More on Money…OA Publishing Fees and Value
March 8, 2011 6 Comments
I was talking to a friend this weekend (all his recent publications are open access), and he was saying that he still gets emails from people requesting PDFs of his work. So his question was – is it worth it, economically, for him (or his funder, or institution, or whoever is paying the OA fee) to make his work OA – at the individual article level (we are talking gold OA here as his funder requires deposit in UKPMC). Are the numbers of people who are actually making use of the free OA version enough to make it worth paying $1500? Is this per person/access charge reasonable? How many people would have to access the article to make it worth it? – and we have to subtract out the people who would already have access because they are attached to a subscribing institution (for hybrid journals).
Typically we speak about financial value at a much larger level – economic value for the institution or for the country, but what researchers may want to know is value at their level, the individual – or the individual article even. For him, or his funder, or institution – is it economical to make every paper OA – or should he just make the best papers (the ones that the most people will actually want to read) OA? Clearly the value of the research has played a role in the past – think about Genome data / publications – much more likely to be OA (see here for the latest issue in that area – NPG making what is supposed to be OA, “accidently” hidden behind a toll).
All this talk of cost per use, etc., of course made me think back to the PIRUS project I heard about a couple weeks ago. This conversation really made it relevant. With accurate usage statistics researchers could have data on how many times an article has been downloaded and where – which may demonstrate the value of OA (of course we would need some way to tag that the article is OA). This might help demonstrate (at the level of individuals) what OA can do for them (add in a little data about IP addresses and you could possibly even demonstrate that the article has been downloaded at locations unconnected to subscriber institutions – this would be really interesting – and could really demonstrate the moral reasons to academics, and you could even calculate how much you paid in OA fees for each access).
Of course putting your article in a repository (for free) would get around the whole discussion of cost per OA use – but in some instances funder mandates that require deposit into UKPMC make repository use slightly irrelevant for some academics (though of course I think funder mandates are positive – some, although working for OA, make work against the growth of repositories – who is it say if this is for better or worse).
You might also say that, morally, paying $1500 to have one single person, that wouldn’t otherwise have access, gain access – would be worth it. But unfortunately not everyone’s money to morals equation works the same.
Image credit: -Renegade- (very busy)