BiomedCentral has just started a debate on author publication charges.
My own contribution appears below.
To read the first contribution to the debate by
Jan Velterop, the publisher of BioMed Central, go
To contribute to this debate at BioMedCentral
please send your responses to
carole at biomedcentral.com <mailto:carole at biomedcentral.com>
You may also branch them to the American Scientist
Forum at september98-forum at amsci-forum.amsci.org
if you wish to have it further discussed here.
On Wed, 27 Jun 2001, Carole Mongin wrote:
> 1. Are the biological and medical research
> communities better served by free access to
> research funded through publication charges or by
> the current model of subscription charges, mostly
> to institutions, resulting in restricted access?
Not just the biomedical community but all fields of scholarly and
scientific research are better served by having their refereed research
accessible free online. The essential costs (not "publication
charges" but peer-review-implementation charges) are much more
sensibly paid by the author-institution, rather than as access-blocking
(even if reduced) subscription/license tolls by the reader-institution:
So far, so good. But it may be premature to try to levy these charges
before the annual institutional windfall savings from
subscription/license cancellations are available to pay them out of.
It would be more prudent to wait for author/institution self-archiving
to grow and exert its natura effect first:
> 2. Should funding organisations explicitly support
> free access to published research, and thus allow
> publication charges to be routinely paid for out
> of grants?
Yes, but again, it would be more prudent to wait till they do so,
and concentrate instead on self-archiving rather than levying premature
charges, before the transition, and while the established journals are
still publishing without charge to the author.
> 3. Should a fund be created to help defray charges
> for those who find it difficult to pay, but are
> not working in regions with limited research
> budgets (developing countries)?
Definitely, in any case. But for now, their course too is best to keep
submission to their preferred established journals, while also freeing
their published, refereed papers through self-archiving.
> 4. What level of charges seems fair to you, and
> should it depend on length of articles or other
It should definitely be a flat rate, not length-dependent. And the
amount should depend on the true cost of implementing peer review.
Nothing else, and nothing more. (A lower "review" fee might be
considered for rejected papers, as a deterent to spurious submissions
eating up the time of referees, who referee in any case for free; this
fee could be assimilated to the acceptance fee in case of acceptance.
But this is controversial, and needs some thought and pre-testing.)
> 5. Should authors have optional charges for
> copy-editing and translation services?
Fine. But again this is risky, in the face of the competition from the
established journals, who currently provide this all at no cost to the
author. Let self-archiving exert its natural subversive force.
Meanwhile, concentrate on establishing your journal(s) by attracting the
highest quality content, and subsidize it until the funds are ready to
pay for such services. Otherwise your new journal(s) will be still-born,
strangled by their own pre-emptive prices, before there was even a
market, and before the inevitable transition.
Stevan Harnad harnad at cogsci.soton.ac.uk
Professor of Cognitive Science harnad at princeton.edu
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/
Highfield, Southampton http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/
SO17 1BJ UNITED KINGDOM
NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature online is available at the
American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01):
You may join the list at the site above.
Discussion can be posted to:
september98-forum at amsci-forum.amsci.org