How badly do authors want open access? What priorities do authors really have? Bringing data to the discussion

If you believe the press, scientists are desperate to publish open access. Is this really true? Turning our scientific method onto ourselves and our peers, let’s see what kind of actual data there is. Every 3 years Ithaka SR (a consulting firm for non-profits) publishes a survey of US faculty for attitudes and behaviors that can help university libraries serve their faculty (https://sr.ithaka.org/publications/2018-us-faculty-survey/). The whole survey is well worth a read. There are interesting questions about social media, data storage, attitudes towards books, etc. But I want to home on their Figure 31 which summarizes data about what kind of journals faculty want to publish in.

Figure 31 from the report is reproduced here. The associated question is: “When it comes to influencing your decisions about journals in which to publish an article of yours, how important to you is each of the following characteristics of an academic journal?” Answers are “Percent of respondents who indicated that each of these characteristics is highly important.”

Ithak SR survey of acultyFigure 31 – Ithaka SR survey of US faculty about what kind of journals they want to publish in

To me this gives some very clear results that rings largely true to me. To a good approximation faculty priorities when choosing journals are:

1) Publish in a journal that is widely read by my direct colleagues and peers simultaneously with being a high reputation (high impact journal). This is a high priority for 80% of faculty.

2) Publish for free (no page charges or OA APC charges). This is a high priority for ~70% of faculty.

3) Publish in a journal that is a “good citizen” in areas like open access (freely available to read), accessible to developing nation scientists, good long term archive policies, etc. This is important to about 30-40% of the faculty (and slightly more important to senior faculty than junior).

I’ve left a few out like publishing in an exclusive journal (not a high priority per se, seemingly just a residual from publishing in a high impact factor journal) and quick time to publication.

But this rings completely true to me. Scientists publish almost exclusively to influence their colleagues (i.e. ultimately the direction of the field) and to enhance their career. And they are working with fixed resources and finite budgets. Scientists are not unaltruistic (30-40% consider the more altruistic factors as a high priority). But scientists have a job to do.

But what do we make of the fact that free to publish came in 4th with ~70% while free to read (open access) came in 8th with about 35%. First it seems likely that there is some magical thinking going on. At least some fraction of respondents (70%+35%>100%) want their papers to be free to publish AND free to read. Well who wouldn’t! The problem is that this is entirely unrealistic. Every time I hear somebody talk about “platinum OA” (where some 3rd party pays the OA publishing charges) I wonder who exactly this magical 3rd party is and where they get their money from.

But this data also provides a pretty direct answer to how badly authors want OA. Twice as many authors consider free to publish as a top priority as do those who consider free to read as a top priority. There may be an overlapping group who is engaging in magical thinking. But likely the majority of both those groups are probably principled rational people who would like to see their model prevail. But there is a clear preponderance who value free to publish over free to read.

Somewhat contradicting that result is this interesting study by Shaun Yon-Seng Khoo (https://www.liberquarterly.eu/article/10.18352/lq.10280/). It shows a couple of things. First journals that flip and go from free to publish to OA pay to publish have not seen a decline in the number of submissions. This suggests that at the moment plenty of authors are happy with the pay-to-publish OA APC model (although this doesn’t contradict the previous survey that shows that free to publish is even more popular; about 7-11% are Gold or Hybrid OA and another 13-16% ambiguous Bronze OA according to Piwowar et al 2018, which means at 20-25% of papers published by a pay-to-publish model OA this is less than the 35% who said free to read is a high priority). But this article also has some scary results. The cost to publish OA (i.e article publishing charges or APC) is showing hyperinflation, increasing at 3x the rate of inflation. And indeed higher APC charges led to HIGHER submission rates. It is clear that OA is going to be subject to the same dysfunctional prestige or premium goods market rules that earlier models have been subject to as well. If all journals are gold OA, this is only going to result in the rich having easier access to prestigious journals. Notions of all OA APC being $500 or less appears not to reckon with how much authors with grants are willing to pay for prestige/visibility (and also appears not to reckon with the actual costs of publishing journal articles at their current quality levels, but that is a post for a future day).

