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Who Will Pay For Open Access?

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the sponsors-and-bounties dept.

Media 390

babble123 writes "IEEE is thinking about providing everyone with free access to its publication database (which has saved many a grad student from a trip to the library). The problem is, where will they get the money to fund the journals if not from subscriptions? In this article, they discuss one proposed alternative, 'author-pays,' but they certainly aren't enthusiastic about it, and I don't blame them. And yet, the money has to come from somewhere. Any better ideas?"

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Emergent Solution (4, Interesting)

philipkd (528838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886606)

Why don't they just make it available on the net and see what happens.

The net has a reputation for novel ways of propogating data. Maybe servers will be donated. Perhaps a company would sponsor the service. Perhaps bittorrents would work. Perhaps they would be uploaded into sourceforge. Perhaps one could rely on Google caches. Maybe power users, like universities, could mirror their database.

Seriously, put it online, see what the public does.

Re:Emergent Solution (5, Informative)

ghoti (60903) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886661)

This isn't about the bandwidth, at least not primarily. The problem is paying the people for doing the editing, etc. Also, getting something published in a scientific journal is a quality criterion. If everything was "put on the net", you wouldn't be able to tell if something really was accepted for publication by an editor and reviewers, or somebody just modified their torrent ...
Another aspect is that of journals being archival. You want those papers to be available forever basically, so relying even on Google or probably isn't such a great idea.

Re:Emergent Solution (2, Funny)

Guanix (16477) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886817)

How about relying on Google and

Re:Emergent Solution (3, Interesting)

thepoch (698396) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886831)

How about setting a "quota" of sorts on payments. Once it reachers a certain amount collected, then release it for free. I'm sure there are plenty who would like to pay to get the stuff first and just to support them. The more popular the stuff is, the more people would be willing to pay. After they've reached the quota, release. Those who can afford and want to contribute will get it first. The rest can just either pay and get it, or hope it reaches quota. If it doesn't reach quota. Then pay for it if it's that important.

Warning: I did not read TFA.

Re:Emergent Solution (4, Interesting)

mishmash (585101) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886862)

They could charge a premium rate for current and "advance publication" material. Older material could be made available for free - funded by the purchase of the newly released papers.

Re:Emergent Solution (4, Informative)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886854)

Wait a second... I was under the impression that "the people doing the editing, etc." were other researchers (hence the term "peer review") and weren't getting paid (much) anyway. Haven't there been stories on Slashdot in the past complaining that the publishers of academic journals are useless middlemen as it stands now?

It seems to me that these papers are written for free, peer-reviewed for free, and could very well be hosted on the internet for free. This is really the kind of thing that universities and places like sourceforge and are designed to handle, and volunteering to help with the production of this knowledge ought to just be part of being a researcher.

Re:Emergent Solution (1)

hauer (569977) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886934)

Agreed as far as the cost of publication, refereeing, etc is concerned, it is mostly not hardware or bandwidth cost.

The "just put on the net" argument does not necessarily hold though. I am a theoretical physicist and there are very high impact online journals with quality refereeing, their scientific quality and reliableness is indistinguishable from paper journals. Even if you want to distribute this stuff with a torrent, properly signed files will maintain the information about the guarantees.

The archival problem is also miniscule to the editing/refereeing, I think as it is simply storage cost once the protocol is established. Which is again much cheaper than the human part.

Re:Emergent Solution (1, Interesting)

lovebyte (81275) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886669)

RTFA! They talk about this. Every recent research paper is on the net right now, but who pays for the servers, how do you maintain servers, how do you pay for format changes from currently PDF/HTML to format XYZ in 5 years from now, who pays for editors, and so on.

It's been 5 years since the internet bubble exploded, but there are still people who believe a free for all internet is the solution to all our problems.

Re:Emergent Solution (1)

cgranade (702534) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886857)

This isn't about the Internet Bubble, but rather about the purpose of organizations such as the IEEE. They are not a profit-making corporation, but an NPO dedicated to academic and technological pursuits. To them, their goals are best served by free access if they can make it work. Now, the free iPod/Mac Mini/DS/etc. sites smack of dot-com era idiocy. Then again, if I can get one from that, I don't mind taking advantage. Just a shame that I have to buy something at all. But I digress.

Re:Emergent Solution (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886877)

Q: Who pays?

A: Government grants, Universities, volunteers & donations, places like and, etc.

Re:Emergent Solution (1)

flumps (240328) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886688)

Yes, good idea!! That way they could put popup/under and inline adds in there that sell you penis enlargement therapy and viagra to make revenue!!

Why didn't I think of that before!! ;)

don't take me seriously (0, Offtopic)

philipkd (528838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886699)

don't take me seriously... I was just hunting for a decent FP.

Yeah, I know RTFA!!!

Re:Emergent Solution (1)

Gorath99 (746654) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886735)

Bandwidth isn't the only problem. Before they can be published, the journals will first have to be produced, which involves things like peer reviews, editing, formatting, proofreading etc. I have no idea what the associated costs are, but I bet these things aren't free.

