And some - luckily a minority of - librarians make a similar

In the second paragraph, most of it is fine, but it must be noted that
the economic importance of journals for societies began only when
societies found it possible to increase subscription rates to unknown
levels thanks to the "serials pricing crisis" that commercial publishers
inaugurated in the 70's. In effect, societies, observing how
subscription prices were beginning to rise among commercial publishers,
decided to follow suit on a more modest scale, But it is true that
societies' journals, on the whole, tend to be cheaper than commercial
ones. This

Yes, publishing costs something, but so does research (and research
costs a lot more than publishing the results of research). Who pays for
research? In the US, the total of research money spent by the government
stands around 120-130 billion dollars. Research is incomplete without
its results being published, and doing so costs around 1-2% of the costs
of research. Why should this tiny research expense be treated
differently from the rest or research expenses. Of course, governmental
subsidies are not viewed kindly in the USA, but this is ideology. In
many countries, scientific publishing is wholly or partly supported by
governments. The SciELO project in Latin America is free for authors and
free to readers. It now covers more than 1,000 journals. It is
subsidized, as is research in general.

The third paragraph gives more details about societies' publishing. Yes,
professional journals have been published for well over a 100 years,
but, in the old days, societies' dues paid for the journals and the
other activities. With the serial pricing crisis, the economic
importance of journals became the dominant form of revenue for most
societies. These societies forgot how they managed their finances before
the Second World War.

Yes, good work is done with the money derived from journals, but
societies should think about reviewing their business plans. I even
understand that some societies' presidents make rather good, perhaps too
much, money... just for starters. Open-access publishing may indeed
make life economically uncomfortable for some societies, at least in the
transition phase, but scientific research is not done within societies.

If societies disappeared, science and science education would
undoubtedly be the poorer for it, but science would go on and would find
other ways to support educational activities.

Incidentally, if public outreach is a concern, it seems to me that open
access to scientific materials is a very good beginning: by definition,
they are accessible to all, even in secondary schools, for example.

As for the maintenance of archived papers, the best specialists are the
librarians, with the added advantage that they would preserve scientific
materials in a unified, interoperable way as a matter of course.

The fourth paragraph confuses the author-pay financial scheme with the
whole of open access. This is simply not true. The Green Road
(self-archiving) offers a way to access articles that is free to authors
and to readers: the repository is supported financially by an
institution, generally a library. Also, some granting agencies are now
offering funds to cover publication expenses, including article
processing charges. Personally, I do not think this is the way to go,
but raising the issue as if there was no tangible response to it is a
little disingenuous.

In te following paragraph, I wonder who has identified the 18-24-month
embargo as a necessity. So far as I know, no publisher ever managed to
prove that immediate OA through the Green Road had any deleterious
effect on the revenues of the publishers. In Europe, the European
Commission financed a pilot project involving publishers and
repositories to test the proposition (known under the acronym PEER). The
results were inconclusive at best, negative at worst. The prediction of
journal collapse, therefore, is nothing more than FUD and nothing more
(FUD = Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt - a standard tactic to slow down

Copyright issues are addressed by Open Access. The optimal expression of
copyright for open access is CC-by (Creative Commons with attribution
only). This is the best way to facilitate the needed "great
conversation" among researchers. Researchers are not so interested in
temporary monopolistic property as they are in prestige, visibility, and
insertion in the right networks. Only publishers approach scientific
publishing from the narrow perspective of economic property.

In conclusion, Mr. G. L. Nelson, in his letter, displays a very good
example of ignorance and/or misinformation. This is not the way to
approach open access issues rationally and serenely.

Jean-Claude Guédon

Le samedi 10 août 2013 à 18:05 +0000, Dana Roth a écrit :
> In the same vein … there is an excellent letter in the July 29 issue
> of C&EN by Gordon Nelson (President, Council of Scientific Society
> Presidents) expressing concerns about the effect ‘Open Access’ will
> have on scientific societies.
> Dana L. Roth
> Caltech Library 1-32
> 1200 E. California Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91125
> 626-395-6423 fax 626-792-7540
> From: Bob Buntrock []
> Sent: Saturday, August 10, 2013 7:19 AM
> Subject: [CHMINF-L] Paying for open access
> Interesting article in this weeks Science, “Who Will Pay for Public
> Access to Research Data"?”
> (probably
> subscription access).
> -- Bob Buntrock


Jean-Claude Guédon
Professeur titulaire
Littérature comparée
Université de Montréal

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Eugen* Leitl <a href="">leitl</a>
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