One important caveat is that the first study is US faculty only. And I continue to observe real differences in attitudes towards OA between Europe and North America. So that needs to be remembered in the mix.

Another place where I am missing data is there is increasing talk about squeezing excess profits out of publishing and supporting society journals (a consideration that I mentioned a long time ago). I am not aware of any hard data on this.But the aforementioned study by Khoo on APC charge effects on submissions hints against this. And the first impact factor of the new journal Nature Ecology and Evolution (very high) suggests that either people are pursuing high impact or free to publish or both well above pursuing not-for-profit society journals (they’re also not prioritizing readable by colleagues – many libraries in North America have not yet purchased a subscription to NEE including my own university).

Putting all of this data together, one could speculatively (and cynically?) argue that the first study is a self-reported study of priorities and thus not completely accurate. Perhaps the real priority list of authors is:

  1. Publish in the highest impact factor I can
  2. Publish in journals my colleagues read
  3. Publish cheaply
  4. Be altruistic (which includes free to read among the mix).

But the one thing I feel very strongly about is this discussion of publishing needs and desires has to start being data driven and not just based on who shouts loudest over social media. Please point to data if you can in your comments.

What do you think? Are authors accurate self-reporters of their priorities? Or does where they publish tell us more? Is it really impact factor and prestige over everything? Is free to publish really preferred by a clear majority over free to read? Is there anything more than lip service to supporting society journals? Please give me your fact informed opinions!

 

48 thoughts on “How badly do authors want open access? What priorities do authors really have? Bringing data to the discussion

  1. Very interesting data. It’s tangential to your main point, but I’m struck that support for several of the “altruistic” reasons (and also for “publish my article quickly”) increases with seniority. That’s the opposite of what I would’ve expected.

    • I noticed that too. Perhaps older scholars have accumulated more experience and perspective on the accidental injustices of the academic world. And are less patient, cos’, you know, they want to get that stuff published before they retire?

    • Yes – I found that interesting too. I interpret it as the fact that career needs really are driving most of what authors want and those pressures relax over time.

    • I noted that right away too, particularly the developing countries part. I think some of that is simply “experience.” As an anecdote, many of the last four categories intersected in my first faculty stop at U Puerto Rico. For awhile, we had a couple of good regional journals that supported forestry and ecology, Caribbean J of Science and Caribbean Forester. But for long periods both were either not publishing or not accessible due to lack of editors, lack of servers, not having electronic versions, etc. CF went defunct in the 60s, I think. CJS operated for awhile in the 2000s-10s. So when you are the new guy and someone says such and so was published in CF or CJS, but the campus library doesn’t have a copy of CF from 1958, or CJS from anytime and the link is broken online, you start to worry about long-term access.

      And, being tropical, I believed it was best if my research was published in places where other tropical ecologists would read it. So I’d publish in tropical journals over higher impact general ecology journals. If there was an option that was free to publish and free to read (Tropical Ecology was that way for quite some time for members of ISTE, before it became too expensive for ISTE to continue to do this), I’d pick that first. If not, I’d pick free to publish with liberal copyright policies. I think for Northern scientists at early stages then access by folks from developing countries is not on their radar if they haven’t run into colleagues from the developing world who have explained the library/journal access issues there. I’d come back to the states and talk about those issues with grad school colleagues and often they hadn’t considered these issues.

      Back in 90-something, we did a deep declutter of my advisor’s lab. One of the things that went was a stack of 100s of reprint request postcards. In the 60s and 70s, he would send them to authors and they’d send reprints. We do that now electronically. History repeats itself. I think free to publish is more important that free to read, because email reprint requests, SciHub, ResearchGate, etc. work.

