Sub-sidy/scription Business Model for Sustaining ArXiv?

Cornell University Library has proposed a “Collaborative Business Model” for funding the worldwide Physics ArXiv that it hosts (see white paper).

“arXiv will remain free for readers and submitters, but the Library has established a voluntary, collaborative business model to engage institutions that benefit most from arXiv.”

Here’s an alternative to this voluntary institutional sub-sidy/scription model whose sustainablity — through all economic times, tough and tender — is less founded on blind faith:

Institutions have many self-interested reasons for wanting to host, archive, manage, monitor, measure and showcase their own research article outputs. The annual scale of their own local article output is also manageable and sustainable at the institutional level, within each institution’s existing infrastructure:

Carr, L. The Value that Repositories Add
Swan, A. The Business of Digital Repositories
Harnad, S. Institutional vs. Central Repositories

Hence what will happen is that instead of trying to sustain a central repository like Arxiv — most of whose costliness derives from the fact that it is a single direct locus of deposit and archiving from all institutions, worldwide — direct deposit and hosting (and its costs) will instead be offloaded and distributed across the network of institutional repositories, with Arxiv becoming merely another central harvester, providing global search services (sustainable if it provides functionality that can compete with other OAI services or Google Scholar).

But voluntary sub-sidy/scription will no doubt sustain things for a while. (Things do seem to catch on rather slowly in this domain…)

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum