[GOAL] Re: Open Access in the UK: Reinventing the Big Deal

Sally Morris sally at morris-assocs.demon.co.uk
Sun Oct 7 12:30:59 BST 2012

Stevan overlooks the difference between 'publishing' an article in a
repository and in a journal.   As long as researchers prefer the latter (and
there are lots of reasons why they seem to, in addition to peer review) then
there will be a demand for journals in which to publish:  selection and
collecting together of articles of particular relevance to a given audience,
and of a certain range of quality;  'findability';  kudos of the journal's
title (and impact factor);  copy-editing;  linking;  quality of
presentation;  etc etc...
And peer review is in any case not a contextless operation.  The selection
of articles for publication in journal X is a relative matter;  not just 'is
the research soundly conducted and honestly reported?' but 'is it of
sufficient relevance, interest and value to our readers in particular?'
Sally Morris
South House, The Street, Clapham, Worthing, West Sussex, UK  BN13 3UU
Tel:  +44 (0)1903 871286
Email:  sally at morris-assocs.demon.co.uk


From: goal-bounces at eprints.org [mailto:goal-bounces at eprints.org] On Behalf
Of Stevan Harnad
Sent: 06 October 2012 23:12
To: Global Open Access List (Successor of AmSci)
Subject: [GOAL] Re: Open Access in the UK: Reinventing the Big Deal

Publisher Wheeling and Dealing: Open Access Via National and Global

Excerpted from more extensive comments on the Poynder/Velterop Interview
<http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/942-.html> here and
<http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/943-.html> here.

Jan Velterop: “a shift to an author-side payment for the service of
arranging peer review and publication is a logical one”

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.

JV: “‘Hybrid OA’ doesn’t exist. It is just “gold” OA. OA in a hybrid journal
is the same as OA in a fully OA journal for any given article.”

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.

JV: “The “double-dipping” argument is a red herring. There's
 a notion that
subscription prices should be proportional to the number of articles in a
journal. How would that work? There are journals with 100 subscribers

with thousands of subscribers [and] & 25 articles a year & 25 or more
articles a week.”

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. 

JV: “The cost, and
 revenue, of an individual article can only usefully
expressed as an average, and then probably company-wide. What would
otherwise be the situation for a loss-making hybrid journal that receives in
one year 10% of its articles as gold, and the next year only 2%? Impossible
to work out. A subscription system is inherently lacking in transparency”

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,

>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 +

And if the journal really wants to reduce subscriptions proportionately, at
the end of the year, it simply sends a rebate to each subscribing

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

JV: “If journals should reduce their subscription price when they get a
percentage of papers paid for as gold, what should happen if they lose the
same percentage (for completely different reasons) of subscriptions?”

Less Gold – the value of the year-end institutional rebate -- kS/UN – is
less that year.

JV: “What if a journal which decided to go hybrid has published a steady
amount of 50 articles a year for ages and all of a sudden attracts an extra
10 gold OA articles? By how much should it reduce its subscription price?”

By exactly10S/50U per subscribing institution U.

JV: “If an article is worth £2,000 to have published with OA in a full-OA
journal, why is it not worth the same £2,000 if published in a hybrid

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

Stevan Harnad

Excerpted from more extensive comments on the Poynder/Velterop Interview
<http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/942-.html> here and
<http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/943-.html> here.

On 2012-10-02, at 5:00 AM, Richard Poynder wrote:

Love it or loathe it, the recently announced Open Access policy from
Research Councils UK has certainly divided the OA movement. Despite
considerable criticism, however, RCUK has refused to amend its policy.
So what will be its long-term impact?
Critics fear that RCUK has opened the door to the reinvention of the Big
Deal. Pioneered by Academic Press in 1996, the Big Deal involves publishers
selling large bundles of electronic journals on multi-year contracts.
Initially embraced with enthusiasm, the Big Deal is widely loathed today.
However, currently drowned out by the hubbub of criticism, there are voices
that support the RCUK policy. Jan Velterop, for instance, believes it will
be good for Open Access.
Velterop also believes that the time is ripe for the creation of a New Big
Deal (NBD). The NBD would consist of “a national licensing agreement” that
provided researchers with free-at-the-point-of-use access to all the papers
sitting behind subscription paywalls, *plus* a “national procurement
service” that provided free-at-the-point-of-use OA publishing services for
researchers, allowing them to publish in OA journals without having to foot
the bill themselves. 
Velterop’s views are not to be dismissed lightly. Former employee of
Elsevier, Springer and Nature, Velterop was one of the small group of people
who attended the 2001 Budapest meeting that saw the birth of the Open Access
movement, and he was instrumental in the early success of OA publisher
BioMed Central.
Moreover, during his time at Academic Press, Velterop was a co-architect of
the original Big Deal.
More on this, and a Q&A with Velterop, can be read here:

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