Saturday, October 6. 2012
Richard Poynder's interview of publisher Jan Velterop in Open and Shut
Publisher Wheeling & Dealing, Part II:
Comments on Jan Velterop's Responses to Poynder Interview
Jan Velterop:“‘Gold’ is to a large degree developed by new entrants, not the traditional publishers. It should be built up alongside ‘green’. That is more likely to force the traditional publishers’ hands than ‘green’ alone.”Not if the UK motivates traditional publishers to offer optional hybrid Gold, while continuing to collect subscriptions (and adopting and increasing embargoes on Green). (Jan seems to systematically misunderstand or forget hybrid Gold, thinking instead that the contest is just between pure Gold and subscriptions.)
Jan Velterop:Except if both are being offered by and paid to the very same journals, because subscription journals go hybrid for UK Gold.
Jan Velterop:Managing peer review (provided for free by researchers) is a public good, like roads or hospitals??
What’s wrong with authors paying for the peer review service alone, per paper, once it’s been unbundled and liberated from the obsolete publishing functions and their costs (print edition, online edition, access-provision, archiving) by mandatory Green OA self-archiving in institutional repositories -- and then using just a fraction of the institutional savings from cancelling subscriptions to pay for just that peer review alone?
Jan Velterop:Where’s the tension with no-fault peer review services, paid by authors, out of their institution’s subscription savings?
And how is the management of a peer review service (performed by unpaid peers) a “common” that warrants McNopolistic national licensing instead of just per-piece payment for the service itself? And especially while the service is still co-bundled with a lot of other obscolescent products and services and their costs?
Jan Velterop:The service of arranging peer review I understand.
But what’s the rest? What’s “Arranging publication”? Once a paper has been peer-reviewed, revised and accepted, what’s left for publishers to do (for a fee) that authors can’t do for free (by depositing the peer-reviewed, revised, accepted paper in their institutional repository)?
And how to get there, from here -- and at a fair price for just peer review alone? Publishers won’t unbundle, downsize and renounce revenue until there’s no more market for the extras and their costs – and Green OA is what will put paid to that market. Pre-emptive Gold payment, while subscriptions are still being paid, will not – and especially not hybrid Gold.
Jan Velterop:Except that the author’s choice is based on the journal’s quality standards, not its price.
(And what about the journal’s choice? Unless the peer-review is no-fault, why would a journal choose quality over income – especially when readership is no longer a price-factor?)
And where’s the author choice in a national McNopoly?
Jan Velterop:There is no “benefit principle.” The publication costs are already being paid today as subscriptions – without providing OA. So there’s nothing to “add” but Green OA. And then it is the availability of Green OA that will drive downsizing all the way down to just no-fault peer review alone, at a fair, affordable and sustainable price, paid for on the post- Green Gold OA model, out of the subscription cancellation savings.
Jan Velterop:The differences are also ironed out if the price drops so low as to no longer make a difference. No-fault peer review will be uniform and affordable by all (out of a fraction of institutional subscription cancellation savings). The only differences between journals will be (as now) in their subject matter and their quality standards. (Authors, as always, will try to meet the highest standards they can meet; and journals will find their niche in the hierarchy.)
Jan Velterop:But only globally mandated Green OA can force the downsizing to peer review alone, and release the money to pay for it in the form of Gold OA fees. Publishers won’t unbundle and downsize on their own, if double-paid for Gold in advance, and on top of subscriptions. They will just do as they are doing now: preserve their current revenue streams, which in turn makes even a transition to Gold OA at par take an eternity, if ever.
Meanwhile, year in and year out, research access and impact are being lost, even though that – and not journal economics – is the real, urgent, and completely soluble problem, fully within the reach of the research community, and still not grasped (by mandating Green OA).
Jan Velterop:The advantages of McNopoly hybrid Gold payment for preserving publishers’ income streams are evident -- but not the incentive to un-bundle and downsize to fair, no-frills no-fault peer review service costs alone. Nor the publisher incentive for providing global OA any time soon…
Jan Velterop:As already discussed above, that would be a governmental consortium of all UK institutions bargaining with a publisher cartel of all worldwide publishers – all in order to preserve a subscription/license-like cartel’s current grotesquely bloated revenue streams.
