New idea for funding PubCreds, and a 'collective action' problem Apr 18. 2011 | Comments (1)
At the recent Emerging Trends in Scholarly Publishing seminar, the fine folks at Allen Press had an interesting suggestion for how to fund PubCreds: as a nonprofit funded by membership fees from publishers. The model here is crossref.org, the folks who run the DOI system for scholarly publications. DOIs prevent broken links to articles and allow links between publications with different publishers. Publishers got together to develop crossref because it was something they all wanted, ultimately because users wanted it. The annual membership fees for publishers range from $275-50,000, depending on revenue, and there's a small fee ($1 or less) per DOI assigned.
PubCreds is similar to crossref in that it's not a service any publisher could offer on its own. The key issue is whether PubCreds is, or could become, a service that publishers want to offer. Here there seems to be a collective action problem. Imagine a world in which most publishers (or alternatively, most journals in some large field such as ecology) are members of the PubCred system. Publishers (or journals) which aren't currently members have a strong incentive to join, because otherwise reviewers won't want to review for them (because those publishers/journals don't pay any PubCreds). A world in which everyone is a member of PubCreds is 'locally stable'. But a world in which no one is a member of PubCreds is also 'locally stable', because if you're the only publisher or journal in the PubCred system authors can just avoid you and reviewers won't much value payment in PubCreds because there's nowhere else to spend them.
I'm not sure how to overcome this, except to get a sufficient critical mass of journals or publishers on board from the get-go. For instance, in ecology many of the leading journals are owned by just four scientific societies: the ESA, the BES, the ASN, and the Nordic Society Oikos. Maybe if you had the journals of those four societies on board, other journal owners in ecology would fall into line?
It's not entirely clear to me if crossref was subject to a similar collective action constraint (as opposed to merely technical constraints on what any one publisher could do on its own). But I plan to find out--I'll be getting in touch with the crossref folks to pick their brains and see if PubCreds might be able to operate on a similar funding model.