That being said though, I do feel that the cost to get certain "public" material is very high. My own experience is mostly with ISO. I occassionally need some information from their standards and the only way to get it is to buy the entire standard which often costs hundreds of CHF (1 CHF = 0.63 Euro = 0.84 USD). This is fine if you actually want to implement the standard in a commercial product, but it's not so nice if you just need a few details from the appendix for a small utility program for personal use.

Re:Emergent Solution (1)

gerddie (173963) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886893)

which involves things like peer reviews, editing, formatting, proofreading etc.

Well, lets see:
  • nowadays, distributing copies to reviewers is done online, hence, these costs are more or less storage and bandwith costs,
  • peer review is done by other researchers and they usually don't get payed,
  • formatting can be done my the author if a good template document is provided. Most journals (and certainly IEEE journals) do so (However, in IEEE journals the final formatting is done by the publisher - but for an online publication it is not that important that format of the articles match exactly, therefore, the author could do it.),
  • proofreading, I'm not so sure whether that much proofreading is really done. My experience shows, that this is also mostly up to the author.
This leaves us with the cost for the editor and bandwidth, storage, etc.

Re:Emergent Solution (1)

bircho (559727) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886742)

The biggest problem is not about hosting data, servers, bandwidth. It's the cost of producing them. From TFA:
"Producing a journal--sending manuscripts out for peer review, editing them, formatting text and artwork, and proofreading them--costs time and money."

Author-pays isn't a good option because it has impact on journal quality. And information is already free (if you are in a university and know people who to some research)

[joke] just teach those researchers how to use a blog, and use trackback for peer-review. [/joke]

Kill Tim Avery and steal his fortune (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886607)

Let us be blunt. This could fund the IEEE website for quite some time, and frankly, would anyone really object?

FP! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886608)


Re:FP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886617)

Thanks God, I proved to myself i'm not that much of a nerd.

Re:FP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886702)

no but you are a looser, looser

Government ? (4, Interesting)

makapuf (412290) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886611)

I know I have a European bias toward this, but why couldn't the ? I mean, given the huge funds invested in private research (ahem colossal military budget), I am sure this would really be a drop in the bucket but will have great effects.

I mean, why not just put it under a military budget or academia ?

Re:Government ? (1)

Hhhhh (864263) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886654)

I'm sorry, but funds for research are not easy to get. Don't count on it.

Re:Government ? (1)

El Cubano (631386) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886671)

(ahem colossal military budget)

This always bugs me when I see it. In 2001, US military spending was at an all time low of 3.0% of the GDP. Even with the "huge" increases since 9-11, we are up to a whopping 3.7% of GDP (reference [] ). If you really want find extra money in the budget, convince the politicians to quit funding their pork projects. (Note: fat chance on that.)

Re:Government ? (1)

pugugly (152978) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886791)

I note you referenced the one, but not the other, from the very same site.

Yes, 48% of discretionary spending is a [i]colossal military budget[/i]. I don't question that our GDP can support it, but let's not pretend it's not frickin' huge, nor that it doesn't indicate where our governments priorities lay.


Re:Government ? (1)

coolcold (805170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886856)

but also have to consider side effect such as the quality of paper would drop since they earn more if they accept more paper.

Also considering the number of people pay to one particular volume of journal, add them together and split them equally to number of paper would greatly increases the lum sum

also short term effect such as papers not submitted to that journal since others are free

Re:Government ? (3, Informative)

node 3 (115640) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886840)

Why the hell would you compare military spending to the GDP? That doesn't make any sense, unless you are looking for something to dwarf military spending, and there isn't much that does. In fact, GDP is about the only thing that *does* dwarf the US military budget!

Your "reference" page lists the military budget as 49% of the discretionary spending in 2003 (the last year listed). I suspect that that number doesn't even *count* the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are left out of many budget reports (hey look, we've decreased the budget deficit. All we had to do was not count all the money we spend, wee!).

The US spends more money on the military than every other nation combined (the site you linked to has that number at just above 90% of the rest of the world's spending for 2002, on an upward trend). It's half of US discretionary spending. Only a moron could claim that that's not 'colossal'.

GDP? (1, Interesting)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886917)

Umm.. why are you comparing the military budget to GDP? Strangely enough most people think the military budget is huge because it's a large percentage of federal spending. GDP has nothing to do with that, other than being a number that the military spending is small in comparison with. I find your entire argument to be patently dishonest.

Re:Government ? (1)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886682)

The question would be how to choose what to pay for. The current system has the advantage that only journals which at least someone (even if it is some insane clique of social scientists) reads get money.

Perhaps a system where any journal which sold a minimum number of subscriptions to recognised libraries coule get funding to provide a lower quality, but same content, publication online (and would be expected to)? The problem would be working out a way to make the library subscriptions have enough added value for them to be taken up.

Re:Government ? (2, Funny)

node 3 (115640) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886952)

The question would be how to choose what to pay for. The current system has the advantage that only journals which at least someone (even if it is some insane clique of social scientists) reads get money.

That's not really much of a problem. First, the President should have a "Department of Science" cabinet, where it's made explicitly clear that science from that department will be clear of political influences, then you have that department choose to fund access to journals deemed worthy by a board of prominent scientists. In essence, you have the scientists choosing which publications to support, which interestingly is exactly the advantage you list for the current system.

So now the journal is chosen by reason, is less subject to capricious market forces, and you have public access. This really seems win-win-win.

