From: "Jean-Claude Guédon" <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Sat, 12 Mar 2016 13:10:57 -0500
Sorry for a slow answer, but here are my remarks, below, in the body
of Mark Seeley's text.
Université de Montréal
Le mercredi 09 mars 2016 à 19:30 -0500, LIBLICENSE a écrit :
From: "Seeley, Mark (ELS-CMA)" <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Wed, 9 Mar 2016 12:43:31 +0000
Replying to Professor Guédon:
MS: Best of all possible worlds? No, we do not live in utopia-- I was
suggesting that when thinking about reforms and changes it is always
wise to fully weigh and consider benefits and costs. Of course I am
prejudiced towards thinking that the mechanism of delivering journal
articles to researchers is well served by the current system,
including the digital and online enhancements and improvements. Those
may depends on the Internet, but they still require investments in
platforms, software and systems to make such investments useful and
JC: 1. The best of all possible worlds is not equivalent to utopia.
It is closer to the principle of sufficient reason.
2. I am glad to see that you admit being prejudiced in favour of the
present system. That is precisely what "the best of all possible
worlds" argument would predict.
3. That investments, etc., are required is an obvious fact of life.
But maintaining a profit rate of 35-40% does need some explanation
beyond the "whatever the market can bear" argument.
MS: I fail to understand the comment about Gold OA not involving
author-side payments-- perhaps Prof. Guédon is making the point that
in some cases funding agencies or institutions themselves pay such
charges-- or to note that in some instances the fees are waived--
which is why I use the broader "supply side" description-- to contrast
it with the "user side" which is about subscriptions/transactional
accesss (document delivery, document rental, etc).
JC: The "supply side" vocabulary conflates many different situations
which should not be conflated. There is a great deal of difference
between Elsevier offering OA articles after the author or some proxy
pays a hefty sum for the "privilege", while pocketing a very
significant profit, and the offering of OA articles produced gratis
because the publishing platform is supported by public funds. A
similar distinction could be made with charitable funds (e.g.
The difference becomes even clearer if one thinks that the whole
research cycle is incomplete without a publishing phase. If, as is the
case, most of the research costs are paid up by governments all over
the planet, even in the US, why is it so difficult to accept that the
cost of publishing - 1-2% of research costs - should not be supported
by public funds as well?
A majority of titles in OA are gratis for the authors. So, this is not
just "in some cases"; it is in the majority of cases.
MS: Surveys have demonstrated that researchers at most institutions report
significant increases in access, see the 2015 "STM Report"
which notes the increase in reading in section 2.10 (citing various
reports from Tenopir et al) and increase in access from surveys in
section 2.19 citing ARL data and related reports. This is not to
minimize the impact of economics, budget crises of one kind or
another, etc-- but the long-term trends suggest a significant increase
in access for most.
JC: Ah! The "best of all possible worlds" argument again!
MS: By "fast developing countries" I mean of course countries like China
and Russia that have significant economic resources but sometimes
claim that they should be regarded as "developing" markets.
JC: And these countries, that also harbour immense pockets of
poverty, should spend their money on feeding Elsevier's desire for
hefty profits? This is where
strategies such as Scielo in latin America begin to make a lot of
sense for these countries.
MS: Yes of course from a business perspective I will use words like
"markets"-- I also understand that scholarlship involves communities
and networks, as noted in my first comment that is the way scholarly
publishing has to work to be successful.
JC: The point here is that scientific communication is not a process
that naturally falls in the ambit of commerce. It took some rather
special and strange contexts to transform scientific communication
into a lucrative business for a few. The emergence of a "core science"
concept, splitting world science into "what counts" and "what does not
count" rather than admit the existence of a gradual transition from
the best to the worst has been crucial here. It allowed to create the
conditions for an inelastic market - a situation first noticed by
Robert Maxwell. It was made possible by the modus operandi of the
Science Citation Index. Maxwell knew this so well that he went so far
as to sue Garfield to try prying the SCI away from him. Later,
Maxwell's press, Pergamon, was acquired by Elsevier and, lo and
behold, Maxwell's dream of holding both journals and SCI began to
re-emerge with the creation of Scopus. Nil novi sub sole!
MS: Yes sadly I admit that the US changed its own copyright laws when it
decided it was a net producer of copyright content and therefore this
was in its economic self-interest. I would have preferred a more
"natural rights" thinking, but the approach in the US and I believe
the UK is more on the economics side.
JC: Indeed, very much like yours, actually (see above: "yes of
course, from a business perspective... etc.)