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What Does It Actually Cost To Publish a Scientific Paper?

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the one-trillion-dollars dept.

The Media 166

ananyo writes "Nature has published an investigation into the real costs of publishing research after delving into the secretive, murky world of science publishing. Few publishers (open access or otherwise-including Nature Publishing Group) would reveal their profit margins, but they've pieced together a picture of how much it really costs to publish a paper by talking to analysts and insiders. Quoting from the piece: '"The costs of research publishing can be much lower than people think," agrees Peter Binfield, co-founder of one of the newest open-access journals, PeerJ, and formerly a publisher at PLoS. But publishers of subscription journals insist that such views are misguided — born of a failure to appreciate the value they add to the papers they publish, and to the research community as a whole. They say that their commercial operations are in fact quite efficient, so that if a switch to open-access publishing led scientists to drive down fees by choosing cheaper journals, it would undermine important values such as editorial quality.' There's also a comment piece by three open access advocates setting out what they think needs to happen next to push forward the movement as well as a piece arguing that 'Objections to the Creative Commons attribution license are straw men raised by parties who want open access to be as closed as possible.'"

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filtering (4, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | about a year and a half ago | (#43305709)

What I value is a filter. There's two much to read and too much crappy research. The harder it is to publish and the more that difficulty is realted to the quality the better.

What I also appreciate are special collections that group simmilar themes. I have found over the years that the more electronic things have got the more I have lost out on the serendiptous find of the article that was next to the one I was actually looking for. When I search for things I just get what I search for and that tends to make a tight circle.

Re:filtering (5, Interesting)

godrik (1287354) | about a year and a half ago | (#43305813)

If you have problem finding papers, I recommend you try academic search engines. At OSU, we developped theadvisor ( http://theadvisor.osu.edu/ [osu.edu] ). It is a webservice that allows you to search paper that are similar to what you already know. You basically upload a set of papers you know are relevant and the system find what is around.

We are still working on improving the quality of the database, but I strongly believe that these approaches are the way to go.

how much does it cost to research? (4, Interesting)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about a year and a half ago | (#43305909)

I find the argument over pay-for-placement journals kind of silly. I estimate it costs me $50,000 to write a journal article. This includes research, grad students, overhead, etc. Based on that, no big deal if it's an extra $3k to get it published!

Re:how much does it cost to research? (4, Insightful)

dmbasso (1052166) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306159)

I find the argument over pay-for-placement journals kind of silly. I estimate it costs me $50,000 to write a journal article. This includes research, grad students, overhead, etc. Based on that, no big deal if it's an extra $3k to get it published!

Well, if that's no big deal, why not hand out more $1K to me, just like that? No? Why? Because I didn't add anything of value to justify that 1K? Well, that's exactly the point.

Re:how much does it cost to research? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306521)

The reason the cost is $50000 is due to overhead. That includes things like office space, and... journal subscriptions. Universities pay a ton of money for these subscriptions so paying for Open Access journals is a good investment in the future. He's not throwing away $3k.

Re:how much does it cost to research? (2)

godrik (1287354) | about a year and a half ago | (#43307217)

That's not entirely true. If you pay a phd student and he contributes to 2 journals papers a year, half the cost of the student goes to each paper. A student can easily cost more than $50K a year. That's more $25K per paper just for the students salary. Count the professor salary (even excluding teaching) and you add up some. If it is part of a collaboration there is more than 2 authors.

In my lab, 3 or 4 authors is common. With one student as a main work force, one postdoc or junior professor as main coaching and one full prof as more distant strategic and advising. That sums up quite fast just in salary.

Re:how much does it cost to research? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43307485)

That's not entirely true. If you pay a phd student and he contributes to 2 journals papers a year

Then holy crap is he good. (Field-dependent, of course.)

A student can easily cost more than $50K a year.

I know there's extra costs and all, but I don't earn near that as a postdoc.... Where is this that you pay that kind of money for a student?

Re:how much does it cost to research? (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306185)

That's the thing, the actual paper itself is the cheapest part of the whole process. It's sort of like restaurants where the food itself is the cheapest part of the experience, but it's why people go to restaurants.