The choice of which journals to support is opinion, which frightens many because it requires a certain level of trust, but I'd much more trust publicly accountable people in an open process over the so-called free market when it comes to promoting science.

Re:Government ? (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886684)

It isn't a military endevor. Why would you want to siphone off funds from the military anyways. It will only become something to screem about later like $800 step ladders and the likes.

Maybe the better way would be to have an open acount for acedemia that could be accessed by the schools or local/state governments mirroring the content localy and providing access that way and then still requiring corperations to subscribe. It may also be worth the investment of the submitor pays but only under certain curcomstances. lets say rules are created so if a company registart but keeps pattons reguarding the information, then they are responcible for some of the upkeep. If the submission is uncumbered and realy free then they waive this. alot of time the amount of money to be gained by setting a standard that you already have a head start on is enough to do this.

I'm sure somethign can be found that doesn't penalize progress and still provides quality and openess.

Re:Government ? (1)

climb_no_fear (572210) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886876)

The $800 stepladders are really funding maintenance of the crashed alien spaceship as we all saw in Independence Day. You certainly don't want to cut THAT ...

Re:Government ? (3, Interesting)

HuguesT (84078) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886888)

Because money given == control. The gov would then like to have a say in everything the IEEE does, and over time it would not be possible to refuse them.

Just remember kids - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886615)

The information wants to be free :)

Niggersoft Announces GNAA/Hard (-1, Troll)

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less expensive access perhaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886622)

I am willing to cough up $10-20 bucks for access to a single IEEE publication.

I rarely ever want to read more than one or two a year. My brain has other crap to chew on.

If they are going to free unlimited offering,
I suggest they provide them via torrent links.
This would at least save on their bandwidth bill.

Re:less expensive access perhaps (1)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886703)

torrents for the data/documents themselves would be a brilliant idea, and use of bittorrent technology... for the trackers and web servers, if they could get $10 a year for an account on the system (not quite free), or even a donation link for $10 as a suggested donation, that could cover bandwidth costs...

Re:less expensive access perhaps (1)

Anonymous Cowdog (154277) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886734)

>I am willing to cough up $10-20 bucks for access to a single IEEE publication.

To me, there is a big difference between $10 and $20 for a publication. One is cheap; the other is something I would have to think about.


Because there are about a bazillion IEEE publications. You have to multiply your $20 times however many interests you have. That is part of their problem. People aren't interested in only specific areas like, say, low-temperature applications of nanotechnology on organic substrates in transitional gravity environments with ionizing radiation. They have other interests, too. The IEEE publications get so specific and narrow it would take all your time just to decide which subscriptions to buy for the year, even assuming you did have a budget to do so.

the old fashion way (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886631)

Sell drugs.

Re:the old fashion way (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886750)

Hell, it worked for W. and Clinton (actually, clinton never sold; he just created the demand).

Re:the old fashion way (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886798)

Sell drugs

Nah, drugs are bad for you. Get some girls to stand on the corner.

Another proved'n'true method. (1)

bircho (559727) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886811)

Just put a hot babe poster on it and sell it. Just geeks read interviews on playboy, right?

As a side effect, it'll boast teenagers interest in research.

IEEE Membership (5, Informative)

crusty_architect (642208) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886635)

Access to this online content is one of the only reasons I keep up my IEEE membership. It's a *lot* of money ($250AU P/A). I would think that the IEEE would suffer greatly when people such as myself fail to renew if this content becomes free.

libraries pay for it. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886642)

Libraries already pay BIG bucks for overpiced journal subscriptions from for-profit publishers. Not to mention having to build new extensions for all the shelf space.

If free online journals (aka eprints) []

can be hosted by the universities and their libraries, the cost will be much less than the present.

See tm []

for details.

old problem, no real solutions due to social stuff (5, Insightful)

StandardDeviant (122674) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886648)

This question is hardly unique to the IEEE, all of science publication has been wrestling with these issues for about the last ten years in earnest (esp. since the widespread adoption of the net with viable mechanisms for scientific content delivery (html sucks for equations, but things like pdf make for easy distribution and consumption of papers and paper-like content)). Unfortunately, no good answers have been arrived at that I'm aware of. The professionals in the field want to publish in prestigous journals for their reputations, journals become prestigous in part through extensive peer-review processes and widespread publication, and all that takes time/staff/money. There have been some efforts and opening this process up, spurred by the high costs of institutional subscriptions (like, 20k+ USD per year for some of the chemistry journals I follow :P), but as yet I'm unaware of much adoption because, as mentioned above, an article in "" is not held in the same weight as one in, say, JACS. It's sort of a self-perpetuating cycle driven by social factors that will be very difficult to fix with technology (esp. given how very set in their ways most of the scientific community is... and I say this as a scientist).

Use the moderator / meta-moderator model (4, Interesting)

Skapare (16644) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886713)

In order to gain access to publish, require the authors to participate (no pay) in the peer review process much like moderators on Slashdot (but more formalized). Then have a meta peer review process to back that up. You get free peer reviewing by requiring authors to do some of that to continue to publish. But unlike Slashdot, the mod points would go to verified degreed people in academic or other research areas who would be selected first early access to do the reviews. When an article is submitted, distribute it to randonly selected reviewers. Then if it's not completely shot down, follow up with more review cycles until the reviewer sample size gives a good ranking.

