A.Smith to S. Harnad, 5-7-99

Here's what I understand of the current official policy (I was given some more information on this today):

(1) The author, as part of the copyright agreement, can post any version of the manuscript as created by the author, including the final version after revisions suggested by referees, to any distribution service that is either free and public, or if not completely free is restricted to the author's institution and is not sold commercially to other institutions.

(2) The author, also as part of the copyright agreement, may post the final APS-created rendition of the article (PDF file, two-column format and all) to a public web site under the control of the author or author's institution, accompanied by a statement concerning APS copyright. This version is not to be posted in other public areas.

The coherence comes in part from requiring the accompanying copyright statement. Not that it would be easy (or very useful) to police.

Now we have also seriously considered a license agreement, where the author retains full copyright. The only thing that is holding that up is some serious concerns about the validity of the language of the license under international laws. This may eventually happen, in which case the restrictions in policy 2 would probably be lifted.

We do want to be on the side of the widest possible distribution for the BEST scientific articles - somehow, in the past, copyright has helped to ensure that excellent work is widely distributed, but it may no longer be the best approach now.

Anyway, this issue really isn't as critical as you make it out to be. If we did allow it, we would not charge for it, it would just be part of the copyright or license agreement.

SH> Do you think this would still be true if the page charges were only for
SH> the true costs of quality control, with no "add-ons"?

But as we (if we can) cut back our costs, we have no choice but to cut back our subscription prices too (we're non-profit) - so it will always be true at any one point in time, unless we go to a different system of charging for our journals (which may well happen). Maybe we could base page charges on projected "true costs" a year or two down the road, but it will take some experience to judge what that would be and it's not likely to be huge - if we could cut costs 10% a year we'd be ecstatic.

Consortia are usually possible only where the institutions in the consortium share a common source of funding - otherwise it's too difficult to agree how to split up the costs fairly. But at least in our case, the institutions who would have to pay the most extra under an author-pays system tend to be bunched together with the same funding source (the US government labs in particular, and research-I universities relying on federal research grant overhead). There's also a significant international redistribution involved - a much higher fraction of our subscriptions are in the U.S. than of our authors. A start towards this would be simply to change our pricing structure to scale prices in some way according to the number of authors or researchers at an institution - but we really don't want to go to direct usage based pricing, as that (institutionalized pay-per-view in a sense) discourages use, which is the opposite of what we all want. So some kind of "number of authors" based price makes a lot of sense.

SH> Here's another way to think of it: Currently, the net-provider institutions are
SH> subsidizing the net-consumer institutions. With up-front page charges, the excess
SH> savings of the net-consumers will be redistributed to balance the excess expenses
SH> of the net-providers, but all institutions will save something like (G-g)/G times
SH> their own current serial budgets annually.

But if they do nothing, don't bother with consortia, all institutions will still save something like (G - g)/G of their budgets. The savings are there whether we make it author-based pricing with free-viewing-for-all or not - as I've argued here previously, the actual implementation of S/L/P is a tiny fraction of total costs so that's not where the savings (g) will come from. The savings will come from improved processes throughout that have basically nothing to do with how the journal is being funded.

SH> The potential savings will never be realized or passed on to institutions as long as
SH> the cost recovery model is S/L/P.

Well, that's probably the crux of the argument there. Your attitude toward the publishers is reminiscent of Joseph Ransdall's toward institutionalized academia, whereas I have a much more optimistic view of the matter. I don't think either of us has enough experience yet to prove the other wrong - we really still are in the early days of this transition!

If past experience is any guide though, any cost savings we manage to achieve through automation will be made up for by a larger number of articles submitted to the journals - libraries may never win this one! Which is why we really may want to start looking at other models for peer review too.

Arthur (apsmith@aps.org)