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January 19, 2005

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Mark Funk

As you point out, it seem "unlikely... that a producer-pays model (in whichever of the current flavors) will come to dominate scholarly publishing." However, Phil's spreadsheet assumes just that. Yes, if that highly unlikely total shift happens, then research institutions will take on an incredible burden. But how likely is that going to happen? (I know, shift happens...)

More likely, there will be a few highly successful Open Access publishing houses. There will be a lot of middling successful OA journals, and a large number will rise only to disappear. (Be aware that this process describes evolution, which may not be valid in your state.) Meanwhile, most of the for-profit publishers will stay around, although some may change their pricing habits. The overall burden to research institutions will change very little.

Society publishers are in the middle of this, most appearing confused, afraid, and some frankly paranoid. Many feel they are being lumped together unfairly with "evil" for-profit publishers. But how many strictly anti-society-publisher rants have you seen?

T Scott

My impression is that many of the loudest, most haranguing of the open access partisans do seem to be arguing that a version of producer pays is the only acceptable future. Phil's model tries to push some of the likely consequences of that vision. I agree with you that the actual terrain will be quite mixed, but whether or not that means that "the overall burden on research institutions will change very little" I'm not sure. I think more models, like Phil's, showing the possible consequences of different scenarios, are going to be necessary.

As for the attitudes of the society publishers, I'd add "extremely defensive" to the list, but I think that many of them have reason to be. Varmus himself, and others with PLoS, have said some pretty rude things about the society publishers specifically, and the DC Principles signatories have taken some serious heat from the Open Access Working Group. And in common conversations, I couldn't count the number of times I've heard librarians say of the not-for-profits "Oh, there isn't any difference between them and the other publishers." So I think there's some justification on their part to think that they're being unfairly tarred.

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