Friday, October 20, 2006

Profit from Open Access Publishing for Research and Scholarship

The report "Research communication costs in Australia: Emerging opportunities and benefits" puts dollar figures on the benefits of open access electronic publishing. This is well worth reading for anyone interested in e-publishing for scholarly purposes and also has some insights for commercial publishers.
Estimating the benefits of a one-off increase in accessibility and efficiency we find that:
  • With public sector R&D expenditure at AUD 5,912 million in 2002-03 and a 25% rate of social return to R&D, a 5% increase in accessibility and efficiency would be worth AUD 150 million a year;
  • With higher education R&D expenditure at AUD 3,430 million and a 25% rate of social return to R&D, a 5% increase in accessibility and efficiency would be worth AUD 88 million a year; and
  • With ARC administered competitive grants funding at AUD 480 million and a 25% rate of social return to R&D, a 5% increase in accessibility and efficiency would be worth AUD 12 million a year.
They also look at the costs:
Scholarly research communication costs are significant. Summing the estimated costs associated with core scholarly communication activities in Australian higher education (including higher education related ARC and NHMRC research grant application and review, reading for those higher education staff producing HERDC compliant publications, writing HERDC publications, related peer review and editorial activities, and related publishing costs) gives an approximate estimate of overall system costs of between AUD 2.6 billion and AUD 4.6 billion (mean AUD 3.6 billion) per year.

This 132 page report was prepared for the Australian Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) and released in September 2006. It was prepared by John Houghton, Colin Steele & Peter Sheehan and details costs and benefits from open, scholarly communication:
  • The underlying economics of scholarly publication, distribution and access;
  • Understanding the various emerging alternative models for publication and access; and
  • Exploring the costs, benefits and implications for Australia at both the national and institutional levels.
The report is available in PDF (1.7 MB) and RTF (4.4 MB). This report is one of a number of recent Australian Government funded reports on electronic repositories, publishing and archives.

Ironically, while detailing the benefits of Open Access in publishing, the report itself has a restrictive copyright notice, preventing wider distribution. The report also suffers from poor electronic formatting. It is unfortunate there isn't a good XHTML version of the report which could be used in education.

Also I would have liked to see alternative business models for e-publishing addressed. The authors seem to assume that the only way to pay for a journal is by subscription. They have not noticed that Science and Nature magazines are jam packed with paid advertising. They don't address the option of web based advertising for e-journals. I have proposed this for the Australian Computer Society's publishing.

In addition the report only looks at publishing from the point of view of the scholar; there is no discussion of creating a viable commercial research publishing industry for Australia. With a good reputation in academia, copyright laws and good Internet infrastructure, it would be quite possible for small Australian startups to compete world wide. DEST is pouring millions of dollars of public money into developing tools for e-publishing. It would good to see some of that money resulting in jobs and income for Australians, rather than the software produced being used to make products and services in other countries, which Australian researchers then have to pay to use (with ultimately DEST paying to use the products it funded to develop).

This is a brave attempt to put figures on a very difficult subject. Unlike many scholarly works on open access, this is not a collection of woolly wishful thinking. There are facts and figures, diagrams explainign the publishing process and lots of statistics on economic value. But some of the figures are a bit rubbery. Cost estimates are quoted from Roger Clarke's "The cost-profiles of alternative approaches to journal publishing", but he got some of those figures from me, so I wouldn't believe it. ;-)

The report also has a good list of references. Here are some of the better ones:
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  9. Brody, T. and Harnad, S. (2004) 'Comparing the Impact of Open Access (OA) vs. Non-OA Articles in the Same Journals,' D-Lib Magazine 10(6).
  10. Brody, T., Harnad, S. and Carr, L. (2005) 'Earlier Web Usage Statistics as Predictors of Later Citation Impact,' Journal of the American Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST).
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  63. Sale, A. (2006) Generic Risk Analysis: Open Access for your institution, Technical Report, School of Computing, University of Tasmania.
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  65. Simba (2004) Global STM Market Analysis & Forecast 2003, Simba Information, Stamford CT.
  66. Simboli, B. (2005) 'Subscription subsidized open access and the crisis in scholarly communication,' Lehigh University.
  67. Singer, P. (2000) 'When shall we be free?' Journal of Electronic Publishing 6(2)
  68. Smith, A.P. (2000) 'The journal as an overlay on preprint databases,' Learned Publishing 13(1), 43-48.
  69. Smith, J.W.T. (2005) Open Access Publishing Models: Reinventing Journal Publishing, Research Information, May-June 2005.
  70. SQW (2003) Economic Analysis of Scientific Research Publishing, A report commissioned by the Wellcome Trust, London, January 2003.
  71. SQW (2004) Costs and business models in scientific research publishing, A report commissioned by the Wellcome Trust, London, April 2004.
  72. Suber, P. (2004) 'What is open access?: An overview,' Presented at Open Access Publishing, Society for Scholarly Publishing, Washington D.C. November 2004.
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  74. Van de Sompel, H. et al. (2004) 'Rethinking Scholarly Communication: Building the system that scholars deserve,' D-Lib Magazine 10(9) September 2004.
  75. Van Westrienen, G. and Lynch, C.A. (2005) 'Academic Institutional Repositories: Deployment Status in 13 Nations as of Mid 2005', D-Lib Magazine, 11(9), September 2005.
  76. Varian, H.R. (1998) The future of electronic journals, Journal of Electronic Publishing 4(1).
  77. Velterop, J. (2003) 'Institution pays', presentation at ALPSP forum “Who Pays for the Free Lunch?" ALPSP, April 2003.
  78. Waltham, M. (2005) JISC: Learned Society Open Access Business Models, JISC June 2005.
  79. Willinsky, J. (2003) 'Scholarly Associations and the Economic Viability of Open Access Publishing,' Journal of Digital Information, 4(2).
  80. Woodward, H. and Conyers, A. (2005) 'Analysis of UK academic library journal usage,' Presentation to the Charleston Conference, 2-5 November 2005.
  81. Zandonella, C. (2003) 'Economics of Open Access: Supporters of new publishing model still face skepticism about journals' viability', The Scientist, 22 August.
  82. Also from the Nature Access to the Literature Debate:

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