And yet Jan agrees that the only essential service at issue is a peer-review service, per individual article.
This sort of national consortial bargaining scheme could, as I’ve often said, be used to pre-pay for daily Big Macs for every UK citizen: A national McLicense McNopoly.
Does anyone stop to think why we would never dream of doing that for anything else -- apart from Jan Velterop’s common goods like roads and hospitals? But is that really the kind of life-and-death common good that managing the peer review service is, too?
And isn’t there something to be said for keeping service-providers independent and competing (for submission quality as well as APC quantity), as with other products and services, rather than combined and colluding? (Not to mention that no-fault peer review prevents journals from lowering acceptance standards for more revenue: they get paid regardless of the outcome (accept, revise or reject) – and the higher-standard ones will get more authors competing for acceptance.)
Jan Velterop:Why no doubts, if it did not prove sustainable even in a small country like the Netherlands? (What would be evidence that would make Jan doubt the sustainability of a McNopoly, then, if failure to sustain it is not evidence enough?)
Jan Velterop:But once journal publishing has been downsized by Green OA mandates to just the essentials -- a no-fault peer-review service, per submission, unbundled from the obsolete hold-overs from the print era -- the cost will be so low that the consumption/production difference makes no difference. (My guess is about $100-$200 per round of peer review -- paid for out of a fraction of institutional subscription cancellation savings.)
Jan Velterop:Does Jan really think that authors would pick journals for their price rather than their quality level? Does he think peer-review standards are generic and uniform? (And has Jan forgotten that with hybrid journals we are talking about the very same journals that authors are publishing in today?)
Jan Velterop:Gold OA is indeed Gold OA whether the journal is hybrid or pure (and whether the Gold is Gratis or CC-BY)
But “hybrid” does not refer to a kind of OA, it refers to a kind of journal: the kind that charges both subscriptions and (optionally) Gold OA fees.
That kind of journal certainly exists; and they certainly can and do double-dip. And that’s certainly an expensive way to get (Gratis) Gold OA.
And the Finch/RCUK policy will certainly encourage many if not all journals to go hybrid Gold, and publishers, to maximize their chances of making an extra 6% revenue from the UK, will in turn jack up their Green embargoes past RCUK’s permissible limits.
Jan Velterop:Double-dipping is not about the number articles or subscribers a journal has, but about charging subscriptions and, in addition, charging, per article, for Gold OA. That has nothing to do with number of articles, journals or subscribers: It’s simply double-charging.
Jan Velterop:Nothing of the sort, and extremely simple, for a publisher who really does not want to double-dip, but to give all excess back as a rebate:
Count the total number of articles, N, and the total subscription revenue, S.
From that you get the revenue per article: S/N.
Hybrid Gold OA income is than added to that total revenue (say, at a fee of S/N per article).
That means that for k Gold OA articles, total hybrid journal revenue is S + kS/N.
And if the journal really wants to reduce subscriptions proportionately, at the end of the year, it simply sends a rebate to each subscribing institution:
Suppose there are U subscribing institutions. Each one gets a year-end rebate of kS/UN (regardless of the yearly value of k, S, U or N).
(Alternatively, if the journal wants to give back all of the rebate only to the institutions that actually paid for the extra Gold, don’t charge subscribing institutions for Gold OA at all: But that approach shows most clearly why and how this pre-emptive morphing scheme for a transition from subscriptions to hybrid Gold to pure Gold is unscaleable and unsustainable, hence incoherent. It is an Escher impossible figure, either way, because collective subscriptions/“memberships” – including McNopolies -- only make sense for co-bundled incoming content; for individual pieces of outgoing content the peer-review service costs must be paid by the individual piece. There are at least 20,000 research-active institutions on the planet and at least 25,000 peer-reviewed journals, publishing several million individual articles per year. No basis – or need --for a pre-emptive cartel/consortium McNopoly.)
Jan Velterop:Less Gold – the value of the year-end institutional rebate -- kS/UN – is less that year.
Jan Velterop:By exactly10S/50U per subscribing institution U.
