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

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Fri May 7 18:05:54 CDT 2010

Cynthia Parr wrote:

"PLOS and ZooKeys openly offer waivers. My understanding is that at least for now most taxonomists could easily be subsidized by those with large grants, especially from other fields. Does anybody have experience suggesting that these waivers are not sufficient or easily obtained?"

I selectively quoted the PLOS FAQ to highlight the utterly specious nature of their argument, which amounts to: "We're charging a lot because you have a lot of money in your research grant". You seem to be making an even weaker argument, namely that online publication charges in taxonomy can remain high because other fields have lots of money and can cross-subsidise taxonomy.

The question to be asked is "How can online publication costs [as opposed to author charges] be kept low enough to allow charges that are (as Gustaf Mamangkey puts it) reasonable to everyone"? This isn't a question that the big scientific publishers are asking. Instead, they're asking "With revenue from subscriptions dropping, how can we maintain our excellent profits?" And like lawyers looking around for someone with money to sue, they've spotted big pots of money in the funding agencies and have targetted those pots.

Sorry not to sound sympathetic towards struggling publishers trying to make an honest living in the new digital world, but I read an apology like this one (not PLOS):

"This is calculated in order to cover the costs associated with the publication process, from peer-review of the submitted manuscript, through the copy-editing and typesetting, to online-hosting of the definitive version of the published article."

and think to myself "So they're paying for peer review? So they're paying thousands of dollars *per article* to stick it on a Web server?"
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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