The research community around programming languages is re-thinking the publication model, especially regarding open access for all. Here is a transcript of the context of a survey I received today. The interesting bit to me is the operational cost of maintaining the ACM Digital Library, at 2.6M$ (about 25% of costs), which maybe could be drastically lower if the archival was done using spare resources of users. There still need to be humans in the loop to ensure submissions to the library meet requirement standards, and I don’t have the figures for that yet.
WHO OWNS YOUR RESEARCH?
This survey, sponsored by SIGPLAN, is it intended to shed light on the position of the scientific community with respect to open access and the publishing of scientific results in CS.
[the link to the survey has been removed]
Open access (OA) refers to unrestricted access to scientific works provided by the publisher without charge to the reader, or “Gold” OA. Other models exist, but only Gold OA ensures free access to all articles in perpetuity. The alternative, Green OA, depends on authors posting copies of the published version on their, or their institution’s, web pages. These may not be preserved in perpetuity, and provide no centralized index.
Open access to the Digital Library (DL) would have financial implications. Understanding those requires a brief look at ACM finances. ACM’s financial statement indicates that the two largest revenue streams are publications ($20.3M) and conferences ($27.1M) with expenses of $11.2M and $24.6M, respectively. Publication costs break down as follows: Journals $2.1M, magazines and newsletters $0.8M, DL operational expenses $2.6M, DL sales and marketing $2.3, and distribution costs for print $2.1M. Conference publishing costs ($1.7M) are separate as they are paid for by registrations. ACM has a surplus of $11.7M distributed as follows: the SIGs receive $5.8M, general activities area receive $5.9M and $3.7M is used for so called “Good Works”. The Good Works are programs with no associated revenue: curriculum development, accreditation of university CS programs, K-12 education, education policy & public awareness initiatives, women in computing, under-represented minorities, and individuals with disabilities, technology policy, and international initiatives.
Alternative financing models include:
Author processing charges: these can be as high as $5,000 (Elsevier) and as low as $15 (LIPIcs). ACM’s “Gold” OA is priced at $700/$1100 per conference/journal paper.
Voluntary support: arXiv is funded by a combination of grants and voluntary support from user institutions. Costs are <$1M/yr for over a million papers stored in perpetuity.
Author lifetime subscriptions: PeerJ is an OA publisher that requires a once-in-a-lifetime subscription of $299 per author and no per paper charge.
Several conferences have recently switched to LIPIcs for its OA (ECOOP, ICALP, CONCUR).
Copyrights. In traditional publishing models, authors transfer copyrights of their work to the publisher, in exchange for the publisher making the authors’ work broadly accessible. In OA models authors can retain copyright under, e.g., a Creative Commons licenses (CC-BY 4.0).
For comparison, I found the Arxiv operating business projections and the server costs only amount to about 50,000$/year. The biggest gains are to be found in lowering the cost of maintaining the system, projected to be between 164k$ and 238k$ per year.
Supporting those initiatives within the SAFE network has the potential to lower these costs and would buy an incredible amount of goodwill from the wider associated communities.