[Taxacom] Open Access: the pros and cons

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Sun Jan 17 21:28:56 CST 2016

Nobody is doubting that publishers are making big money already, so do we want to give them even more? The issues here are (1) which budget is the money coming out of? University library subscriptions probably don't use public money intended for research (but surely uses student fees, donations and investment returns derived from these); (2) subscription is at least highly selective. Open access across the board would be entirely unselective. Depending on where the fees are set (which is up to publishers and market forces), many articles of limited interest could chew up open access fees based on highly "optimistic" predictions of likely readership. So, publishers don't have to worry if nobody reads it, they get their money anyway. The overall result of OA depends on the absolute number of limited interest articles that would have to be payed for in advance of publication, and the amount of the OA fee. If one million articles cost $10 each to publish (a very low fee, $20/page is probably more realistic), that is $10 million in public funding spent. If they would otherwise only get an average of 1 read/article at reader pays $10/read (using public funding) then we break even. But tinker with those costs to make it more realistic, and who can say how it might pan out? Maybe it would pan out as a saving? Maybe it would pan out as a big loss? If the latter, then this could significantly reduce the amount of publicly funded research, by diverting a significant proportion of it to OA fees. Who can say with confidence that this worst case scenario is unlikely? Also, there is the issue of retrospective access to post-1923 published material still under copyright. Don't we need to still pay subscriptions for access to these?


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