High above Cayuga’s waters, the Cornell Library Board is deliberating on establishing a fund for supporting Open Access publishing.
John Hermanson, professor of biomedical sciences and chair of the library board, presented the Open Access author fund proposal on March 11 to the Cornell Faculty Senate. Like other proposals, the fund would cover the author processing fees for those who wish to publish in Open Access journals.
According to the Senate minutes, Cornell University Librarian, Anne Kenney, is “extremely interested” in allocating $25K of library funds, with the other $25K being matched by the Provost.
Anticipating the question on whether $50K was sufficient, considering that some journals charge up to $3,000 per article, Hermanson claimed:
We don’t know if that is enough. From the previous experiences we have been discussing initially, it’s probably more than is necessary because there are a number of open access journals already available to faculty to publish in and they are relatively low in terms of volume submission they have seen.
Considering that the Cornell University Library spends nearly $18 million dollars on collections, $50K seems like pocket change. From an management standpoint, it may take much more that $50K in staff and faculty time to administrate and process author charges one article at a time.
This would lead a skeptic to question why such funds are necessary if there is little demand, especially at a time when libraries are asked to make deep cuts in both their staff and existing journal subscriptions. Of course, low demand may not be the future for author publishing funds, and this is where governance becomes a significant issue. Hermanson addressed the concerns with how to allocate these funds when demand outstrips supply, yet only rhetorically:
Questions, of course, come up – how do you judge who gets to publish? So what if there is a run of this money? Do we take the front row for example and say your work is better than people in the back row? How would that $50K be allocated? Will it be sufficient? . . . Will there be more money in the coffers? We don’t know.
I spoke with Hermanson on this issue, and he responded that the details have not yet been worked out by the library board, but that the board understands the importance of implementing policies and priorities on how the monies should be spent. These details should be no secret.
The UK Research Information Report, “Paying for open access publication charges,” states that criteria for for judging between competing claims and procedures for dealing with appeals are necessary if the funds are to be run effectively, yet offers no guidance on the details. From his Cornell Faculty Senate presentation, Hermanson understands that publication is tightly coupled with the promotion and tenure of junior researchers and that denying publication funds may have serious deleterious effects on future careers.
This makes it clear that managing a publication fund requires much more than just writing checks.