Tuesday 31 March 2009

The cost of biodiversity -- a fascinating business model

Watching paper-based periodical publications struggle with shrinking markets and declining enthusiasm for paper delivery (high production cost, slow delivery, uncertainty of arrival etc), I was wondering how their electronic cousins fare. Earlier this week I came across something that gave me an acute insight into their prospective profitability. This was a notice on the Agrobiodiversity Grapevine that read as follows:
"We would like to bring to your attention the launch of a new international peer-reviewed journal called International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation.
You will see that to submit a paper to this journal there is a handling fee of $550.00. It is a very small amount compared to other STM publishers that request a fee of $3000 - $5000 to make a research paper “open access”".
 The publisher's instructions to authors are quite specific:
"Copyright: Submission of a manuscript implies; that the work described has not been published before (except in the form of an abstract or as part of a published lecture, or thesis) that it is not under consideration for publication elsewhere; that if and when the manuscript is accepted for publication, the authors agree to automatic transfer of the copyright to the publisher [this appears to be unlimited in time, geographical extent or means of exploitation -- and the point at which 'automatic transfer' takes place, assuming that such assignment is valid,will be known to the publisher before it is known to the author. There appears to be no indication of the law governing disputes between author and journal, or any designation of forum].

Fees and Charges: Authors are required to pay a $550 handling fee. Publication of an article in the International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation is not contingent upon the author's ability to pay the charges. Neither is acceptance to pay the handling fee a guarantee that the paper will be accepted for publication. Authors may still request (in advance) that the editorial office waive some of the handling fee under special circumstances.

The journal will be launched in May 2009 and the publisher is Academic Journals; a publisher whose mission is to provides free access to research information to the international community without financial, legal or technical barriers. This publisher works with the open access model, and strongly supports the Open Access initiative. Abstracts and full texts (usually in PDF format) of all articles published by Academic Journals are freely accessible to everyone immediately after publication".
Compared with these terms, the oft-criticised deals struck by recording companies with rock groups, or by music publishers with composers, no longer look quite so outrageous.

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