Jan Velterop:Simple answer: it’s not worth the price either way. Both prices are grotesquely inflated. No-fault peer review should cost about $100-200 per round.
Jan Velterop:Fine, let those who want and need CC-BY pay extra for it, if they wish, and can.
But mandate that everyone most provide Gratis Green, whether or not they wish to pay for CC-BY.
Jan Velterop:Not hybrid Gold publishers. They stay in the market no matter what they charge for Gold, as long as subscriptions hold.
But they will probably be careful not to charge more than 1/Nth of their revenue per article to be sure to get the extra RCUK Gold subsidy…
Jan Velterop:Not in the least. It’s saying: The cake’s paid for already, through subscriptions. Let everyone eat (OA).
And we want OA now, and can provide it via Green OA self-archiving.
If and when that goes on to make subscriptions unsustainable, the dysfunctional market will downsize to peer review service alone, paid for, per article, out of the subscription savings, as post-Green Gold OA, fairly, affordably, scalably and sustainably.
But the purpose of OA is OA – access to research for all users, not just those whose institutions can afford subscriptions.
Whether and when Green OA will fix the dysfunctional journal market is a secondary matter. It’s sure that 100% Green OA will provide 100% OA, solving the research access problem – and thereby making the journal affordability problem a much less important matter.
If global Green OA makes subscriptions unsustainable, forcing journals to unbundle, cut costs and downsize to peer review alone (as I think it is eventually likely to do) all the better. It will have fixed the “dysfunctional market” too.
But what is urgently needed now, and already a decade overdue even though it is fully within reach, is 100% OA – through global Green OA mandates from institutions and funders.
Jan Velterop: “I think it is more likely that [it is not because of publisher lobbying that] the Finch group has adopted the view that “gold” is indeed the most straightforward, scalable (proportional to the research effort and funding), and particularly because of this proportionality, economically sustainable model. After all, the “green” model needs subscriptions to be maintained, and the cost of those needs to be taken into account when comparing what is financially the best option for the country.”See above.
But it’s not just subscription publishers that were doing the lobbying: so were Gold OA publishers (pure and hybrid). And there was also (very valid and timely) lobbying for Open Data (CC-BY) as well, but the latter was unwittingly was conflated by Finch/BIS with the urgent need in some fields only (e.g., crystallography) for CC-BY data-mining rights for journal articles too.
Not only is there no need, but it makes no sense to pay extra for CC-BY gold for all UK journal articles, when most fields only need Gratis OA (which can be provided via cost-free Green). And even for the few fields that do urgently need CC-BY Gold, the UK paying for it pre-emptively will only provide CC-BY for 6% of worldwide journal articles in the field, which is no use when what is needed is data-mining rights for 100% of worldwide output.
Meanwhile, subscriptions are already being paid by the UK and the rest of the world, covering the costs of publication in full and fulsomely. An effective Green OA mandate can provide Gratis OA to 100% of UK output at no extra cost. And if Green OA mandates eventually globalize and make subscriptions unsustainable, it will also provide the means to downsize journal publishing affordably to just the peer review service alone, and will release the subscription funds to pay for it – instead of gratuitously paying extra, pre-emptively, today, out of already scarce research funds, as Finch/BIS proposes (under the lobbying of publishers, for which that would of course be the optimal outcome, at the expense of research and researchers).
And that, in turn, will usher in as much CC-BY as users need and authors wish to provide, with no constraints from publishers, embargoes or copyright transfer.
Jan Velterop:What difference does it make for subscription publishers who go hybrid Gold? Their bets are hedged. It’s win/win, thanks to their UK subsidy (and any others who care to pay for hybrid Gold): S + kS/N
Besides, publishers all no doubt see the OA writing on the wall and see hybrid Gold, subsidized by the UK, as their best bet for preserving their current revenue levels. So they characterizing Green OA to Finch/BIS as inadequate and a failure – and, for good measure, adding that if Green grows then it will destroy journal publishing as well as peer review. (Odd effect for something inadequate…)
Jan Velterop:Stay tuned. You haven’t seen how effective Green OA mandates work yet. (And their anarchic growth is a strength, not a weakness.)
