Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Cost of an obituary in Transfusion

Here's some food for thought: How much do you think it would cost to distribute a copy of a published obituary of a transfusion medicine pioneer in an e-mail or on a website? Curious? Then read on....

A transfusion medicine giant, JJ (Joghem) van Loghem of the Netherlands, died in 2005 and his obituary was featured in Transfusion Nov. 2005; 45(11):1823. Upon reading the obituary, I wrote aTraQ blog in Dr. van Loghem's memory (see below).

The same Nov. issue of Transfusion had an editorial on the movement towards open (free) access to published scientific literature and the competing reality that publishing quality journals is costly.The editorial focused on the NIH policy requesting recipients of NIH funding to deposit on PubMed Central (free access to all) the author's version of an accepted manuscript produced with NIH support within 12 months of publication and what that meant for authors submitting papers to both Transfusion and PubMed Central.

The authors end by noting:

AABB, Blackwell Publishing, and TRANSFUSION editors have been discussing open access, and the Journal may introduce options in the future to make authors' work available in an additional open archive. Although it is clearly attractive to gain wider exposure for articles via public access, we must carefully weigh the pros and cons of such exposure to ensure that any negative effects on the Journal are minimized. We urge TRANSFUSION authors and readers to remain aware of these evolving developments and to participate in the lively dialogue that is likely to continue in the coming years.

In writing the TraQ blog about Dr. van Loghem, I had hoped to include the Transfusion obituary, so investigated what it would cost. On the publisher's website (Blackwell Publishing) you can click on "Order permissions", which brings up the Copyright Clearance Center from which you can choose to distribute an article in several ways and get a "quick price". A few examples:

  • post the obituary on a website (personal site, educational site, etc.): $306 US
  • republish it in a newsletter (individual, educational institution): $109 US
  • send it in an e-mail to one person: $31 US
  • send it in an e-mail to 100 people: $3100 US

For comparison, the cost of my 2006 AABB membership, which includes a personal subscription to Transfusion, was $98 US or ~ $114 CDN. And with the paper copy of Transfusion I can leave it in the staff coffee room and library for all to enjoy and benefit.

What I really wanted to do was include the obituary (giving full credit to Transfusion) on a website for transfusion professionals (TraQ) , so that would cost $306 US, about $355 CDN. The cost for the obituary was the same as for any scientific paper.

Personally I think there is something wrong with paying $306 US to give a wider distribution to an obituary that pays tribute to a great transfusion medicine pioneer. It's not as though reproducing the obituary elsewhere would deprive the authors of their livlihood or impact the publisher's revenues. Such a high fee for something written as a public service is one of the many reasons that open access is so appealing.

More information on open access:

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