Business Models, Controversial Topics, Experimentation

JoVE Leaves Open Access Behind

JoVE Poster
Image by Stecky via Flickr

The Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) has implemented a subscription model, ending a short reign of free access to high-quality scientific videos.

Responding to a wave of disappointment, Moishe Pritsker, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of JoVE, remarked soberly on the Nature Network blog:

The reason is simple: we have to survive. To cover costs of our operations, to break even, we have to charge $6,000 per video article. This is to cover costs of the video-production and technological infrastructure for video-publication, which are higher than in traditional text-only publishing. Academic labs cannot pay $6,000 per article, and therefore we have to find other sources to cover the costs.

Pritsker started the journal in 2006 when he was a post-doc at Harvard and later received private investment in order to attend to the journal full-time.  He would not disclose the investor or the sum in a 2007 interview appearing in The Scientist.

The journal attracted substantial media attention in 2008 when its video experiments became indexed in PubMed.

Institutional subscriptions now range from $1,000 for small colleges to $2,400 for PhD-granting institutions, prices which are in league with other commercial scientific journals.  In addition, authors are charged $1,500 per article for video production services ($500 without), and there are open access options: $3,000/article with production services ($2,000 without).

Responding on JoVE’s move to implement a subscription model on the Bench Marks blog, David Crotty, the Executive Editor of Cold Spring Harbor Protocols remarked:

I can’t say I’m terribly surprised. JOVE set themselves a monumental task, trying to break ground with a new type of science publishing AND at the same time trying to do so with an unproven business model. Doing both together was perhaps a bit too ambitious.

Crotty believes that striving for high production quality and editorial oversight made JoVE too expensive for a producer-pays model.  PLoS recognized this fact earlier on, launching PLoS ONE under a less-stringent, high-volume model.  Earlier this year, the Journal of Clinical Investigation implemented its first online subscription model.

Crotty also lamented that publishing a methods paper is not a glamorous route for an aspiring scientist.  Getting scientists to produce them, let alone pay the production costs, is a challenge for any publisher.

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About Phil Davis

I am an independent researcher and publishing consultant specializing in the statistical analysis of readership and citation data. I am a former postdoctoral researcher in science communication and former science librarian.


3 thoughts on “JoVE Leaves Open Access Behind

  1. I came across this journal at a talk by Moishe Pritsker at an STM seminar. I have since looked at the videos which have obviously been professionally made. But surely it was clear from the start that academic institutions would not be able to pay $6000.

    Posted by Kaveh Bazargan | Apr 6, 2009, 11:12 pm
    • I don’t think Pritsker is saying that academic institutions are unable (or unwilling) to pay $6000/article for production costs. He is saying that it is unreasonable for authors to bare the full costs alone, which is why JoVE has implemented an institutional subscription model.

      This solution is similar to BioMed Central, whose revenue stream is a combination of author fees and institutional “memberships”. PLoS has a similar model, but in addition, receives hefty philanthropic support.

      If there is a lesson here, it would be that high-quality publishing cannot rely on a single producer-pays revenue stream.

      Posted by Philip Davis | Apr 7, 2009, 8:51 am
  2. It seems to me the difficulties associated with running projects like JoVE and PLoS is that all of the information that is gleaned from a given study is concentrated in one document – the final publication. This means that the (inflated?) costs of reviewing, editing, and publishing each work (i.e. development/maintenance of the online interface, salaries, etc.) must be recovered from fees attached to this single document.

    An extremely inefficient model considering the relatively small size of the academic research readership.

    We’ve developed a slightly altered model for academic research. Rather than conduct research behind closed doors; we’ve produced a microfinance platform that functions to encourage the general public to play a more active role in the research process by investing directly in the research projects that interest them. This frees researchers from having to invest (waste?) time completing lengthy grant applications; and allows them to devote their time and energy to the creative and innovative work they ultimately seek to do. In exchange, researchers maintain research logs that will (1) allow their investors to follow the progress made by a given researcher as it happens, as well as (2) serve as a written record for any researcher seeking to verify the results of the initial study.

    The presence of such a document renders the expensive formal academic review process (and most of the other ‘overhead’ costs associated with formal publication) largely unnecessary as any experimental mistakes/oversights made by the researcher could be identified in real-time (as they occur) by any individual who followed the researcher’s regular research log entries.

    For anybody curious to know more about this project, please visit our website. Any feedback regarding our project, the website, or additional resources that may further enhance their utility, will also be highly appreciated:

    Posted by Priyan Weerappuli | Aug 11, 2009, 1:35 am

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The mission of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) is "[t]o advance scholarly publishing and communication, and the professional development of its members through education, collaboration, and networking." SSP established The Scholarly Kitchen blog in February 2008 to keep SSP members and interested parties aware of new developments in publishing.
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