Why the price of scholarly publishing is so much higher than the cost | Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week

“In an efficient market, competing providers of a good will each try to undercut each other until the prices they charge approach the cost. If, for example, Elsevier and Springer-Nature were competing in a healthy free market, they would each be charging prices around one third of what they are charging now, for fear of being outcompeted by their lower-priced competitor. (Half of those price-cuts would be absorbed just by decreasing the huge profit margins; the rest would have to come from streamlining business processes, in particular things like the costs of maintaining paywalls and the means of passing through them.)

So why doesn’t the Invisible Hand operate on scholarly publishers? Because they are not really in competition. Subscriptions are not substitutable goods because each published article is unique. If I need to read an article in an Elsevier journal then it’s no good my buying a lower-priced Springer-Nature subscription instead: it won’t give me access to the article I need.

(This is one of the reasons why the APC-based model — despite its very real drawbacks — is better than the subscription model: because the editorial-and-publication services offered by Elsevier and Springer-Nature are substitutable. If one offers the service for $3000 and the other for $2000, I can go to the better-value provider. And if some other publisher offers it for $1000 or $500, I can go there instead.)…

Björn Brembs has been writing for years about the fact that every market has a luxury segment: you can buy a perfectly functional wristwatch for $10, yet people spend thousands on high-end watches. He’s long been concerned that if scholarly publishing goes APC-only, then people will be queuing up to pay the €9,500 APC for Nature in what would become a straightforward pay-for-prestige deal. And he’s right: given the outstandingly stupid way we evaluate reseachers for jobs, promotion and tenure, lots of people will pay a 10x markup for the “I was published in Nature” badge even though Nature papers are an objectively bad way to communicate research.

But it feels like something stranger is happening here. It’s almost as though the whole darned market is a luxury segment….

How can funders fix this, and get APCs down to levels that approximate publishing cost? I see at least three possibilities.

First, they could stop paying APCs for their grantees. Instead, they could add a fixed sum onto all grants they make — $1,500, say — and leave it up to the researchers whether to spend more on a legacy publisher (supplementing the $1,500 from other sources of their own) or to spend less on a cheaper born-OA publisher and redistribute the excess elsewhere.

Second, funders could simply publish the papes themselves. To be fair several big funders are doing this now, so we have Wellcome Open Research, Gates Open Research, etc. But doesn’t it seem a bit silly to silo research according to what body awarded the grant that funded it? And what about authors who don’t have a grant from one of these bodies, or indeed any grant at all?

That’s why I think the third solution is best. I would like to see funders stop paying APCs and stop building their own publishing solutions, and instead collaborate to build and maintain a global publishing solution that all researchers could use irrespective of grant-recipient status. I have much to say on what such a solution should look like, but that is for another time.”

Commercial Science Journals: A Luxury Market? – SBMT

“SBMT: Why are the “diamond/platinum” journals the least valued by editorial metrics and funding agencies?

Dr. TR Shankar Raman: I have no idea why this should be so. It feels like the academic community has just painted itself into a corner. There are lots of excellent diamond open access journals. The journals published by Indian Academy of Sciences  are a good example (although they have a weird co-publishing arrangement with Springer Nature, the journals and papers can be freely accessed via the Academy website and there are no charges for authors to publish either). Of course, the number of papers that a diamond open access journal may be able to publish may be lower and many are in niche areas of science rather than multi-disciplinary in scope and hence their reach may be lower than what big-budget commercial journals can achieve with their resources. But this only means that diamond open access journals should be supported more to achieve better reach, not shift to commercial publishers. All public and philanthropic funding for science has everything to gain by supporting and mandating publication in diamond open access journals….

SBMT: How to design a policy in defense of Southern science through the promotion of “diamond/platinum” journals?

Dr. TR Shankar Raman: As individuals, we can each take a stand, as I have tried to in my post—that I will not review for or publish in commercial journals, but will especially do so for diamond open access journals. Particularly, senior scientists and leaders in their fields must set an example by publishing, reviewing for, or accepting to be on the boards of diamond open access journals. But this will not go far unless we also collectively work to change overall policy. As a community, we must petition our academies, funders, and science administrators to change policies to give greater recognition to papers published in diamond open access journals. This can trigger a big change: especially if it begins to count towards jobs and promotions in academia. Impact factor should be trashed as outdated, harmful, and retrogressive. Recipients of public funds should be mandated to publish in diamond open access journals published by nonprofit scientific societies as this is the most cost-effective way to spend the available (limited) funds to achieve publication that is freely, openly, and widely accessible, while supporting and advancing science. Other initiatives such as Gold Open Access, self-archiving of submitted final versions, or pay-to-publish APC models are all half measures or discriminate and exclude large numbers of scientists around the world, who cannot pay the large fees involved. Policies should support membership fee support for scholars and new and tenured faculty to join learned academic societies that publish diamond open access journals so that the funds are kept within the community and to advance science rather than feed the profits of commercial companies….”