      • “email reprint requests, SciHub, ResearchGate, etc. work”

        Indeed the existence of pdfs in the wild not behind paywalls is the Napster moment for academic publishing and the real reason publishers are moving to OA (get the money before the PDF exists because it is getting harder to get it after it is published – library subscriptions are the only exception of serious income after the PDF is generated and they are stressed to the breaking point)

      • “Indeed the existence of pdfs in the wild not behind paywalls is the Napster moment for academic publishing and the real reason publishers are moving to OA (get the money before the PDF exists because it is getting harder to get it after it is published”

        Excellent point.

  2. The focus here is on faculty as authors. Typically they have grants that could include page charges as a line item, or the university research office may have a budget to cover page charges. What about authors who are private consultants and do not have clients interested in publication? I am in this group and publish several times a year in a high impact journal. Just writing the article costs me time for which I am not paid–I would stop if I also needed to pay page fees.

    What do you think will happen with the end of Univ of Calif’s contract with Elsevier? Will the Pac 12 also start publishing online open access journals?

    • I think your point is even stronger than you say. Because I don’t think it’s true that most faculty in the US have grants that could pay page charges, or are employed by an institution that pays the charges for them. Maybe it’s true if you restrict attention to faculty at R1 universities or something, but they’re only a fraction of all faculty who want to publish papers (and are expected by their employers to publish papers). And even people who have grants that could be used to pay page charges typically will prefer to spend the money on direct costs of research–paying trainees, buying supplies, etc.

    • I actually don’t think most faculty have a grant. It depends on where in the world, and what you consider to be a big enough grant to be able to pickup $3000 APC without sacrificing science. But my guess is that in the US a majority of publishing faculty DO NOT have a grant. And most faculty in Canada have a grant but they’re smallish enough that APC are not going to be easy to cover. And faculty in the global South almost certainly don’t have grants.

      But your point is absolutely true as well. Most of the discussion is centered on North American and European faculty. There are a lot of people who publish who don’t fit that category.

      My non-rigorous guess is that about only 30% of the people publishing today have a grant to cover APC.

      The University of California system already has a platform that allows faculty to open very low cost open access journals, so that is likely a trend of the future.

      As for Elsevier, a growing trend is “Publish and Read” where the libraries negotiate a deal with one of the big 3 (Wiley, SpringerNature, Elsevier) that gives all of their faculty the continuing right to read (traditional subscription model) but also the right to publish OA. I think this will be the major transition strategy short term. And it is I believe part of what the UC schools wanted with Elsevier but so far Elsevier has refused to do “Publish and Read”. My bet is Elsevier caves because it is so clearly the next step.

      • Jeremy said: “And even people who have grants that could be used to pay page charges typically will prefer to spend the money on direct costs of research–paying trainees, buying supplies, etc.” Yep. I find it hard to justify paying APC when it feels like I am making it so I can’t pay someone who works in my lab for as long. And, as noted above, this tradeoff is even worse in some parts of the world. I spoke with someone at Evolution this summer who noted that a $3000 APC is roughly equivalent to 6 months of support for a person in his lab.

      • Meghan,
        Can you elaborate on $3000 as worth 6 months of work? Thats 500 dollars/month, or $3/hr full time. Do you mean 6 weeks?

      • MIght not be in the US, might be a part-time person and/or undergrad. Hardly central to the core point that there is a trade-off between APC and staff doing science

      • About the 3000 USD dollars covering six months of work:
        I work in Brazil. 3000 USD is about 11000 BRL (brazilian Reais).
        An undergrad scholarship is 400 BRL per month, a Masters scholarship is about 1500 BRL, a PhD scholarship is 2000 BRL, and my postodc was 4100 BRL per month.
        So one $3000 APC equals one-year scholarships for two undergrads, or about six months support to a Masters or PhD student, or two and a half months for a postdoc.
        A $3000 APC is also 50% larger than my monthly salary, as a professor.

    • That is a complete falsehood.
      Most faculty do not have external funding in at field. The vast majority of publications are self funded.
      See my eletter published in science.

      • Thank you for your comments Malcolm.

        Providing links or citations to papers to which you refer would be helpful to others.

