The business model is a "triple pay": the government funds the research that needs to be published; they also pay the salaries of those who validate those results through peer-review and then they pay the subscriptions to make the journals available in academic libraries. Somewhere in the middle of this Elsevier, Springer and Wiley-Blackwell are charging whatever they like to put the peer-approved scientific papers into coherent bundles and ship them to the World's libraries. It is a terrible wasteful business because nearly half of all the papers published are not cited at all. Thus a mammoth publication like the Journal of Biological Chemistry might take up 2 meters of shelving for the 24 volumes published each year and some volumes in a given library may never be taken down to be read. Most of the 50,000 pages just serve as a fire-hazard and would be more useful as a nest for mice.
I spent the 1980s tooling around the Atlantic looking at domestic cats, noting their colours, calculating gene frequencies and testing hypotheses to account for the differences among populations. The cats of St Pierre et Miquelon, for example, look far more like the cats of Bordeaux than they resemble the cats of nearby St John Newfoundland. My PhD thesis analysed the cat gene frequencies of New England, Québec and the Canadian Maritime Provinces and used these data as a test of the historical migration hypothesis. That theory hinged on the primacy of founder effect - the first cats to step ashore in a previously cat-free continent got their genes firstest with the mostest and established the gene frequency profile for the rest of time. Hence the observation about SP&M and its mothership at the mouth of the Gironde. The story was a bit woollier but the cats of New
Sometime in 1986 I got a letter from a popular science glossy called Natural History offering to pay me $750 if I would write 3,500 words about my research in cats. One of the researchers at NatHist had read my paper in J.Biogeography! I was flattered to get the call because that was where Stephen J Gould [multibloboprevs] published his monthly column This View of Life, the universe and whatever was floating his boat that week. I had an e-mail address back then, but such things were an academic rarity and the editor at Natural History definitely didn't. The WWW wasn't released until 1991 and Mark Zuckerberg was still in diapers. Accordingly we communicated by transatlantic telephone and FedEx. I wrote my 3,500 words; a super-qualified copy-editor blue-pencilled it and took it apart; reassembled it in a much more direct and engaging form . . . and sent it back to me. I corrected the editor's science and sent it back to her.
cats on Aoshima Island L] and
A few weeks later I had an enquiry from Endeavour, who asked if I'd like to write something similar for them for £200. Less money gave me more editorial control and I chose the title Cats from history and history from cats. Endeavour was then owned by Pergamon Press, Robert Maxwell's going-exponential academic publishing house. It was an exception to the triple-pay business model in that they gave their authors a small slice of the pie. My research paper in J.Biogeog. or these two secondary sources was picked up and reported by Forskning och Framsteg in Sweden and Scienza e Tecnica in Italy but I didn't get any money for those articles . . . because I didn't write them!