Do the actual distribution via BitTorrent, with the article in the clear, but cryptographically signed by the prestigious journal. The journal's web site would have the abstracts, links, and public key.

It's not totally paid for this way, but the cost of distribution gets covered, and peer reviewers come free.

Re:Use the moderator / meta-moderator model (2, Insightful)

motte_fra (682157) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886887)

this is already what is happening... authors write papers, but authors also peer review other author's submissions.

Scholarly journals should be freely available (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886813)

The academy works on reputation and service. There is no reason why the editorial duties of prestigious journals cannot be "paid for" by the service obligations of faculty. These obligations would not be a burden to faculty because they would be "paid for" by the prestige of working on a journal that is well regarded. The same regards hosting a site for a presitgious electronic jopurnal--many institutions, departments, or affiliated non-profits would be more than happy to sponsor or host such a publication. When you take away the cost of paper, editing, and electronic hosting, there is no need to charge for access to scientific or scholarly journals.

Re:old problem, no real solutions due to social st (2, Informative)

lost in place (248578) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886829)

The professionals in the field want to publish in prestigous journals for their reputations, journals become prestigous in part through extensive peer-review processes and widespread publication, and all that takes time/staff/money.

It takes time but not money. In my field (CS/AI) the reviewers, editors and authors aren't paid for their work. And they do wonder where all the money goes that publishers collect.

As for adoption, it's certainly happened. Two examples: Journal of AI Research ( and Journal of Machine Learning Research ( are both prestigious web-published journals, with citation statistics at the top of the field.

Being published in a web journal is not the same as throwing a paper up on your web site. Papers still go through an extensive review and editing process.

In the end, it's the reviewers and editors who determine the quality of a journal, not the publisher.

Re:old problem, no real solutions due to social st (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886943)

I do not wish to start a holy war, but there's clearly something wrong with you folks (I mean chemical researchers). In theoretical physics, the problem has been solved long ago: [] . The professionals in the field somehow did not fear that publishing free preprints will cost them their reputations. Perhaps the chemists are simply too greedy and/or short-sighted to adopt the right model.

The answer is already on Slashdot (-1, Offtopic)

Skapare (16644) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886651)

The answer is already on Slashdot here [] .

Re:The answer is already on Slashdot (1)

rathehun (818491) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886788)

I don't think a Bittorrent like network is a good idea for this kind of publication.

The way I understand it, a torrent makes downloading the popular files faster and the not-so-popular files stay stagnating at the botttom.

Given that the information at this place is likely to be of interest to exactly 8 people on the planet, one wonders whether this is the way to go.

Disclaimer : I know very little about the way torrents work now - things have probably changed. Also there are probably a whole lot of people to whom this information is useful. However, I believe that each person is likely to be looking up very specialised information.

Re:The answer is already on Slashdot (1)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886826)

You both seem to have ignored the article if you think that distribution costs are the only costs, being discussed, associated with academic publication...

Re:The answer is already on Slashdot (1)

cgranade (702534) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886834)

Even if we assume that BT4 could reduce the IEEE's bandwidth costs to zero (it can't- they still need a tracker), then there are still costs of publication that have not been addressed, such as editing, compilation, peer-reviewing, etc. The problem is much broader than bandwidth.

Add in that BT4 would only offer a very questionably sized benefit: the IEEE would be transferring files on the order of 10s of MB, not the hundreds which BT typically helps. Furthermore, the files being offered are likely of such a specialized interest compared to the relatively broad interest that most Linux ISOs enjoy.

In light of these factors, it becomes clear that the optimal solution must be social and/or economic in nature, not purely technological.

The IEEE knows about feedback (3, Insightful)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886652)

Only a politician could think author pays is a reasonable model, because that is how they publish, paying to dump masses of unwanted and seriously derranged literature on my doormat at every election.

Positive and negative feedback needs to come from the output end to get useful results. Feed-forward from the input just creates instability. Early rocket pioneers found that out, which is why Goddard had an engine at the top, and von Braun had to develop complex gyro control systems.

There is an existing model for making access more open while preserving the useful feedback from readers - public libraries. Money goes from the state to authors based on demand for the books.

Imagine the public library which would result from the authors paying for inclusion. Come to think of it we are back to my doormat. I need to go throw away the junk mail and local politician's drivel now so I can open the door to get out to buy some coffee. Anyone have a shovel?

Re:The IEEE knows about feedback (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886890)

Maybe its just my hangover, but your post made absoloutely no sense. Go grab a cup of coffee and eat your cornflakes!

Re:The IEEE knows about feedback (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886928)

Actually it is a very practical model. We (academics) frequently debate on this approach and our current view is that it is a good model.

Just because the author pays a fee does not mean there is no peer review process. You submit for review and pay if the paper is accepted by the peer review committee.

Currently most published research is funded by tax payers money. However, the published research paper which summarizes everything becomes a property of the publisher when it should be freely available to the public which funded it. Of course, the publisher needs to make make money, but if you ever tried to do an exhaustive research on a topic and went through subscription hell, you will see what I mean.

