The Ecological Society of America
cientists are the primary producers as well as the mainconsumers of scientific journals. Traditionally, theyhave had little reason to concern themselves with the eco-nomics of this industry. However, because journal pricesconsistently increase more quickly than library budgets,scientists, even at large research institutions, begin to feelthe pinch of restricted access to the scholarly literature.This paper investigates the economic factors responsible,with a focus on ecology journals.
Our data cover 92 regularly published primary researchjournals in the field of ecology. These are the 107 ecologyjournals listed in 2005 Journal Citation Reports (JCR2005), which reports citation data through the end of 2004, with the following exceptions: review journals(
Advances in Ecological Research; Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics; Trends in Ecology andEvolution
), irregularly published journals (
Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History; Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia; Western North American Naturalist; Wildlife Monographs
), and popularjournals (
). We omitted the for-profitjournal
because the 2005 price reflects a mergerwith
but the 2004 citation data do not includeboth journals. The bundled pair
Molecular Ecology Notes
were treated as a single journal,with circulation information estimated from the former;we treated the bundled trio
Diversity and Distributions,Global Ecology and Biogeography
Journal of Biogeography
similarly, estimating circulation from thelast of these. Finally, we omitted the three journals, allnon-profit, that provide all of their content freely on theweb (
Amazoniana; Conservation Ecology; Revista Chilenade Historia Natural
), to avoid underestimating the aver-age prices per page and per citation.
Price data are from 2005, with a few exceptions; where2005 prices were unavailable we used 2004 instead. TheESA journals (
Ecology, Ecological Monographs, Ecological Applications
, and F
rontiers in Ecology and the Environment
)feature tiered pricing; we used 2004 circulation data toestimate the average cost to print plus electronic sub-scribers. Exchange rates to US dollars were Euro = $1.26,Canadian Dollar = $0.79, Australian dollar = $0.76,Danish Kroner = $0.17.
Page charges were collected from the
Instructions for Authors
on journal websites in April 2006. For societies,we have used the higher non-member prices. Becausesome journals charge higher page charges for pagesbeyond the recommended paper length, we have usedonly the per-page price for normal length papers.
The number of recent citations is an indicator of the use-
The economics of ecology journals
Carl T Bergstrom
and Theodore C Bergstrom
Over the past decade, scientific publishing has shifted from a paper-based distribution system to one largelybuilt upon electronic access to journal articles. Despite this shift, the basic patterns of journal pricing haveremained largely unchanged. The large commercial publishers charge dramatically higher prices to institu-tions than do professional societies and university presses. These price differences do not reflect differences inquality as measured by citation rate. We discuss the effect of price and citation rate of a journal on librarysubscriptions and offer an explanation for why competition has not been able to erode the price differencesbetween commercial and non-profit journals.
Front Ecol Environ
2006; 4(9): 488–495
Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA(email@example.com );
Department of Economics, Universityof California, Santa Barbara, CA (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In a nutshell:
•The transition to online distribution of scientific publicationshas done little to alter the basic pricing structure of scholarlypublishing in the field of ecology•On average, in 2005, commercial publishers charged universitylibraries several times as much per page for institutional accessto scholarly journals as did non-profit publishers•The price differences between commercial and non-profit pub-lications do not reflect an underlying difference in quality asmeasured by citation rate• Journal circulation is highly responsive to price differences