I personally find the process of charging for access to papers to be counter the spirit of research, now if one is using ones own funds or is otherwise privately funded, it is ones right to do so, but it's damaging to the community as a whole to have such papers held behind pay walls. It can be rather expensive to get them for the purposes of writing a paper, and one doesn't always know if they're going to be of any value until one has read the whole thing.

But, then again, I find the idea of owning ideas to be rather distasteful, researches can, and should, claim credit for the actual research, but people owning ideas is a rather silly idea, seeing as there are very, very few ideas that are original to the person that gets credited with them and often times nobody really knows the origin of those ideas anyways.

Re:how much does it cost to research? (4, Insightful)

blind biker (1066130) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306451)

The most famous Open Access publisher, PLoS, only charges $1350 (and often waives all fees). What fucking journal asks for $3000? That's preposterous.

Re:how much does it cost to research? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43307331)

'It cost me 50,000 to write a journal article counting my time, that of my grad students, overhead etc'
Fine, no problem there.

Therefore everybody should have to pay $3k to say whatever they have to say?
Huge problem. Totally disagree.

You may be made of money but many people/groups are not. And yeah, I've heard it all before, fee waiver, throw yourself on the charity of blah blah blah. Yeah, that sounds sustainable.

Got to ask what's wrong with a world that is just coming *out* of being trapped in the paws of a bunch of for-profit journal publishers and reacts to this by jumping back into their arms and yelling 'YES PLEASE CHARGE ME UPFRONT, OH PLEASE PLEASE I CAN AFFORD IT.'

Re:filtering (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43305989)

Google is gonna buy the shit out of that one day.

Re:filtering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306209)

That OSU theadvisor service sounds great. Is there a charge for using it?

It was 20 years ago that I did my graduate degree and had to do some literature searches. I have a vivid memory of having to pay to do some searches. I compiled a list of keywords and provided them to the campus library staff and got my search results a week or so later. I vaguely recall that this was fairly expensive (a few hundred dollars?) but fortunately, my professor paid for it. (The results of the searches were only mildly useful, alas. Probably my keyword lists were bad.)

Re:filtering (2)

godrik (1287354) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306287)

No there is no charge. It is supported by the research team I am part of. We are trying to be useful :)

Re:OSU Advisor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306327)

Hmm.

(Reposting link just for ease of reading)
(At OSU, we developped theadvisor ( http://theadvisor.osu.edu/ [osu.edu] [osu.edu] )

I went there and the Topic Search doesn't work for me. For example I typed in Psychology and got no papers back for the "use the following papers" step. Drop me a note at music65536@yahoo.com so we can bug-shoot a little.

Thanks.

Re:OSU Advisor (1)

godrik (1287354) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306793)

Indeed, our database comes from citeseer, DBLP, PubMed Central and Arxiv. If you know where to find appropriate data in other fields, please contact us!!

Re:filtering (4, Informative)

blind biker (1066130) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306353)

If you have problem finding papers, I recommend you try academic search engines. At OSU, we developped theadvisor ( http://theadvisor.osu.edu/ [osu.edu] [osu.edu] ). It is a webservice that allows you to search paper that are similar to what you already know. You basically upload a set of papers you know are relevant and the system find what is around.

Google Scholar does something similar to this: based on your published papers (including conference papers), it monitors the "journalosphere" and alerts me whenever there are new published papers related to my research. And it's scarily accurate. Scarily, because it reminds me every time how many people are working on topics similar to mine, and that I have competition!

Re:filtering (1)

godrik (1287354) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306459)

Yes it is somewhat similar to that. I believe we are using similar algorithms tod o it. The twist in theadvisor is that you can select the "input papers". google scholar uses you publication list as inputs. In the advisor you provide the input list. It allows to perform more targetted searches.

Re:filtering (1)

blind biker (1066130) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306471)

The twist in theadvisor is that you can select the "input papers". google scholar uses you publication list as inputs.

I'm aware of this. You were quite clear in the original post.

Re:filtering (5, Insightful)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | about a year and a half ago | (#43305995)

If they actually did a good job of filtering articles and made actually peer reviewed the articles in them for accuracy you would have a point. However what I have seen is that journal articles are just as full of errors and flat out fabrications as any other regular source is.