        Also, please consider the tone and context of your comments. “That is a complete falsehood” is a needlessly strongly-worded way to reply to a comment you believe is incorrect. Further, two others already noted that it’s incorrect to say that most faculty have grants or employers to pay pay charges for them, so for additional commenters to say so without adding anything further risks turning into a pile-on.

  3. Dear Brian, thanks for posting this interesting and pertinent subject. I am from a developing country (Chile) and based on my own experience and the one of my colleagues, the decision about where to submit/publish is as follows: first and ideal, 1, 2 and 3 (highest IF, journals my colleagues read, cheap journals), and second, if it does not work the previous ones, be altruistic (for which money is relatively a problem). So, we (although not my case) publish open access “only” once we could not publish in other journals.
    From my personal and context (developing country) perspective, to get access to articles is not a major problem at all, you can always ask authors for sharing their pdfs or go to sci-hub and in >95% of the cases you get the article. Thanks again for your posting.

    • Thank you for your comment. I think the push to OA has failed to think through the consequences for the developing world. Most publishers have a list of countries for which they waive APC charges but they are the countries that are the poorest 50% that don’t really publish anything. Not the countries like Chile, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Argentina, etc that are important contributors to the publishing world.

      • It’s crazy the countries that do not qualify for waivers. No free access anywhere in South America, but a few countries get discounts. Plus there are many bureaucratic hurdles for getting access to Research4Life even if you are in a qualified country.

  4. Via Twitter:

    In response to Elizabeth Moon, I’d say that there are many ways to have a science-literate citizenry. Making the entire primary scientific literature author-pays open access is only one of them, and I doubt it’s the best one on balance (by any measure of “best”).

    • And another reply to Elizabeth Moon:

    • It would be interesting to get a sense of what percentage of people are in agreement with the Dr Maggie J Watson @terngirl suggestion that shoplifting is a good work around for article access hassles. The UC system break with Elsevier will make a natural experiment on how readily scientists stoop to shoplifting from Sci-Hub rather than more tedious legit means.

      • Good question! I was just wondering that myself.

        More broadly (and relatedly), I have the anecdotal and possibly-incorrect sense that concerns about high OA fees, and their disproportionate effects on authors without big grants, have shifted the online and offline conversations around OA. It seems like the tide is turning against plan S. It seems like more people feel like, if they’ve posted a preprint (of the non-typeset accepted version, or even just of the submitted pre-review version), that they’ve done their job in terms of making their work accessible to all–because they can’t afford to do anything else. And as you note, it seems like more people are prepared to say “if anyone without a subscription wants to read the published versions of my papers, they can either ask me for the pdf or go to SciHub, because I can’t afford OA fees”.

        Semi-relatedly, I’m now wondering how far one can push the analogy between Napster’s disruption of the music industry and the ongoing disruption of scientific publishing. Post-Napster, the music industry went through a period dominated by the iTunes model–cheap per-song downloads. And then entered the current period, dominated by streaming services supported by subscriber fees (e.g., Spotify). Not that those other models were as successful as album sales, from the perspective of the record companies. I only know what I read in the news, but my understanding is that the recording industry as a whole now takes in less revenue than it did before Napster. It’s interesting to me that scientific publishing seems to be going down a very different road than the music industry in terms of revenue models. But I’m not a businessperson or economist and so I have no sense at all of why there’s no scientific publishing equivalent of Spotify.

