January 24, 2011

Academic publishing is a scam

Let's walk through the American Society's of Agricultural and Biological Engineers submission guide to see why:

Manuscript Submission

It is helpful, but not required, to prepare your manuscript using ASABE Manuscript Templates and to follow the Journal Manuscript Format. Please include line numbers and page numbers on each page (the templates will do this for you).


Do your own proofreading, editing, and even layout. Doesn't sound unreasonable.

Copyright Transfer Form

A complete Copyright Transfer Form must accompany your submitted journal manuscript. (Note: The Copyright Transfer Form replaces the earlier Manuscript Submission Form.) The manuscript will not be reviewed until the Copyright Transfer Form is received.


Now they expect to take my copyright away from me? Can they at least bother to do layout for themselves?

Page Charges

Please note that authors are required to pay, at publication, a page charge based on the number of published journal pages. The current charge is $100 ($110 for non-members) per 8.5 by 11 inch published page in Transactions of the ASABE and Applied Engineering in Agriculture, and $50 ($55 for non-members) per 6 by 9 inch published page in the Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health and Biological Engineering Transactions (formerly Biological Engineering). You will be advised of the total page charges when you receive the page proofs and billed when your article is published.


And now they expect me to pay for all this???

How much are libraries paying for subscriptions again? (The answer is here)

This journal is one particular example, but page charge fees levied on authors are not uncommon for scientific journals. Subscription costs to these journals for university libraries are astronomical.

I am not the first to have similar concerns.

Academic publishers have clearly become a scam industry. This is a market that is not only ripe for disruption, but by most reasonable standards should not exist (where do you think the money for subscription fees comes from? hint: probably your taxes).

What about the Public Library of Science? It's a good, non-profit scam. According to Wikipedia, "PLoS [author page charges] vary from $1,300 to $2,850." $2,000 to put your paper on the Internet. (note for those not aware: peer reviewers are volunteers that don't get paid, so there's no value-add costs that this $2,000 covers)

"But Vladimir," you say, "who is going to pay for publishing my crap research?" Your local university library already has printers, a connection to the Internet, and computers. Think "Digg for scientists" - verified accounts for peer reviewers (throw in digital signatures if you really care), with local library mirror proxies of papers (with BitTorrent-based distribution to cut down on bandwidth costs). Something like arXiv with multiple virtual journals, peer review, and mirroring/distribution.

1 comment:

Jason Riedy said...

Amen. Plus, some communities expect you to do service by reviewing papers... for free. Not even for a discount on the *large* post-student membership fees.

I'd much rather volunteer my reviewing time to open publications, but those aren't considered as important as paid ones when your career is reviewed (tenure, raises, etc.).

It's changing slowly within computing and mathematics, at least. Physics always has been close, and Arxiv is leading the rest of us. (Plus, Arxiv permits revisions and tracks history! You can fix mistakes! Yes!) Now if they can just stay funded...