Estimates on data and cost per department for institutionalArchives?

Stevan Harnad harnad at
Mon Jan 12 18:40:43 EST 2004

On Mon, 12 Jan 2004, Steve Hitchcock wrote:

> At 22:12 10/01/04 +0000, Stevan Harnad wrote:
> >
> >  "Self-archiving costs per article are negligible. (The extra
> >  keystrokes are truly not worth discussing.) Please adduce evidence
> >  to the contrary if you disagree. The 100+ institutions that have
> >  set up one $1000 linux box and installed the free GNU Eprints
> >  software on it are not fretting about the cost per paper."
> >
> >  "The cost of archiving is trivial and it is a waste of time to even
> >  mention it."
> Who is this trying to convince? I wonder if this is becoming
> counter-productive. If you ask for nothing you will get nothing. It's
> a bad idea to begin an activity within an enterprise on the basis that
> it has no costs, or none that merit mention, especially an activity that
> needs to be at least usable and sustainable, and, when it is established
> properly, will become critical to authors, users and institutions. Why
> bother otherwise?

Creating and maintaining eprint archives is trivial, and the
cost is not worth talking about. What is worth talking about
(and productive) is *filling* those archives, but that too
requires only a systematic *policy*, not significant funding:

The best guarantor that the contents of institutional open-access eprint
archives will be maintained and sustained is that they are first filled.

> It would be better to get some real costs into the open. There are enough
> archives out there now to be able to treat this with more rigour. Then
> the paymasters and others can decide whether the costs are 'negligible'
> or 'trivial'. If there is serious - let me introduce another subjective
> term - money available for institutional archiving, then perhaps it will
> be taken more seriously by a wider group of people?

If something serious is going to be put into institutional self-archiving,
then let that be serious effort in filling the archives. That means (1)
clearly informing researchers of the impact-maximising benefits of open
access and the impact-minimising costs of access-denial; and it means
(2) implementing a policy of monitoring and rewarding both open-access
provision and the enhanced research impact it generates. In other words,
a natural extension of existing "publish or perish" policy to "provide
open access to your peer-reviewed journal publications so as to maximise
their research impact."

There would be no harm in asking the existing 100+ archives
what their costs are per-paper (stressing that you want to know not
only the actual costs for their mostly near-empty archives -- which
will of course be higher per-paper than for filled ones -- but also the
estimated costs per-paper when their archives contain all their annual
institutional refereed-research paper output).

What my colleague Steve Hitchcock seems to be missing is that Iain
Smith was
unwittingly equating archiving charges with the current total cost per
article (c. $1500), and my answer was completely accurate: Relative to
*that* figure, the few dollars per-paper that self-archiving costs
annually are negligible.

That the cost per paper is a few dollars per year we already know from 
the Physics Arxiv since 1991:

    "papers are normally posted within a day of submission, and
    Ginsparg estimates that the cost is less than $10 per paper"

It's fine to ask for the corresponding data from institutional archives
too, but the fundamental point -- which is that the cost is at least two
orders of magnitude less that $1500 per paper -- is rock-solid and needs
to be known understand (as is the fact that comparing per-article
archiving costs with per-article publication costs is like comparing
apples with oranges -- or rather, comparing unplanted apple-seeds with

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
is available at the American Scientist Open Access Forum:
        To join the Forum:
        Post discussion to: 
    american-scientist-open-access-forum at
        Hypermail Archive:

Unified Dual Open-Access-Provision Policy:
    BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a suitable open-access
            journal whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1 ("green"): Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable
            toll-access journal and also self-archive it.

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