Paying a fee for Green OA

As Peter Suber has pointed out, a key feature of the HHMI-Elsevier deal (HHMI and Elsevier Announce Public Access Agreement, March 8, 2007) is that “HHMI is paying a fee for green OA“. The fee is “$1,000 for each article published in a Cell Press journal and $1,500 for each article in other Elsevier journals“, see OA News (9 March 2007, More on the HHMI-Elsevier agreement). None of the comments that I’ve seen pay much attention to the difference in the proposed “Green OA fee” for Cell Press journals ($1000 US) versus the substantially larger fee for other Elsevier journals ($1500 US). Why this substantial difference in fees?

The premier journal of Cell Press is Cell. It’s ranked #8 in the top 10 science journals at the site. (See also the data for ISSN:0092-8674). According to the site, Cell has a high ranking in the categories of both Cell Biology and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and, on the basis of data from the site, has a low price per citation. The site lists Cell as free one year after publication. If I understand correctly, payment of the $1000 fee would simply reduce the embargo on Green OA from 12 to 6 months.

Is this a far-sighted effort by Elsevier to protect the Cell “brand”? This journal is already very cost-efficient, as measured by cost of subscriptions per citation. It could become even more cost-efficient (from the perspective of those who pay subscription fees) if several major funding agencies could be persuaded to pay for Green OA.

There does seem to be in increasing risk, as funding agencies that have mandated Green OA increase in numbers, that only those journals that permit Green OA within 6 months may retain marker share. And, among these, it may only be those that are the most cost-efficient (e.g. as measured by cost per citation) that thrive. Perhaps Elsevier wants to try to increase the probability that its Cell Press group of journals will be among those that survive in such a scenario?

For a perspective on the importance of cost-efficiency in retaining market share, see a post by David Goodman to the AmSci OA Forum (12 Mar).

It’s also interesting that this Cell Press page about the new Cell Stem Cell journal includes access to a few selected stem cell articles from other Cell Press journals. I assume that the access policies for the new journal will be the same as for other Cell Press journals? (There’s no mention of new access policies for this new journal on either page).



  1. tillje said

    Another relevant item has been posted on April 10, 2007 in Open Access News: More on paying for green OA.

  2. tillje said

    About the broader issue of OA – What cost? What value?, see a message by Chris Armbruster, posted to the SPARC Open Access Forum, 13 Apr 2007. Excerpts:

    Much debate about the value and cost of OA seems to rest on the shared assumption that the Oldenbourg model of scholarly communication (conjoining peer review and dissemination) was suitably transposed from to paper to electronic format and might now be switched to OA (free to readers). …

    Is Gold OA the best way forward?

    In the life sciences a good case can be made for releasing only peer-reviewed information. But ArXiv, RePEc and SSRN demonstrate that for other sciences this is not the case. The technological and economic logic of the internet galaxy favours the severance of certification from dissemination. …

    What to do?

    I think it is time to take another look at the technological and economic logic of the internet. What model of certification and publishing is complementary to the advancement of cyberscience? How can compatibility be ensured with the need of seamless integration of research articles and data with the digital workflow of scientists? What are the needs of authors, readers and users in the internet galaxy if they have to handle steadily increasing amounts of research publications and data? How to better enable the utilisation of scientific knowledge in higher education, industry and government? …

    Excerpt from a comment posted by Stevan Harnad, SPARC Open Access Forum, 13 Apr 2007:

    OA is not about publishing costs, it’s about research access and impact loss, needlessly continuing day upon week upon month upon year, year in and year out, as we just keep on rehashing the same old hypothetical conditionals instead of doing the obvious, practical, doable, and grotesquely overdue…

  3. tillje said

    A topic of some relevance is the use of various metrics to evaluate the “value” of scholarly journals, when both impact and cost are taken into account. For example, The Promise of Value-based Journal Prices and Negotiation is the title of a report from a Task Force on Value-Based Pricing of the University of California Libraries’ Collection Development Committee. The Committee has considered a set of metrics that comprise “value-based pricing” of scholarly journals. One of these metrics is the measurable impact of the journal, using, for example, a Relative Cost Index (RCI). The RCI is based on the price-per-citation and price-per-article, relative to the same measures for non-profit journals in the same discipline.

    Another example: Trends in Scholarly Journal Prices 2000-2006, by Sonya White and Claire Creaser, LISU, Department of Information Science, Loughborough University, Leicestershire UK,March 2007. Two excerpts:

    [From page 9/149]: “Using price per point of impact factor as a measure of relative value, rather than price per citation, has the advantage that journal size is not a confounding factor in the analysis“.

    [From page 17/149]: “Impact factors vary between subjects – those in the social sciences tend to be considerably lower than those in the biomedical sciences …” … “In 2005, the highest journal impact factor in social sciences was 12.685, compared with 49.794 in biomedical sciences“.

    It should be noted that Cell Press journals were not among the Elsevier titles included in this latter study.

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