[Taxacom] OMG! OMG! Run for your lives! End of the World...

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu May 6 18:41:27 CDT 2010

charging authors for open access does have some significant advantages over subscription charges. It depends on whether the charges can be taylored to the author's circumstances, i.e.,  there is a big difference between an author publishing research as part of a multimillion dollar public funded contract to the institution that they work for, versus a research associate like Bob contributing taxonomy largely as an individual (and without being driven by a profit motive). As, I see it, a substantial proportion of public funding for terrestrial invertebrate taxonomy in some places I know well  is being spent on (arguably unnecessary) travel and accommodation costs, after the institutional overheads have been extracted, and I for one would much rather see that money resulting in more open access publications, and preferably the rest of it being spent more on documenting the vast backlog in collections rather than travelling around gathering more and
 more samples to add to that backlog ...

From: Bob Mesibov <mesibov at southcom.com.au>
To: TAXACOM <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Sent: Fri, 7 May, 2010 11:13:24 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] OMG! OMG! Run for your lives! End of the World...

(Please note: I have no objection to e-only publication, with appropriate archiving.)

That Solanum paper cost the author USD$1350 to publish in PLOS One. It would have been USD$2900 in Plos Biology (http://www.plos.org/journals/pubfees.php). This is cheap in comparison to what other scientific publishers are charging for open access, but still a hell of a lot of money. PLOS justifies their prices this way (in part, see http://www.plos.org/about/faq.php#pubquest):

"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 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 <a href="http://www.biomedcentral.com/info/authors/funderpolicies/">funding agencies</a> 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."

I can't speak for all taxonomists, but $1350 doesn't sound like a small fraction of *my* costs to produce a paper. It sounds like my field work, my materials (morphology only), my SEM fees and museum-related costs, plus about USD$700 left over. What PLOS and other open-access publishers are trying to do is fund themselves out of research grants rather than subscriptions and sales. As their charges go up, taxonomists will need more funding to publish open access, and that's the last thing taxonomy needs: stiffer competition for the research dollar.

Zoological taxonomy isn't quite so expensive at the moment. My last Zootaxa paper was a 52-page effort in 2008 that would have cost me 'only' USD$1040 for open access (optional). My most recent paper was 50 pp long and appeared in ZooKeys 6 weeks ago. ZooKeys requires open access but has a very generous policy on discounting page charges based on the circumstances of the author. It cost me USD$596, still not 'a small fraction of the costs of doing [my] research'.

ZooKeys publisher Lyubomir Penev is a regular poster to Taxacom and list members will be aware of the other advantages ZooKeys has as a taxonomic outlet. Most of us are happy with the idea of open-access e-publishing in taxonomy, and some publishers are moving towards helping us. Others seem to be looking at open-access as their new cash cow. Caveat auctor.
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
03 64371195; 61 3 64371195
Webpage: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/mesibov.html


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