Institutional Journal Costs in an Open Access Environment

Jan Velterop erfreut (und, was wichtiger ist, er läßt uns über die Grundlage unserer Budgets nachdenken) uns mal wieder mit seiner erfrischenden Argumentation (in einer Antwort auf Phil Banks, Cornell University):

I know (don’t need to assume) that not all grant money coming into a university stays in research. The percentages may be different in different circumstances and countries, but at Cornell it is apparently a whopping 58% that doesn’t go to research. Phil argues that that makes redistribution more difficult („we don’t just have reallocation issues to deal with, we have a major shortfall“). I argue that that it makes redistribution potentially easier. A system in which 58% of a grant can be spent on other things than research (including „mowing the law“ [sic] – copyright law?), is a system that should be able to deal with 59% not being spent on research per se. Especially since, after a transition period, the 1-2% of that money which now goes into the library, could be put back into research and compensate for the one percent research loss. That may not even be necessary. Just using low-energy light bulbs throughout the university or turning the heater down a notch in winter and the air condition a degree up in summer may cover the shortfall. Better for the environment anyway. But the more pertinent point is that publishing *is* part of the infrastructure for research. If paying for literature via the library can be an infrastructural provision, then paying for the literature via article charges can be.

I do take the point that researchers may not happily part with money. They are people, after all. They may not happily part with money for lab glassware or chemicals, either. Or with money for mowing the lawn. That’s why we have infrastructural provisions. Publishing is integral to research, and thus the cost of publishing is integral to the cost of research. Those who don’t see it that way should try not publishing their research.

The fact that researchers didn’t like page charges in Phys Rev D ten years ago is neither here nor there. They didn’t get open access for it, they were as aware of the prices of journals as cats are aware of the price of cat food (i.e. not, and they probably couldn’t care less), and it wasn’t an infrastructural provision (which it should have been, even then). They could rightfully see the latter as unfair. After all, researchers don’t have to pay for library subscriptions, either. (Hervorhebungen von mir)