Economics and Usage of Digital Libraries: Byting the BulletSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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9.2 The models
We will now describe the three models that we have developed. Journal production and delivery is an international business, but these models were built from a UK perspective. Thus, for example, staff costs are based on UK figures and where value added tax is applicable in the UK it is applied at the rate of 17.5%. Where we quote figures, however, we have converted them to US$ at the exchange rate in February 2000.
We refer to the first model as "traditional". It models a process similar to that of print journals. This model is included for comparison with current practice but does not include production of print. In this traditional model, authors, referees and editors are unpaid. Editors receive from the publisher only a contribution towards editorial office costs. Production and delivery costs are recovered through sales of subscriptions and individual articles. The model differs from print production in that the entire editorial process is conducted electronically and the product is delivered to libraries in electronic form.
The second model is of a non-commercial journal that is available for use free of charge on the Internet. This model is based on the work of Stevan Harnad (Harnad and Hemus, 1997; Harnad, 1995b,1996). His model is based on the premise that academics submitting papers to journals for publication seek to disseminate their findings widely and would contribute to costs to facilitate widespread dissemination. In a print environment, it was necessary to accept access restrictions because print publication is expensive and publishers had to recoup their costs. In a digital environment, Harnad argued, costs can be reduced by as much as 70%, bringing them to a level that can be recovered from authors rather than subscribers. Harnad proposed that authors pay page charges and that journals be available to all users free of charge on the Internet. He suggested that the author fee should be around $400 for a 20-page article. Recovering costs from authors would actually contribute to cost reduction as subscription administration would be unnecessary.
The third model is a free-market model. It is based on a supporting study commissioned by the UK Electronic Libraries Programme (eLib) and conducted by Fishwick et al. (1998). Fishwick et al. compared a number of different models for pricing electronic scholarly journal articles. Their report suggested that the current academic information delivery chain is inefficient due to a number of distortions in the supply-demand chain. Among these are that: (1) authors represent a principal source of demand for publication but make no contribution to publication costs; (2) those consuming the information, i.e. the readers, seldom pay for it, preferring instead to obtain it from libraries; and (3) much of the journal publication work is undertaken by editors and referees without payment, or with minimal honoraria.
Fishwick et al. proposed an alternative model which introduced `normal' market feedback mechanisms into the academic information delivery chain with a view to developing an efficient market for scholarly articles. Publication would be funded by a combination of author submission fee and by sales of subscriptions and/or individual articles. Thus, both authors and users would contribute to costs, reflecting the fact that both contribute to demand. Editors and referees would be paid to encourage efficiency, and authors would receive royalties. Fishwick et al. argued that if authors paid to have their work published and received royalties based on the number of copies sold, they would submit for publication only their best work. Rather than publishing as many papers in `minimum publishable units' to maximise their perceived research output, they would concentrate their best work in fewer, high-quality papers. to encourage them to submit for publication only material of the highest quality. The system includes a mechanism to support authors who cannot afford to pay a submission fee. The editorial office would apply to charitable foundations to fund these papers. Papers would then be available individually or in customised bundles from the publisher database.
Fishwick et al. also suggested that the facility to print from digital journals be rationed even when the library obtains a journal or database of articles by site license and thus, has paid in advance for unlimited access by end users. They argued that this would force end users to identify and select only journal articles that they genuinely read rather than filtering after printing. This would generate usage data for librarians (and possibly publishers) that would reflect real need, argued Fishwick et al..
This recommendation suggests that end-users currently waste resources by gathering information that they do not need. Given that researchers' time is scarce, this seems unlikely. Rather than making the system more efficient, rationing might prejudice researchers' ability to do their jobs. This is a potential practical problem. There are also cultural barriers to the market model. It is important to some academics in their roles as authors, editors and referees, that scholarly publishing operate independently of market forces. They believe that direct financial remuneration introduces motives that have no place in the system (L. Halliday, unpublished data 2001).
All three of our models represent the full publication cycle from receipt of manuscripts by the editor to delivery to end users. The resources required to produce and deliver journals are similar in each model. Staff costs are most significant. All of the models include two half-time staff responsible for production and systems. In the market model, where editors and referees are paid, the total financial cost is substantially higher than in the other models. We included an overhead on staff costs which represents, for example, buildings and support such as personnel and training, i.e. resources that are not related directly to products such as journals. We pitched the overhead rate at 120%. This reflects true costs in a large organisation such as a university. As these alternative models are proposed as HE-based operations, we think it realistic that they be costed as if housed in universities. It is important to recognise that just because work is undertaken without charge does not mean that it is cost-free. In economic terms, production that distracts an academic from her/his core tasks, i.e. research and teaching, may be more expensive than production that is undertaken by someone with the required skills who is dedicated to journal production. Nevertheless, we recognise that it may be possible to produce journals in a leaner organisation so we applied the overhead at 60% and re-ran model simulations for comparison. We also varied the surplus applied from zero to 20% in two of the models. We assumed that some surplus would be required for development of the journal. The free-access model is a much leaner model and does not include a surplus. Development would have to be funded through grants or other sources of funding.