Paying for publication is hardly an issue based on how the current economics work with research. Most of the current peer reviews are not done by paid people anyway. These are leaders of the field who become obligated by their position to accept the request to review. It runs by honor code. You simply pay for managing the whole process. Researches then will begin to include the cost of publication into their grant proposals, which is actually quite paltry compared to the amount spent on conducting research.

Re:The IEEE knows about feedback (1)

Twylite (234238) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886931)

Actually there are several merits to the author-pays model. As many people have already pointed out, the payment is not about the costs of publishing the material and making it available, but to cover the costs of editing and proper academic review.

So the author-pays model is about paying for the stuff you submit to be reviewed to ensure that it is of high enough quality to be disseminated via that channel.

Authors often have a reason that they are publishing research, for example they need to publish a paper as part of an Honours, Masters or Doctoral degree. Given this the author would be paying for his/her research to be vetted by a panel of experts. A benefit to reviewers would be that authors would need to be very careful about the quality of their submissions, otherwise they're wasting their money. i.e. author-pays should improve the signal-to-noise ratio (STN).

Low STN is a big problem for journals. You have thousands of hopefuls submitting papers, and have to sift that down to a few candidates for formal review, then cover the cost of the review. Up the STN by increasing the barrier to entry, and you reduce your costs while maintaining or increasing quality.

A trade-off could be to have an author-pays system, but authors who have already shown competence (i.e. by having a reviewed paper published in a recognised journal) can volunteer to review other papers in their field and thereby reduce or offset the cost of publishing theirs.

Why not do as Most online mags do ?. (2, Interesting)

Gopal.V (532678) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886655)

Why isn't anyone talking about ADs ?. They are the natural revenue for an online magazine ?. Or maybe advertisements bring in an unwanted commercial touch to this ?.

Of course ADs are not always that forthcoming. But I guess well placed book ads would be enough to solve this problem.

And lastly, why not pick a public sponsor ?. Someone like IBM could sponsor this whole thing without a dent in the budget. Or you could ask for the public to mirror it - if the bandwidth is the real issue (of course, nothing says "COOL" as much as a local mirror of IEEE at your Uni LAN).

Re:Why not do as Most online mags do ?. (3, Insightful)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886717)

why isn't anyone talking about ADs ?. They are the natural revenue for an online magazine ?

Because we aren't talking about magazines, but journals. Magazines are high circulation, low content. Journals are the reverse. A company might want to get their name in front of the eyes of the 50 top nuclear phycists in the world, but if they do they would be better off picking up the phone or writing personal letters than trying to create a half page add to describe why their superconducting filament is the best for bulding accelerators.

The mass audience for journals is postgraduate students, but they have no money to speak of, and anyway there are already enough places to advertise beer.

Re:Why not do as Most online mags do ?. (1)

robbarrett (84479) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886953)

Someone like IBM could sponsor this whole thing without a dent in the budget.

This is a common misconception. Just because an organization is large does not imply that money (even small amounts) is easily found. In fact, large corporations tend to be very tightly managed to strive for the goal that every dollar goes toward something productive. Public companies need to please investors, and that means that each and every invested dollar needs to make the expected return. Large corporations do have the ability to invest in things that small entities can't, but only if it is in the company's eventual interest.

Arguably, a research-oriented corporation like IBM might be very interested in funding the public availability of scholarly research (e.g., as a platform for advertising their own scholarly [and therefore technology] achievements, as part of a push toward an information-rich environment that needs lots of computing resources, etc.). But I wouldn't argue from the point of view that there's just money around to be used on whatever!

ads (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886656)

why don't they just make it ad-supported?

Eliminate paper, and simplify (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Cowdog (154277) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886662)

I'm a IEEE member and they send me so much paper it's downright embarassing. For an organization that should be leading the way into the future, I don't know why they insist on littering my mailbox with so much newsprint and so many envelopes stuffed with important notices about the myriad of ways to spend hundreds of dollars on different stingily selected slices of content.

I worked on a project once where we cooperated with a science journal. They told us that 80% of their costs were in production and distribution of paper. If they could do everything electronically, they could have eliminated that 80%. So my suggestion would be that IEEE do exactly that. Eliminate the paper. It's not like they are going to have to spend more to ramp up a web site with electronic versions of the content, because they already have that entire framework in place. If anything, their current web site is too complicated, and could be simplified (and made cheaper to operate) by eliminating a lot of the built-in toll booths.

Re:Eliminate paper, and simplify (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886830)

I think your idea has some merit. Coming from printing/publishing and graphics areas, most of our costs are centered around printing(paper and ink) and distribution.

Still some people just like paper. I'm just a commoner, but there is something I like about reading the news paper in the morning even though I get the major headlines everytime I go online.

Pdf or the like is a good idea because then if people want a hard copy, they can then print it on their own dime.

Still it takes money to run webservers and manage a large site, just not as much. The only problem I have with governments or businesses offering supports in the form of donations is the expectations (like getting a standard pushed through that happens to be their standard). I'd like the IEEE to stay out on its own.

Re:Eliminate paper, and simplify (1)

tbspit (460062) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886849)

When you say that 80% of the costs were in production and distribution, do you include editing, etc., in production?