Preventing the Matthew principle in science publishing – Speijer – – BioEssays – Wiley Online Library

“During the pandemic, interactions with students had to be from a distance. This got me to think about biases in assessments. In one of the courses, students had to reflect on a technically difficult “Omics” paper, answering questions and giving critical feedback. As individual student-teacher interactions had to be quite minimal, I ended up with a bunch of documents with “faceless” names. In the process of marking different student’s valiant efforts I noticed that, unsurprisingly, names still automatically conjured up faces, as names contain information regarding gender and ethnicity. Of course, I try to combat conscious prejudice. But “ay, there’s the rub”: only a fool would deny unconscious prejudices. I am far from the first to notice that all kinds of (un)conscious biases pervade our (digital) work environment. Some can be more easily circumvented than others. In the case of my exams, a simple intermediary program removing all personal information and generating a random number, would do the trick.

Could such an intake system also be of use in publishing, as is currently being tried out by some publishing start-ups (or should I say “up-starts”?). One objection might be that there are real benefits to how the system currently operates. Aren’t the “top” researchers better known for a reason? Overall, they produce higher quality work, so they should have easier access to widely read journals. Also, lesser known scientists making grandiose claims: should these indeed not be looked at more critically? Thus, it is reasoned, the identity of the people and the institute responsible for the paper just gives another valid criterion to base assessment on. On the other hand, high quality work should be able to stand on its own, and grandiose claims should always be met with skepticism, irrespective of the identity of the claimant….”

Association between productivity and journal impact across disciplines and career age

Abstract:  The association between productivity and impact of scientific production is a long-standing debate in science that remains controversial and poorly understood. Here we present a large-scale analysis of the association between yearly publication numbers and average journal-impact metrics for the Brazilian scientific elite. We find this association to be discipline-specific, career-age dependent, and similar among researchers with outlier and non-outlier performance. Outlier researchers either outperform in productivity or journal prestige, but they rarely do so in both categories. Non-outliers also follow this trend and display negative correlations between productivity and journal prestige but with discipline-dependent intensity. Our research indicates that academics are averse to simultaneous changes in their productivity and journal-prestige levels over consecutive career years. We also find that career patterns concerning productivity and journal prestige are discipline-specific, having in common a raise of productivity with career age for most disciplines and a higher chance of outperforming in journal impact during early career stages.

 

Recognition and rewards – Open Science – Universiteit Utrecht

“Open science means action. And the way we offer recognition and reward to academics and university staff is key in bringing about the transition that Utrecht University aims for. Over the course of the past year the working group on Recognition and Rewards, part of the Open Science Programme, has reflected and thoroughly debated a novel approach to ensuring that we offer room for everyone’s talent, resulting in a new vision (pdf)….

In the current system, researchers and their research are judged by journal impact factors, publisher brands and H-indices, and not by actual quality, real use, real impact and openness characteristics….

Under those circumstances, at best open science practices are seen as posing an additional burden without rewards. At worst, they are seen as actively damaging chances of future funding and promotion & tenure. Early career researchers are perhaps the most dependent on traditional evaluation culture for career progression, a culture held in place by established researchers, as well as by institutional, national and international policies, including funder mandates….”

 

 

Utrecht University Recognition and Rewards Vision

“By embracing Open Science as one of its five core principles1, Utrecht University aims to accelerate and improve science and scholarship and its societal impact. Open science calls for a full commitment to openness, based on a comprehensive vision regarding the relationship with society. This ongoing transition to Open Science requires us to reconsider the way in which we recognize and reward members of the academic community. It should value teamwork over individualism and calls for an open academic culture that promotes accountability, reproducibility, integrity and transparency, and where sharing (open access, FAIR data and software) and public engagement are normal daily practice. In this transition we closely align ourselves with the national VSNU program as well as developments on the international level….”

Open access publishing is the ethical choice | Wonkhe

“I had a stroke half a decade ago and found I couldn’t access the medical literature on my extremely rare vascular condition.

I’m a capable reader, but I couldn’t get past the paywalls – which seemed absurd, given most research is publicly funded. While I had, already, long been an open access advocate by that point, this strengthened my resolve.

The public is often underestimated. Keeping research locked behind paywalls under the assumption that most people won’t be interested in, or capable of, reading academic research is patronising….

While this moral quandary should not be passed to young researchers, there may be benefits to them in taking a firm stance. Early career researchers are less likely to have grants to pay for article processing charges to make their work open access compared to their senior colleagues. Early career researchers are also the ones who are inadvertently paying the extortionate subscription fees to publishers. According to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the amount of money UK universities fork out each year to access paywalled content from Elsevier – the largest academic publisher in the world – could pay 1,028 academic researchers a salary of £45,000 per year.

