[Coral-List] More on open access

RainbowWarriorsInternational southern_caribbean at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 14 15:35:32 EDT 2008

The real cost of open access is determined by some fundamental choices, each of which has its breakdown of cost factors.

The real question is not the one of money but whether the author chooses or has the choice to choose the modus operandi for publication (research grants conditions e.g.).

When the choice is made to make available the information to a wide audience, using one of the Creative Commons or other likewise structured licenses for distribution of intellectual property pertaining to scientific research, the cost can go down considerably, and then the price is largely determined by cost of research for article, peer-review cost, production cost and online publication cost.

It finally boils down to the most significant cost factors being the cost of research to produce the article and the review process.

The irony of the matter is that the cost breakdown for every other publication choice comes down to the same result, i.e. the most significant factors being research and review cost.

In practice only in the "open access" choices a la Creative Commons are market forces seen to be driving the price down, as "open access" online information portals for a.o. online journals compete fiercely based on fee structures fundamentally different from those of traditional publishers of specialty and scientific journals, who provide highly priced subscriptions for online access to digitally formatted publications.

In the long run the real question is whether researchers are going to have more freedom to opt for an open access license structure which makes the research results available to a larger audience or whether we will see traditional specialty print publication publishers corner the online market and maintain their high profit margins.

Software and internet giants like Google are fueling the drive towards more freedom by providing open source based software tools for such endeavors and again it is no wonder that Microsoft and the News Corporation are trying to buy up Yahoo! to counter Google.

It is without doubt true that it can be considerably pricey to produce a scientific article, yet then again the question should be, does this legitimize the high cost of per subscriber access if it can be shown that the actual number of consumers can be shown to be high?

In our world of today urgent sustainable development issues like climate change, health, degrading ecosystems, pollution and contaminants, food production and safety, renewable energy technologies, bio-engineering etc.require access to information.
Sixteen years after the Rio Summit the access to information for decision-making has improved only slightly, and when we consider the fact that the UN lists 9 Major Groups in sustainable development (see http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/mgroups/about_mgroups.htm), being:

Children and Youth
Indigenous People
Local Authorities
Workers and Trade Unions
Business and Industry
Scientific and Technological Communities
Farmers (includes fisheries and aquacultures),

eight of these groups still basically lack easy access to scientific and technological knowledge and information.

It is for this reason of fundamental importance that the scientific community be given a wider range of choices in making available publications of their research and findings, in any form.

Without this fundamental freedom, traditional publishers will continue to be a factor thwarting the achievement of sustainable development as the UN recommends it, and as endorsed by the majority of nations in the developed world.

Restricting "open access" thus becomes restricting developing countries in achieving sustainable development.

Milton Ponson
Rainbow Warriors International
a global NGO dedicated to sustainable development

Richard Dunne <RichardPDunne at aol.com> wrote: Coral Listers

Further to the overall debate on Open Access and journal fees, it is 
noteworthy that the journal PLos Biology (mentioned in the previous 
post) charges authors US dollars 2,750 for publishing an article in this 
Open Access publication. It also admits that this is not the full cost 
of publication which has to be supplemented from philanthropic support.

Herewith some informative passages from the PLos website:

Why should I have to pay to publish my paper?
It costs money to produce a peer-reviewed, edited, and formatted article 
that is ready for online publication, and to host it on a server that is 
accessible around the clock. Prior to that, a public or private funding 
agency has already paid a great deal more money for the research to be 
undertaken in the interest of the public. This real cost of "producing" 
a paper can be calculated by dividing your laboratory's annual budget by 
the number of papers published. We ask that—as a small part of the cost 
of doing the research—the author, institution, or funding agency pays a 
fee, to help cover the actual cost of the essential final step, the 
publication. (As it stands, authors now often pay for publication in the 
form of page or color charges.) Many funding agencies now support this view.

More than US$2000 is a lot to pay to publish an article, isn't it?
Not when you consider the cost of the research that led to the article. 
Publication fees of $2000 or $2500 are a small fraction of the costs of 
doing research, and it makes sense for funding agencies to include these 
fees in research grants. Many funding agencies now support this view. 
They recognize that publishing is an integral part of the research 
process - and if the work is published OA it will deliver the maximum 
possible impact, which in turn maximizes the outcome of the funder's 
investment in research.

Ultimately, the fees that PLoS charge reflect the costs associated with 
publishing. We are not in this to make a profit - our bottom line is to 
make the literature a public resource. The administration of peer 
review, copy editing, production of high-quality tagged electronic 
files, web hosting, and so on are expensive processes. They are many of 
the same processes that are used in traditional subscription journals. 
If the money that currently supports subscription journals can be 
re-routed to cover publication fees then we will be able to support open 
access publishing in a fully sustainable way.

I recommend reading the full page at: 

It seems that the cost differences between commercial publishers and the 
new Open Access publishers are not so very different. Compare the US 
dollars 3,000 for Open Choice in a Springer journal to the PLos Biology 
US dollars 2,750. Also PLos Biology does not produce a printed copy. As 
the article in the previous post points out, there are  different 
interpretations of what constitutes "Open Access"; but as far as I can 
see the essential element of free access to read and download the 
article is common throughout, and this must surely be the most important 
aspect as far as an author and funding agency would wish.

Finally it is worth remembering that many of the commercial journals 
currently allow authors to publish entirely free of charge. Their papers 
will still be read by very many in the research community, even without 
the payment of an Open Access fee. This is not an option with journals 
that carry page charges or a have a mandatory Open Access policy. True, 
in the case of PLos Biology they say "We offer a complete or partial fee 
waiver for authors who do not have funds to cover publication fees." but 
it is unclear who or what constitutes an author who does not have funds. 
Presumably one cannot simply claim poverty because you chose to spend 
all your research funding before you made publication.

Clearly we still have a long way to go, but perhaps in the meantime we 
are simply experiencing the classical (and healthy) freedom of choice 
which exists in any market based structured economy. Ultimately market 
forces determine who will be the winners and the losers.


Richard P Dunne

West Briscoe, Baldersdale, Barnard Castle, Co Durham, DL12 9UP. UK
Tel +44 1833 650059

François Michonneau wrote:
> Hello
> If you are interested to learn what "open access" really means and how 
> some publishers use this term inappropriately, I suggest you read the 
> following article:
> When Is Open Access Not Open Access?
> MacCallum CJ
> PLoS Biology Vol. 5, No. 10, e285 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050285
> http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0050285
> Cheers
> François
> _______________________________________________________________________
> François Michonneau, Ph.D. Student
>    FLMNH (Division of Malacology) & Department of Zoology
>      University of Florida -- Gainesville, FL 32611-7800
>    fmichon at flmnh.ufl.edu - (352).273.1823
>    http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/malacology/michonneau.htm
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