In the end the journals are not doing their jobs of filtering content and that is all they actually provide. What is worse is that professors are often given raises based on how many journal articles are published not who they are published with so there is a great incentive to make crappy journals with lots of bad articles that accept anyone in order to further the cycle.

The system we have now is massively corrupt and waste of time and money. I don't know if open journals will actually make things better I do know that it is unlikely that they can make things worse.

Re:filtering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306863)

What is worse is that professors are often given raises based on how many journal articles are published not who they are published with so there is a great incentive to make crappy journals with lots of bad articles that accept anyone in order to further the cycle.

I don't know how it works in other fields, but multiple places I've worked at in physics made a big difference over what and where the journal article was published. Too many articles in crappy journals could be more of a detriment if the committee reviewing things was being superficial, and not checking that it was instead say just publication of tedious/voluminous results and compilations in addition to other publications on novel results.

Re:filtering (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306991)

Gosh, I'm tired of such general bullshit comments. Average quality of research in high impact journals is impressively high these days. (I'm working like crazy and think I do some useful stuff, but some groups are publishing just incredibly awesome papers.)

I'm not sure in which academic system you get a raise by publishing tons of crappy papers, not here for sure.

Re:filtering (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306859)

That was a pretty balanced article and I agree with your filtering comments. Imagine an open access journal of quantum physics taking submissions at $250 a piece. Every quack in the world will be submitting to the extent of their bank account. Unless you are going to blacklist by name, the journal has an obligation to peer review all submissions. Good luck finding reviewers with the time or patience to deal with all the bunk.

  I think there is another take on this too - there are many things which we can do for ourselves but chose not to because the use of our time, money, or other resources results in a "savings" that is illusory and rarely will we do a better job

Sometimes it really is worth paying a little bit more to have someone else do the work competently for you. I think the same applies here. The actual dollar cost savings are not all that clear but appear to be on a scale of "is this really worth the trouble to do ourself." People act as if these publishing companies are gold mines. They really aren't. And if you must whine about margins, go whine about MSFT, AAPL, ADI, LLTC, etc.

One minor point from the article, I think it is a poor metric to speak of "average" article cost. Median would be a better yard stick.

Re:filtering (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year and a half ago | (#43307009)

What I value is a filter.

They're called "journals" and the filter is built into the system.

And what the filter doesn't catch, science usually does, but that might take a little longer.

Plus, you got that big-ass filter between your ears.

A collision of two worlds (3, Interesting)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a year and a half ago | (#43305717)

Scientific publishing is where the worlds of scientific research and business collide. People who do scientific research are used to needing to get things done with the smallest investment of resources, time, and money possible. Business people are skilled at finding the most profitable points for selling their wares. This collision has one particular effect that does not meet standard thoughts on free markets; competition brings prices UP. Look at PLoS journals for example; they started with very low publishing costs and now for non-members it costs quite nearly as much to publish in PLoS ONE as it does to publish in Nature or Science. Even competing journals from different publication houses are increasing their prices in parallel rather than trying to compete for authors by price.

And as the summary suggests, this is muddied by the fact that the journals don't like to be upfront with their publication charges or charge structure. Many journals even bury how their charges work - do they charge by the page, by the image, some combination thereof, or something completely different? This makes it a massive pain in the ass for a researcher to decide whether or not to try a new (to them) journal for their paper, when they can't figure out how much it would cost to publish in this unfamiliar journal in comparison to one they usually publish in.

Competition drives prices UP (2, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about a year and a half ago | (#43305935)

This collision has one particular effect that does not meet standard thoughts on free markets; competition brings prices UP.

That's very common. In the antiquated "free market" view, competition inevitably drives prices down. In modern marketing, competition is by features, conveniance, marketing, and status symbol value. (Academic journals are in the status symbol category.) Pricing is driven by implicit or explicit collusion, with competitors striving to push prices upwards.

This model applies to appliances, autos, cell phones, music, movie tickets, etc. Some things still have price competition, but they're mostly commodities.

Same with universities, but... (2)

slew (2918) | about a year and a half ago | (#43307183)

Many moons ago when I was at univeristy I attended, they kicked off a student/faculty committee to study how Cooper Union was able to provide full-tuition scholarships to all registered undergrad students (kindof free as in beer) and how it worked out. As it turned out, CU used a combination of fundraising and endowment income to make this happen.

