11 November 2008

Costs and Benefits of OA, part 1 - Berlin 6

Time to tackle synthesizing Tuesday's "Cost and Benefits of OA" plenary session at Berlin 6. Apologies for not getting this out sooner.

This session seemed to be of particular interest to the crowd, since business models and sustainability for OA publishing is an ever growing concern.

John Houghton (Center for Strategic Economic Studies at Victoria University in Australia) kicks off the session, with some of the results from his latest joint-study with JISC. Following Houghton were familiar faces Matt Cockerill (Publisher of BioMedCentral, a profitable OA journal), Salvatore Mele (CERN, speaking on the SCOAP3 project), with Frederick Friend (JISC) serving as the moderator and offering his own comments.

Here are my notes:

1. John Houghton (Center for Strategic Economic Studies at Victoria University in Australia)

Houghton approaches the costs and benefits of OA from an economic perspective, where the aim is to have the most cost-effective system, not necessarily the cheapest. The key aim in his latest Australian study looks at the benefits, as well - which he says are often overlooked in discussions about cost.

"It's not only about cost, it's about added value" - Fred Friend, speaking about Houghton's presentation

For the purposes of this talk, he speaks about a JISC funded study on the Economic Implications of Alternative Scholarly Publishing Models. The aim of the study is to explore the institutional, budgetary and wider economic implications of the major emerging models for scholarly publishing. Phase 1 of this study (which has not been made public yet - still a work in progress) is to describe the publishing models and identify all associated costs and benefits. Phase 2 addresses quantification - comparing costs and models.

The study is extensive, take my word on this. Instead of going in to this in fine detail, here are a few main points.

"There is a lag between R&D expenditure and the realization of the return to research."

There is a vast amount of information on returns to R&D - which while varied, largely show that social returns to publicly funded research is high. The standard neo-classical model assumes that all R&D generates useful knowledge and that all knowledge is equally accessible - which is unrealistic.

Houghton states that it's not possible to compare toll and OA publishing directly at the national level, since they perform completely different functions. He describes this difference in function as toll access seeking to provide UK subscribers (the JISC study studies on UK researchers, FYI) access to worldwide research, whereas OA seeks to provide worldwide access to UK research.

His study approaches it from both sides and will explore the following ideas, among others:
- the diversion of research funding to author pays fees
- the impact of delayed OA
- the impact of speeding up the research and discovery process

Houghton is currently working to finalize the report, which is expected to be released in early 2009.

There's a podcast up on the JISC site on this that I haven't had a chance to listen to just yet. But, to access, click here.

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