Besides, you can already opt to receive IEEE publications electronically if you do not want them in print.

Re:Eliminate paper, and simplify (1)

cly (457948) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886937)

Are you sure doing everything eletronically would eliminate that 80%?

How about editing?

Re:Eliminate paper, and simplify (3, Informative)

NNWizard (863065) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886947)

In the machine learning community, one of the most important journal is JMLR [] . From the beginning, this paper decided to go free, online. As a results, the time to publish were very small, and since reviewing was very strict, the paper quickly gained a high Impact Factor. Now it appears that JMLR is also published as paper volumes. I don't know about their economic model, but surely this success-story shows it is feasible to publish scientific free journals.

Furthermore, many authors (like me) do post a copy (called 'draft' for copyright reasons) of their paper on their webpages. Sometimes some googleing avoids having to pay for scientific journals...

Simple... (4, Funny)

goodEvans (112958) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886663)

Advertising and product placement.

"This cable specification brought to you by Belkin, the choice of the home user"

"Required test equipment: Craftsman digital multimeter model no..."

"Why not take a break from reading this specification and enjoy a cool frappacino - there's probably a Starbucks within 100 yards anyway"

Re:Simple... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886725)

Sometimes you need a little Avantis, sometimes you need a lot.

Gilson - when a teaspoon just isn't enough.

Falcon: We've got all the culture you need.

Targeted advertising embedded in generated PDF (1, Interesting)

NZheretic (23872) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886664)

The solution is simple enough. Just approach one or more advertisers and generate PDF files on the fly with the first page as a full page advert. Think google adsense with full page advertising.

Marketers would gladly pay to for full page advertising to the target market that downloads these documents.

Easy! (2, Funny)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886666)

With popups and banner ads! The Internet was raised on these mediums so they must still work. Also, with all those words, think how good AdSense would work!


Re:Easy! (1)

Dorsai65 (804760) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886874)

You forgot the loan/mortgage, pharmacy, and ringtone concessions:

"Plus... we'll include a FREE SAMPLE of your choice of viagra or cialis while we send a free RINGTONE that's _guaranteed_ to reduce your interest rate!"

grants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886668)

government and private institution grant money. the same thing that funds most research done by academics. the authors could pay a small fee to submit material, but i doubt it would help. i dunno, i think the leetness of being in an IEEE publication is worth a submission fee, but still i think it would do more damage than good.

Government Subsidized Knowledge (1)

steve_thatguy (690298) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886673)

While I doubt it will happen, things like this should be funded by the government as it provides a huge benefit to society. It allows people to increase their own education and allows others to build off the existing pool of knowledge. Education, research, and making academic information available to everyone should be the most important interest of the government, not near the last.

Strange question (1, Insightful)

Eivind (15695) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886675)

Distributing content online is extremely cheap.

Even more so for content that is "dense", that is, a lot of information in a small file. A Scientific paper is maybe a single MB or two, and contains a lot of information (it is "dense"), a movie in contrast is a GB or more, and is frequently only entertainment for an hour and a half.

I consider it extremely likely that simply *allowing* distribution will be enough, the net will take care of the rest by itself.

It's harder if you insist that distribution takes place only from *your* servers, and forbid redistribution, but in that case your problems are of your own making.

Business should pay (1)

Dewin Cymraeg (607476) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886694)

Businesses benefit hugely from IEEE standards.

The likes of IBM, Sun, MS, Oracle, et al could all contribue what to them would be a pitance. So long as all the big companies were involved, there wouldn't be any undue influence by any one of them

Re:Business should pay (1)

perlionex (703104) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886766)

Businesses benefit hugely from IEEE standards.

The likes of IBM, Sun, MS, Oracle, et al could all contribue what to them would be a pitance. So long as all the big companies were involved, there wouldn't be any undue influence by any one of them
I think that's a bit naive. Once business gets involved, the IEEE would become bogged down in politics. Already, standards don't get finalised because of politics [] . IEEE standards are valuable documents, and you can be sure that having big companies play a formal and larger role in the organisation will only be a recipe for disaster.

They just don't need to. (3, Insightful)

johansalk (818687) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886695)

In my humble opinion, they don't need to open up their library to everyone. Sure, it is useful, but it is mostly useful for a certain technical and professional crowd. This is not a library that the majority of the public will care about. Those for whom this library is relevant should afford to pay their IEEE membership costs, as $250 p/a is not much compared to many other disciplines and professions. Those in Academia such as students can use their Academic libraries; the IEEE does not need to subsidize Academic institutions and education.

Lower price / Higher Volume (2, Interesting)

kevb (816796) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886706)

This is more likely to be something people use once in a while. I avoided it at university because I could be bothered to go to the library, where I could read journals for free. But if the articles where much cheaper, I probably would have indulged, and I would probably still be reading them now that I don't have that library access... Just a thought.