Besides, one of the reasons mandates need to be strengthened is because many publishers who “prefer” Gold are at the same time doing their level best to (1) stave off Green mandates with embargoes (making the “delay” they complain of into a self-fulfilling prophecy) – and (2) to talk RCUK out of mandating Green at all (because it is inadequate as well as ruinous)!
But if the ‘inadequacy” is that Green OA articles are hard to find, publishers should wake up and smell the coffee (and surf, say, Google Scholar). The only content that is hard to find is the content that is not there – because it has not been made Green OA, thanks to publishers’ efforts to prevent it. It is disingenuous (but rather endearing, because of its utter transparency) for publishers to tout as an inadequacy of Green OA obstacle created by publishers themselves!
Jan Velterop:My problem is not increasing APCs! It’s increasing Green embargoes -- and being forced to pick and pay for Gold (out of scarce research funds) instead of being able to fulfill the RCUK OA mandate with cost-free Green.
Jan Velterop:Let Jan keep speculating about economics and McNopolies, and let publishers keep negotiating licenses to their heart’s content – but let RCUK mandate (gratis) Green so we can have OA in the meanwhile, at no added cost.
Jan Velterop:A global transition to Gold OA is only possible when institutional subscriptions are no longer being paid for – freed up by cancellations to pay for Gold OA, at a fair price.
Pre-emptively subsidizing hybrid Gold OA will not bring any of that about: Mandating Green OA will.
And subscriptions can’t be cancelled till all or nearly all journal contents are accessible by another means (Green OA). This is why anarchic growth is possible, and a strength rather than a weakness of mandating Green OA globally.
Jan Velterop:And I don’t mind voluntary Gold – as long as Green is first made mandatory.
Green can and will first provide global OA – and that’s what this has all been about, for over two long decades now.
Whether and when it makes subscriptions unsustainable, and forces downsizing to peer review and a transition to Gold OA at a fair, affordable, sustainable price is a far less urgent and important matter. Green OA will solve the access problem in the online era. Publishing -- a service profession -- will adapt.
Jan Velterop:That would be fine. But RCUK is forcing (hybrid) Gold. And the objective is OA, not Gold.
Jan Velterop:1. Because of the distributed, anarchic nature of the growth of Green – article by article and institution by institution rather than journal by journal – Green cannot cause cancellations till it is at or near 100% globally.
2. Green can grow regardless of whether publishers raise journal prices.
3. The most effective Green mandate (ID/OA + the Button) is immune to embargoes.
4. If embargoes are lengthened, it’s more likely to be because of Finch/RCUK hybrid Gold mandates rather than Green mandates.
5. The purpose of Green mandates is not to fix the subscription system but to get all articles deposited immediately, to provide OA as soon as possible, and to provide Almost-OA via the semi-automated email-eprint-request Button during any embargo.
Jan Velterop:If RCUK is not fixed, it will fail: researcher resistance, resentment and non-compliance.
And the problem is not how good a McNopoly Deal the UK negotiates for hybrid Gold but the negative effects of the RCUK U-Turn on worldwide OA growth, because it provides a gratuitous incentive to publishers to offer hybrid Gold and lengthen Green embargoes.
Jan Velterop:Nothing new, and not much OA to show for all the time and money that will be lost because of Finch/BIS gullibility and RCUK somnambulism.
Jan Velterop:Actually, OA is an end in itself -- for research and researchers.
But so far we have not even grasped -- though it’s fully within reach -- the means to the means, which is to mandate Green OA in order to have, at long last, global (Gratis) OA instead of access denial and impact loss. The rest can come only after we have reached at least that.
Jan Velterop: “I foresee a situation where a price is being paid for publishing services and “keeping the minutes of science”, via APCs or even via subscriptions, whereas the knowledge contained in publications is freely and openly shared. Now we see keeping the record and knowledge sharing as being the same, but that need not be the case in the future.”And I foresee researchers doing research using the full resources of the online medium (which is perfectly capable of storing and preserving its own minutes), with peer-reviewed research openly accessible to all users, and what used to be called publishing now reduced to the management of the peer-review service -- with that, and only that, being paid for via post-Green Gold OA fees.
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Publisher Wheeling & Dealing, Part I:
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