16 January 2012

How expensive is that glamour mag?

The New York Times has a an article on scientific publishing that relates to several of my posts in the last month. In December, I wrote about making Science magazine a target for open access. The New York Times, as luck would have it, quotes the publisher on exactly this issue:

“I would love for it to be free,” said Alan Leshner, executive publisher of the journal Science, but “we have to cover the costs.” Those costs hover around $40 million a year to produce his nonprofit flagship journal, with its more than 25 editors and writers, sales and production staff members, and offices in North America, Europe and Asia, not to mention print and distribution expenses.

To some degree, I addressed this here. People may not be reading Science for the science in their field, but are reading it for the news, analysis, and opinion, job ads, and other things bundled in with the original peer-reviewed research.

Then there’s the question of allocation of resources. How much of that cost revolves around the actual scientific articles, and how much of it revolves around other things? How much of that costs involves printing paper copies of Science, which is perhaps a luxury good these days that could be cut? How much of the cost involves keeping staff writers and flying them them to conferences to keep abreast of the latest developments? How much involves writing press releases and managing embargoes? Are offices on three continents still necessary? And so on down the list.

I have a lot of questions about alternate kinds of finance. Could submission of publication fees from authors subsidize part of those costs?

Leshner continues:

Dr. Leshner, the publisher of Science, agrees that things are moving. “Will the model of science magazines be the same 10 years from now? I highly doubt it,” he said. “I believe in evolution.

“When a better system comes into being that has quality and trustability, it will happen. That’s how science progresses, by doing scientific experiments. We should be doing that with scientific publishing as well.”

All of this makes me think my post in December may have been on the right track. I still would like to see Science become the first science glamour mag to make all its scientific articles open access.

Related links

Occupy Science (the journal)
ESA still not supporting open access
Open access without anger

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