How high a volume do you see? (1)

DingerX (847589) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886846)

For the most part, academic journals are not and have never been cash cows. Many of them exist on the fringes of profitability. Many keep their expenses down by skimpling on payment to editors, peer-reviewers and authors. In my field, academics do all these tasks (even to the point of delivering camera-ready material) and receive no compensation beyond a line in the CV. And right now, editing and peer-reviewing CV lines are not the way to success in any field. Universities value and pay for the results, but not those who generate them.
If they slashed their prices to increase the volume, would subscriptions increase? I highly doubt it. Even if I could afford them, I would subscribe to few journals, and the publishers would make less money, not more.
Making authors pay for the editing costs is likewise dumb. Uh, in some fields, such as mine, we don't get much grant money at all. Finding an extra $3000 is rather hard when we're lucky to get someone to pay for us to give a paper at a conference.

Preserving open access and the quality of peer review is going to be difficult. But the model is: open production -> critical publication -> open access. Open production and Open Access should not be mutable parts of the equation: that's how the scientific process works. Ideally, we need people who can freely submit their findings, theories and interpretations unfettered by financial, political, institutional or social obstacles, and we need people who can access that information without such obstacles either. The filtration provided by academic journals is a valuable service, but one that incurs real cost. And someone's got to cover that.

mutatis mutandis, you could say the same about Open Source Software.

Missing data... (2, Insightful)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886759)

How are we supposed to come up with a good solution if we don't even know the scope of the problem?

ie:How much money are we talking about here?

Countries pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886775)

Years ago, in 1994 or 1995, Bob Park (APS) and Timothy R. Thomas (LANL) proposed that countries should pay, in proportion to the number of articles authored by scientists working in each country. This was not for IEEE, but for scientific publishing in general.

The only problem with this is who administers it and enforces it? The UN? It would depend on countries agreeing to pay for such a scheme.

Well maybe not the only problem. Another problem is unseating the current rulers of the domain. Like librarians. If the above model went through and browsing was free and went through the web, library budgets could reasonably be expected to be cut. Also some publishers (including organizations like IEEE) might be against it. It's threatening to beneficiaries of the current system.

Simple free solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886776)

Publish the journals on wikipedia. Only.

Charge for new issues, make the archives free. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886777)

If the group you are trying to help is college students, they do not usually need knowledge about the latest trends. Most non-research university programs are behind the cutting edge.

People will still pay for a subscription for new content and new information about new and emerging technologies. IEEE simply needs to stagger out the release of issues to free access by some period. I think 6 months makes sense. The magazines being released are outdated enough to justify the subscription, but new enough to help people researching for school.

Archival versions of the articles is a poor income source. Often these articles are availible in library backcopies, microfilm, or a magazine archiving service (ex. ProQuest). By allowing people free access they encourage people to understand new technologies, as well as considering older ones.

One idea (1)

halaloszto (703344) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886779)

I have a tricky idea for funding the hosting/bandwidth itself:

When i buy aninternet connection, i pay basically for bandwidth. There are plans for GB downloaded, and others for bandwidth.

So what if we would interpret the price of the bandwidth not only as a price for the download speed, but as a price for the content?

- When an end user pays for bandwidth, they would pay for the data transfer service, and also for the content coming. Also if he provides outgoing content, that gets deducted.

- When a content provider connects to the internet (like IEEE), he pays for the bandwidth, and also for the net consumed content. (he will provide more, so the net will be in his favour)

- When two ISPs build an interconnect/peering, they buy the bandwidth, and also have some king of Giro/clearing for the net content provided.

This would encourage all to provide content and provide income to the net contributors. Of course not all content worths the same ber MB, but there still would be paysites.

What do you think?


Don't go to advertising. (3, Insightful)

Tethys_was_taken (813654) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886780)

Dear IEEE,
Please don't look to advertising.

A random IEEE member.


IEEE has a reputation of impartiality. If they do open their doors to ad revenue their integrity will be questioned. The last thing we need is corporate sponsored standards and reference material which shut out competitors and amateurs.

Even if they do stay impartial, they will be questioned and it will lead to a whole quagmire of politics. It is inevitable.

I know this comment doesn't help much, but I had to say it. I commend the IEEE for trying to make reference material avilable free, but please think about this. Anyway, I don't think IEEE will read this, so bleh.

Affordable access - almost as good? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886784)

At the moment, the IEEE charges anywhere from $10 to $35 per document for private or commercial users to access documents from IEEE Xplore. Open access would radically improve commercial access to the database (think more innovation in private enterprise) but a similar effect might also be achieved if prices were significantly dropped and/or diversified or database access was charged as a monthly or annual subscription as opposed to per article. The subscription model would mean users could browse through articles that might be useful rather than having to guess whether they are useful from the abstract. This could encourage more casual enquiries into new areas by non-academic engineers thus boosting innovation. If that doesn't tickle the IEEE's fancy, a diversified per-article pricing structure would be useful too. Right now the front page of IEEE Circuits and Devices magazine is charged at the same price as a recent journal article or a journal article from 1984. That makes no sense! Open access is great (mainly because I haven't published anything), but I'd settle for affordable access or at least a pricing scheme that made sense.

The industry should do it (1)

Laurentiu (830504) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886804)

Why not have IEEE turn into a non-profit foundation (like Mozilla) and get the industry to sponsor it? Research is important, and access to research even more so. Google knows - and their sponsorship for Wikipedia shows it.