        Aside: this is possibly the least-informed comment I’ve ever made on this blog. 🙂 I really haven’t the first clue what I’m talking about on this! What can I say, my brain thinks in analogies, and sometimes it overreaches. 🙂 “Napster was a disruptive internet-y thing. So are SciHub and other ways of sharing pdfs of scientific papers. Clearly it would be interesting to compare them all!” Sez my brain. 🙂

      • To carry the poorly informed analogies with the record industry even further …
        a) See my comments about “Read and publish deals” – those are basically Spotify. A library system (so far whole countries like Netherlands and Germany, UCal is now trying to do it for a state) basically negotiate an “everything included – read all journals including back issues, OA publish in all journals” price and pay it annually. I don’t know if this is the final end point, but I would bet good money this is a major trend for the next 5 years. So yes – analogy works. Publishing companies get their stream of income & libraries get full access at a known price and a new pot of money doesn’t have to be found for authors to publish.
        b) My understanding is that for artists one shift from Napster is that they now give away records to make money on tours and merchandise where they used to give away tours & merchandise to make money on records. So if we believe this analogy … I can just see Jeremy out there with a screaming throng of DE followers selling t-shirts and charging $50 to be admitted. 🙂 OK – so maybe that part of the analogy is not going to carry over.

  5. Via Twitter:

  6. The poll results reported in the post are broadly consistent with our own poll results, showing only small minorities support various radical reforms of scientific publishing and peer review, including “make all journals author-pays OA” and “make all journals review only for technical soundness”: https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2018/07/02/controversial-ideas-about-scientific-publishing-and-peer-review-poll-results-and-commentary/.

    It’s not that most people are *happy* with every aspect of the current scientific publishing ecosystem–almost 40% of our poll respondents agree or strongly agree that “peer review and scientific publishing are broken and need massive changes.” But the massive changes that people want to see apparently do not include those that are pushed hard by a few vocal open access or Plan S advocates.

  7. Herpetological conservation and biology
    No pub fees no reading fees
    Publishing is not expensive.
    See article in chronicle of higher ed years ago on the journal. We have advised dozens of journals that follow this model

  8. I’m not sure I understand this comment “squeezing excess profits out of publishing and supporting society journals” Aren’t the vast majority of society journals published by big publishing companies. ESA used to publish its own stuff, but there has been a move away from this.

    • ESA (and the BES) contract with Wiley to publish and distribute their journals. The economics of this are very different than for journals that are owned by the publisher.

      Before that, ESA contracted with Allen Press to publish and distribute its journals. Allen Press is a small for-profit publisher founded by university folks and specializing on publishing scientific society journals (I think! I will happily correct this comment if any details that are in error.).

      Brian has an old post on the economics of all this: https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/follow-the-money-what-really-matters-when-choosing-a-journal/

    • It gets complicated for sure. Most society journals (including ESA, BES, Nordic Society) are now published by Wiley which is for profit. However Wiley does this under contract from the society and a significant fraction of the revenue still goes back into the societies and the societies own the copyrights (e.g. I believe they could walk away with the publications at the end of the contract). Many (including myself) also think it is worth distinguishing Wiley from Springer/Elsevier in terms of how they act (which in turn is at least in part why societies have gone with them). And moreover, the society controls many of the policies of their journals so e.g. Green OA policies are often better or publishing charge waiver polices are usually better with society journals.

      Regardless there are many flavors of movement out there. Some want to support society journals. Some want to support non-profits. Some want to support the cheapest journals. There is partial but far from total overlap amongst those three categories. And as my last paragraph shows it gets even more complicated than that.

      But I was just trying to put in a placeholder for movements other than and at least partially opposed to OA centered more on money and profits which to my mind are starting to gain steam.

  9. Does anyone know what the average cost to a journal for publishing an article is (vs. the open access fees)? My guess is it is way less than the OA fees they charge us. So here’s my naively optimistic and probably impractical suggestion ….. What about a publishing model where 1) authors write papers without being paid by the journals, 2) editors volunteer their time to handle papers, co-ordinate reviews, decisions etc, 3) scientists volunteer their time to review articles for the journals, 4) the journals don’t do the page-setting themselves but provide a platform where authors can do the formatting themselves for free (or if they prefer pay a service fee to have it done for them), 5) authors upload the accepted page-set articles to the journal platform, 6) journals either cover the costs of this through Society membership fees or through a fee for the real (but greatly reduced) cost to publish. Hey, 1), 3) and a fair bit or 2) are already done for free, so we’re half way there 🙂.
    I wonder how much it costs to run things like R and Wikipedia that are free to use and there for the greater good. R was certainly a major disruptor of for-fee statistical packages like SAS and SYSTAT. And Wikipedia is obviously a vastly bigger entity, but it keeps itself going on donations from a small minority of users.

