School of Information Sciences -- Faculty Publications and Other Works


Some Economic Aspects of the Scholarly Journal System

Source Publication (e.g., journal title)

Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, Vol. 45

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



This chapter examines the economic aspects of the scholarly journal publishing system, particularly the economic consequences of technology and the introduction of alternative publishing models. Topics covered include the economic costs of the scholarly journal system, with special attention given to trends that affect economics. Library economics are examined, including consortia. A section on metrics and methods used, other than costs, includes a discussion of citation analysis and impact factors, including the pros and cons of these approaches. Open access (OA) is reviewed, including the positives and negatives of author-pays, self-archiving, and repository models. Adopting a systems approach to journals means examining the functions and activities of all participants in the scholarly journal system as they relate to economic factors. Participants include researchers (as authors, peer-reviewers, editors, and readers), publishers, libraries, intermediaries (e.g., consortia), and repositories. Several years ago the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) made an award to the University of Pittsburgh to develop a retrievable database of references to the economics of scholarly journals. After entering nearly 2,000 citations the project stopped (due in part to Sally Morris’s leaving ALPSP and Don King’s leaving Pittsburgh). Further evidence of the abundance of literature on the subject is that Charles W. Bailey, Jr., publishes a periodic Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography. The current version (77) brings the total entries to over 3,620 items (Bailey, 2009). This is obviously a topic of broad interest, particularly in light of the impact of electronic publishing and internet access on authors, publishers, libraries, other intermediaries, and readers. There has been much interest in international initiatives for new publishing models including open access, either through upfront payments by authors or their representatives, or author self-archiving to subject or institutional repositories. Because of the enormity of the literature, this review focuses on economic

aspects of the participants in the scholarly journal system. Emphasis is placed on actual and potential economic consequences of technology and the introduction of alternative publishing models. Obviously the references in this chapter are incomplete, but serve as an attempt to provide an entrance to the literature.

Several major studies have explored the total cost of the national journal system (and its benefits) to determine the likely impact of open access and reliance on electronic-only publishing. These examine scholarly journal systems from the perspective of functions and activities performed and the participants who perform them. This approach serves as a framework for the present review. The relative costs of participants in the system have not changed much over the years or across countries.

Cost (in money and people’s time) is a principal metric; different strengths and weaknesses of metrics and methods are emphasized here, however, because other metrics also have an enormous influence on participant decision, public policy, and how research is conducted. We review the cost associated with researcher activities (writing, editing, peer review, obtaining, reading, and self-archiving) because these costs dominate the overall system costs. The costs and pricing of traditional publishing are reviewed and compared with open access publishing models. Economics of libraries focuses on traditional print and electronic collection costs, use, and value, as well as the influence of consortia and licensing practices. We begin with an overview of the scholarly journal system’s components and participants.

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