In astronomy... (2, Informative)

mbrother (739193) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886816)

...The author pays a bit over $100 a page for the major US journals. You budget for it in your grants. Still, we have subscriptions at huge cost, despite very common free preprint servers. My colleagues in many other fields don't pay, and the universities do. Yes, I agree there should be a better model.

governments have to pay (1)

didit (820432) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886820)

My government pay me for research work. I write articles (and with LaTeX, presentation is OK. No need to have somebody do it again.) I refer articles. My government is already paying so that I can read papers written by colleagues working in the same national entity as me. (That's unbelievable.)
In short, my government is already paying several times editors: they pay me while I'm refering other's papers, when I want to publish in some journals and when I want to read other's papers. Editors provide very little. Now that we can live without paper versions (I already prefer having PDFs) their job is over. It'll take time, but they are going to disappear unless they join with national resarch organizations and provide free access to anybody. It is a configuration where everybody wins: governments pay less, editors survive in a different form where they only care about having the papers refered by the right persons.

It's been going on for ages (1)

kernelblaha (756819) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886827) [] arXiv has been funded almost exclusively by Los Alamos National Laboratory. There are mirrors all arround the world provided by various universities. Authors do the formatting in latex, and the papers get compiled and downloaded automatically. What is missing in this case is quality control, which again could be done by authors of other papers, as is the case with susbscription journals. An automatic peer review system could be a good solution to this problem. I'm sure that funding for this kind of project can be found, either from universities or directly from government grants.

Actually, (1)

Dorsai65 (804760) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886828)

I wouldn't mind paying for the few IEEE docs I've wanted - if the prices were reasonable. I'm willing to bet that if they'd just lower the prices to something approximating reasonable, they'd see sales improve.

I mean, once they've converted them to binary format for download, what are their expenses really?

Outsource it to O'Reilly (1)

pvera (250260) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886845)

Let O'Reilly access to a small fraction of this content so they can test for interest in their online book subscription service. If the geeks flock to it, O'Reilly will see it as a way to give their product more visibility and they can license the rest.

Vanity Press (1)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886848)

Electronic journals and proceedings are already creating a 'vanity press', as discussed, and this is not being driven by 'author-pays', but (seemingly) by publishers' 'panning for gold' approach (i.e. accept a broad range of fledging publications and see which makes it).

Speaking as a (publically-funded) publishing academic, I think that author-pays is a valid potential model and (in the UK at least), as it will raise the bar for high-quality 'traditional' publications over the existing electronic ones. Furthermore practices like the Research Assessment Exercise will apply pressure to maintain the high quality of these journals (IEEE are not going to throw away their reputation in this current reality and its extension).

if only DRM worked (1)

Snuffub (173401) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886853)

If only Digital rights managment software actually worked what they could do is distribute files for free that expire 1 month after the download. Then libraries could pay for both hardcopies and digital copies without any kind of DRM attached. This would still give almost all the benefits of having an open system while still allowing the journals to get the money they need to survive.

Most of us do it for free anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886870)

The cost of producing the journal isn't too much. The authors submit articles for free. The reveiwers do their job for free. Paper is largely unneccesary - we all prefer to download PDF's now, and store them locally, rather than keep a filing cabinet full of paper. So, it can't cost too much.

I'm a member of the IEEE for all sorts of reasons (conferences, professional recognition, charter, etc). I get all the journals through my university anyway. I won't leave because they make journals free - I'm more likely to stay a member.

The IEEE currently sell a selection of packages depending on how far back you want to be able to access a journal. Damn annoying. This reminds me of when Nature (one of the most expensive packages) asked readers about free access. I'd love to see an open access model. Gone on IEEE - try it!

It will happen, eventually... (1)

ponos (122721) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886878)

Most of the low-to-medium publicity journals get a nice boost in their impact factor (approximate measure of quality*publicity) by being free online because more people read them. That's why many journals want to be free/open access.

There are many ways this can work. Authors already pay, for many journals. Advertisements are another source of income. Membership fees (as in Science, the journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science) can also help. Finally, and most importantly, most universities and libraries need subscriptions for archival purposes and can afford to pay. The individual reader is fine with PDFs online.

Several journals use honest policies that I like: (a) time limit, get all articles older than 1 year or 6 months free (b) get all original research articles free and only pay for reviews/editorials/comments (most ethical solution, because original research is not paid by the journal)


Well.. (1)

tasinet (747465) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886881)

Google Ads?

I don't understand... (1)

legrimpeur (594896) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886882)

If you belong to an institution and you need access to publications to carry out your work than the institution is supposed to pay subscriptions.

If you are an hobbist who happens to read research papers than you bring your butt to the next university library.

The only purpose of having freely availeble research papers in electronic form is to allow masses to access to it. But what for?...

Low quality articles. (1)

kgroves (518372) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886892)

I used to be a member but stopped my subscription a few years ago after a series of particularly poor articles. I remember two:
The first was Elliot Wave Theory being reported as some sort of be-all for financial markets.
The second was some grad with a report on his really low-quality applet that would download pictures in the background so that they would be ready in your browsers cache for when you visited linked pages on the site.

Those who benefit financially, will pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11886925)

It's that simple. Require a login. Demand some money if it's a company in question.

.com (1)

TravisWatkins (746905) | more than 9 years ago | (#11886927)

Give it away for free and make up for it in volume!
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