We know for-profit publishers, such as Elsevier, hold all the cards with respect to those prestigious titles. What we need are systematic “read and publish” deals that allow people to publish where they want without having to find funding for open access….

The current outlook for prospective researchers to secure an academic position at a university is compromised because so much money is spent propping up for-profit, commercial publishers. Rather than focusing on career damage to those who can’t publish with an Elsevier title, we should focus on the opportunity cost in hundreds of lost careers in academia….”

a luxury market? – basic research – KSU | The Sentinel Newspaper

“The rapid migration of scientific online journals around the turn of the century seemed to usher in changes: In 1995, Forbes predicted that Elsevier, the world’s largest scientific publisher, would be the “first victim of the Internet”. After 25 years, the tech-scientific arm of the RELX group, a multinational conglomerate that the publisher has become, has annual sales of more than £ 2.6 billion with profit margins of between 30% and 40%. …

Who in their right mind would spend dozens more times to have their item in nature?

The answer? Almost every. Not because scientists are not very eager to deal with their budgets, but on the contrary: Articles in renowned magazines are the engine that guarantees reputation, jobs and research resources in the academic world. Like those who pay for a Louis Vuitton bag, the writers care less about the product than about the brand.

The result is a prestigious economy that allows big magazines to demand what they want, and also gets freelance work from academics who want to bond with their brands as reviewers or editors. There is no room for renewal in this market: even competitors offering better services at lower cost would take decades to build a reputation for a nature or a science.

As a result, researchers from countries like Brazil are forced to choose between two ethically questionable alternatives: have their work blocked by paywalls for the benefit of others, or waste the country’s scarce research resources with excessive open access fees….

Ironically, Brazil has also launched Scielo, perhaps the world’s most successful large-scale Open Access initiative, which uses publicly funded infrastructure to ensure that most national journals do not charge access or publication fees. However, a large segment of Brazilian researchers cannot afford to use it as they have to lower their college degrees by not using large magazines….”

Developing an objective, decentralised scholarly communication and evaluation system – YouTube

“This is our proposal for how we might create a radically new scholarly publishing system with the potential to disrupt the scholarly publishing industry. The proposed model is: (a) open, (b) objective, (c) crowd sourced and community-controlled, (d) decentralised, and (e) capable of generating prestige. Submitted articles are openly rated by researchers on multiple dimensions of interest (e.g., novelty, reliability, transparency) and ‘impact prediction algorithms’ are trained on these data to classify articles into journal ‘tiers’.

In time, with growing adoption, the highest impact tiers within such a system could develop sufficient prestige to rival even the most established of legacy journals (e.g., Nature). In return for their support, researchers would be rewarded with prestige, nuanced metrics, reduced fees, faster publication rates, and increased control over their outputs….”

How faculty define quality, prestige, and impact in research | bioRxiv

Abstract:  Despite the calls for change, there is significant consensus that when it comes to evaluating publications, review, promotion, and tenure processes should aim to reward research that is of high “quality,” has an “impact,” and is published in “prestigious” journals. Nevertheless, such terms are highly subjective and present challenges to ascertain precisely what such research looks like. Accordingly, this article responds to the question: how do faculty from universities in the United States and Canada define the terms quality, prestige, and impact? We address this question by surveying 338 faculty members from 55 different institutions. This study’s findings highlight that, despite their highly varied definitions, faculty often describe these terms in overlapping ways. Additionally, results shown that marked variance in definitions across faculty does not correspond to demographic characteristics. This study’s results highlight the need to more clearly implement evaluation regimes that do not rely on ill-defined concepts.

 

The case for an inclusive scholarly communication for social sciences and humanities

Abstract:  This article presents a vision for a scholarly communication research infrastructure for social sciences and humanities (SSH). The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the pressing need to access research outputs without the traditional economic and temporal barriers. This article explores the current scholarly communication landscape, assessing the reasons for the slower uptake of open access in SSH research. The authors discuss such frontiers as commercial interests, sources of academic prestige and discipline-specific genres.

This article defines and discusses the key areas in which a research infrastructure can play a vital role in making open scholarly communication a reality in SSH: (1) providing a federated and easy access to scattered SSH outputs; (2) supporting publication and dissemination of discipline-specific genres (e.g. monographs, critical editions); (3) providing help with evaluation and quality assurance practices in SSH; (4) enabling  scholarly work in national languages, which is significant for local communities; (5) being governed by researchers and for researchers as a crucial factor for productive, useful and accessible services; (6) lastly, considering the needs of other stakeholders involved in scholarly communication, such as publishers, libraries, media, non-profit organisations, and companies.
They conclude that a scholarly-driven, inclusive, dedicated infrastructure for the European Research Area is needed in order to advance open science in SSH and to address the issues tackled by SSH researchers at a structural and systemic level.