    • I’m going to do a blog post on this later. But the short answer is there are a lot of hidden costs not in your list. Good estimates of the cost for an article are around $1500 but it depends on acceptance rates and also how many of the features we currently take for granted as far as copy editing, the XML coding that goes into formatting, etc. But the cheapest reasonable rates sacrificing much of that is several hundred.

      • Brian, I look forward to your blog post on journal article costs, for at the outset $1500/article seems low. I don’t know how much publishers make their costs public, but I get a feeling it’s well above $1500 for the non-selective, non-OA publishers. I had to eat crow on this one after ranting for years about why it costs $3K for the OA fee for the not-highly-selective journal I edit for. The journal is owned by a society and published by Wiley under contract I finally put some math to it and estimated the true costs of an article at above $3K, making some assumptions about what the employers cost is for providing a living wage for managing editor and editorial assistants, some renumeration for the EIC, and a range of swags for some other costs of services – use of the cursed/blessed manuscript software (e.g., ManuscriptCentral, Editorial Manager), copy editing, web hosting, and divided that into the number of articles published.

        There’s certainly a range of costs. Your $1500 figure seems about right for the high-volume OA publications such PLOS One and its highly successful knock-off competitors, and a big high for some highly prolific for profit, publishing houses such as MDPI and Frontiers. (Btw, Plan S seems to have been highly informed by the publishing model of Frontiers – see https://forbetterscience.com/2019/07/11/frontiers-and-robert-jan-smits-emails-reveal-how-plan-s-was-conceived/.) In contrast, The EMBO Journal went public with a $5200 cost per article. (https://doi.org/10.15252/embj.2018101215).

      • @Chris Mebane,
        Is some of the variation in OA fees reflective of differences in journal selectivity? If you’re only going to publish a modest number of articles and reject most of your submissions, presumably you need to charge more per published paper to make ends meet (though of course, if authors won’t pay whatever you’re charging, you won’t make ends meet anyway…). Indeed, IIRC that was a big reason why Plos One was invented. Plos started out publishing selective OA journals, but they weren’t able to break even, and were worried that authors wouldn’t pay astronomically high publication fees required for them to break even by publishing only selective OA journals. So they started Plos One, an unselective journal, to subsidize their selective journals.

    • Re: services like Wikipedia that are free to users, the arXiv preprint server is supported by Cornell University, the Simons foundation, and fees from member universities. It also applies for and receives grants from foundations and NSF. It’s annual budget runs into the millions of US dollars, and even that is only enough to maintain the (fairly minimal) services it currently offers (e.g., no peer review; no typesetting or copyediting). It’s not enough for arXiv to update its infrastructure or improve its services, at least not to any great extent; arXiv tries to get additional grants to develop new services. arXiv is currently working hard to reduce its previous heavy reliance on a single funding source. And it is hard work–arXiv has to compete with many worthy causes for support from universities and foundations.

      The above is summarized from: https://arxiv.org/help/support/faq#2A

      I think arXiv is fantastic, I think it’s great that it exists, and it’s certainly a model that other research communities could try to follow if they wanted. But I think some scientists are under the illusion that volunteer editors and peer reviewers could do online publishing that offers as many or more features than arXiv without anyone needing to pay more than a trivial amount of money. Which is incorrect–you need more than just a small one-time investment in a bit of software plus the small ongoing costs to rent server space.

    • I’ve just visited the offices of two largest scientific publishers. And now I understand, enough, why they charge us so high. The service is ultimately excellent.