The resilience of scientific publication: From elite ancient academies to open access – Mallett – 2021 – Learned Publishing – Wiley Online Library

“Key points

 

Scientific publication has been a key part of the scientific method since the inception of Philosophical Transactions in 1665.
The scientific publications industry has grown exponentially along with science, incorporating technological innovations along the way, and adapting journal processes and practices to changing needs of science as it matured.
Of all the technological innovations over more than 300?years, the move to online journals may be the most significant, making open access to content practical for the first time.
The open?access movement is disrupting the economics of journal publishing, which is hoped will make the industry more competitive: the ability of the publications industry to adapt to open access will be a measure of its resilience.
The demand for articles published in reputable journals continues to grow as readers trust the credibility of peer reviewed journal articles, and good authors value the prestige of publishing in the best journals.
It is difficult to predict what new functionalities may be included in articles of the future or what additional services publishers and editors will provide, but there is every reason to believe that scientific journal articles are here to stay….”

The resilience of scientific publication: From elite ancient academies to open access – Mallett – 2021 – Learned Publishing – Wiley Online Library

“Key points

 

Scientific publication has been a key part of the scientific method since the inception of Philosophical Transactions in 1665.
The scientific publications industry has grown exponentially along with science, incorporating technological innovations along the way, and adapting journal processes and practices to changing needs of science as it matured.
Of all the technological innovations over more than 300?years, the move to online journals may be the most significant, making open access to content practical for the first time.
The open?access movement is disrupting the economics of journal publishing, which is hoped will make the industry more competitive: the ability of the publications industry to adapt to open access will be a measure of its resilience.
The demand for articles published in reputable journals continues to grow as readers trust the credibility of peer reviewed journal articles, and good authors value the prestige of publishing in the best journals.
It is difficult to predict what new functionalities may be included in articles of the future or what additional services publishers and editors will provide, but there is every reason to believe that scientific journal articles are here to stay….”

Can Publishers Maintain Control of the Scholarly Record? – The Scholarly Kitchen

“More recently, as Oya and Roger analyzed in the spring, an alternative vision for preprints has emerged, one pursued by all of the major commercial publishers, among others. In this new model, publishers are promoting preprints but at the same time working to domesticate them, bringing them within their article submission workflows and linking preprints and versions of record in a way that will over time serve to deprecate the ability of the former to disrupt the latter. By restructuring the place of preprints less as part of a global research community (for example, for high energy physics) and instead linked directly with journal brands, publishers hope they will reinforce the existing value proposition. It remains to be seen how this vision will dovetail with, or perhaps over time impede, the mandate of community-based preprint services such as arXiv and bioRxiv to provide publisher-neutral platforms, decoupling the early sharing of research from the formal publishing stage in a way that enables authors to avoid having their findings associated exclusively with specific journals. …

 

If anything, the landscape for research data is more complicated than that for preprints. It has come to include domain-specific structures, cross-institutional generalist structures, and increasingly substantial institutional investments. There are also some interesting new models developing for dataset discovery and capturing datasets within records associated with researcher identity. …

 

The scholarly record is fracturing, as shown by these twin examples of preprints and research datasets. Publishers are pursuing an effort to integrate preprints into their workflows and value propositions, but whether they will succeed in doing so remains to be seen. They seem to be far less certain of how to similarly integrate research data, which does make sense given that datasets correspond less directly to the published article than does a preprint….

For the publishing sector, this fracture seems to pose challenges. Those parties that are concerned about consolidation and profit margins in publishing might see in these challenges an opportunity. While perhaps unrealistic, as a thought exercise, we wonder what it would look like to make a large-scale capital investment in promoting the fracture? Might scholarly societies or others interested in stewarding research communities find a way to promote a refactored scholarly record? ”

Prestige Journal Publisher, Nature, Slaps Scientists In The Face

“This is outrageous. $11,500 is more than scientists earn in a year in some countries, as Forbes blogger Madhukar Pai pointed out. What’s truly outrageous is that they’re asking for this payment from a community that does all the work for them for free. If Nature is going to treat scientists like suckers, it’s time we stopped playing along….

Of course, Nature journals will still allow scientists to publish papers the old-fashioned way, where they don’t pay the €9,500 fee and where the journal then owns the paper. Rather than doing that, or paying the outrageous fee, let’s hope this money grab makes scientists look elsewhere for a place to publish their findings. And while we’re at it, let’s tell the Nature editors we won’t be reviewing for them any longer….”