    • I do agree with that publishing in the current model (mostly free editorial and reviewing work) is probably much less expensive than its costs to the research community (whether in academia or not), as evidenced by the large and growing profit margin of some editors. Some costs however seem dramatically underestimated by most researchers. First of all, even platforms like PCIs that provide peer-reviewing of preprints at no cost to the user have to be funded by third parties (here research institutions and scientific societies). Then, the costs to archiving papers electronically for an indeterminate amount of time are currently relatively low, but they do not yet include environmental externalities and could increase if the increase in data stored by mankind is not counterbalanced by technical innovation. Finally, many on-line journals do not archive articles on an alternative medium, like acid-free paper, so they provide a lower service if you care about the knowledge you produced remaining accessible in the long-term (although that might always not be a good thing ;-)). As an example, on the website of “Herpetological conservation and biology” mentioned earlier, I could not find any information on archiving policy (either electronically or on paper) in their “About” or “Authors” pages.

      Comments on the line of « Open-access does not matter since there are other means to obtain papers » do not recognize the fact that someone at some point as to pay for these costs. If the incentives for libraries to subscribe to journals or for authors to pay APC become much lower, because going through SciHub or sending an email is quick and relatively easy nowadays, then the question « Who is going to pay ? » remains open.

  10. I was wondering when someone would point this out:

    Anyone have any links to data on how many people who aren’t academics or undergrad/grad students read the median open access paper, as compared to otherwise-similar non-open-access papers? I bet the difference is approximately zero, even in fields that many non-academics care a lot about, like research on cancer or diabetes.

      • Having worked for, and still having lots of friends and my partner in, environmental consultancy, I can confirm that people outside academia do read and sometimes publish articles. They bump into paywalls more often than not and are not always aware of the alternatives, which is usually when I receive an email hoping I could get access to article X through my institutional subscriptions…
        This is still only anecdotal though.

  11. Great article. Just sharing, from the side of my country, Indonesia. Many authors here don’t really mind with the pay to publish scheme, as long as the journals have high reputation, and, if strongly possible, fast to publish. This is based on my 3 years of experience in being a consultant for journal submission. Thank you Brian for the data. Hope I can reach you further through emails. I can be contacted at luqman.academia@gmail.com.

  12. Via Twitter, a claim that it’s possible for papers to be (nearly) free to publish, and free to read, forever:

    I don’t know anything about this, so I can’t really comment much. At a glance, it appears to be a preprint service (no pre-publication peer review, no typesetting, no copy editing, no indexing in WoS…) that costs anyone who wants to post co-authored preprints a $10/month membership fee. “Peer review” appears to be entirely post-publication, by whoever happens to want to do it, which we already know is a recipe for the vast majority of papers receiving no review. And it’s a new startup, so it hasn’t shown yet that it can work at scale. So…it’s arXiv, more or less, except paid for by author membership fees rather than by institutional memberships and grants from nonprofits. That doesn’t sound like anything revolutionary to me, and I question whether it’s sustainable long-term.

    • Well, same question, does $10/month over an academic or professional career covers for the costs of archiving “forever” all the papers produced during that career ?
      Leaving aside the fact that the FOREVER variable (added by Jeremy) makes the right-hand term infinite…

  13. Can I make a small plea? There’s a bit of hyperbole going on about price increases, using the term “hyper-inflation”. Hyper-inflation is when prices go up 50% in a single month. I’m pretty sure that even greedy publishers aren’t being that aggressive. Probably better to use “above inflation” increases or “double-digit” increases, if that is in fact the case.

    For the record, I work for RELX, Elsevier’s parent company. For what it’s worth, Elsevier’s price increases in the past decade have been the lowest among the major commercial publishers.

    • Hi Paul – I suspect you are technically correct. I was just echoing the term used in the source I quoted, but as an academic I should probably do better. I agree prices are not going up at those kinds of rates.

      However, all the data I have seen shows they are going up at rates that are a multiple of 2-3x the rate of inflation and that is not just normal market economics either. It is strongly suggestive of a prestige market, monopoly market, or other special scenario, and as such does need commenting on (especially if we’re all about to jump into the OA, author pays APC world).

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