After a bit of research, the student/faculty committee found that it was possible for the endowment of my university was sufficient to make a similar offer. The trustees came back with the point that if we didn't charge the same as other prestigious universities, people would think that our univerity was somehow inferior. Thus, the every-rising spiral of tuition was to continue.

However, more recently, though, prestigious universities have been offering massive discounts on a "need" basis. For example, Harvard and Stanford offer essentially free tuition for families earning under $60K, although my alma matter hasn't followed suit (it doesn't have an endowment as big as Harvard or Stanford), I imagine that trend will eventually force all universities down this path, if not discounting for all students. This may eventually force another metric (other than tuition or selectiveness) for obtaining status symbol labeling. Not sure how the free courseware will eventually affect them.

I suspect that journals will face the same problem as universities. Eventually, they will discount based on some criteria unrelated to their mission, then they will just discount randomly to fight open access journals. Actually, I think the fates of universities and the academic publishing communities are quite tied together (more than either would care to admit).

No (4, Insightful)

errandum (2014454) | about a year and a half ago | (#43305719)

It costs them nothing. Everyone that does actual work does not get payed for it by the publication.

Only the magazines and websites get any kind of money for them, and hosting a 3mb pdf will never cost 30$ per copy, no matter how much they say it does. It's taking advantage of a system that was established when only print would do and actually printing and delivery would cost lots of money.

Right now, it's ridiculous and it will die sooner or later if someone comes forth with a good alternative (no matter how good nature is).

And the argument that no money makes things unbiased is complete bulshit. In that case, judges should not be payed either.

Re:No (1)

goombah99 (560566) | about a year and a half ago | (#43305755)

If you think that true then why publish in a jounral? send all your articles to Xarciv for free.

Angelfire.com (2)

concealment (2447304) | about a year and a half ago | (#43305845)

send all your articles to Xarciv for free.

Naw, just run them through Dreamweaver and post them to Angelfire.com or livejournal.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43305929)

The main reason is because the scientific research community still is run by reputation rather than value. For instance, PhDs have to get in certain journals in order to have legitimate career prospects in the research field, even though reputable journals will publish worthless research because the person being the child of a famous scientist. It doesn't make any logical sense, but then you have things like "match day" in the medical community, so it seems many types of scientists subscribe to poor or illogical traditions.

Re:No (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306251)

Because of 'Peer Review', which contributes to the reputation and the quality of the published articles. Coincidentally, the peer review process is done for free by volunteers. Essentially the modern scientific journals are clearing houses, where manuscripts that come in are distributed to reviewers and the reviews are returned back to the authors. They can drop the bullshit about graphics design and what not. Every science journal requires the authors to submit text and figures and electronic format ready for publishing. There is some spelling checking and cursory editing, mostly to ensure that you pay your color figure charges (Yes, figures in color on PDFs somehow cost more than gray scale). The Nature editor that estimates per article costs in the tens of thousands must be smoking something really strong. The $300-$1500 range, depending on the size of the journal makes more sense. The article also quite conveniently skips over the prices university libraries pay for subscriptions, or the way publishers aggregate journals in packages to make you pay for junk (just like cable companies do with with channels).

Re:No (3, Interesting)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306309)

By the way the projected Xarciv operating costs for 2013-2017 are projected to average of $826,000 per year, including indirect expenses. It is free to the users but the costs are paid for by donations. They also don't edit, peer review or produce journals. Publishing an edited, peer reviewed paper in a journal is much more that making it available on e web site.

Re:No (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306959)

And xxx.lanl.gov - yes it goes way back - is not exactly the easiest place to separate out what is good from bad. Take a subject such as Astrophysics. In ONE day there are 68 new submissions. 298 in the past five days. Even in the "sub" group Cosmology there were 31 papers in the past day. Filterning at the journal level does serve a valuable purpose.

Re:No (1)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about a year and a half ago | (#43307039)

And how much does it cost the government in money taken from grants to publish or obtain published articles, or in elevated library fees so their institutions can subscribe to various journals? Those operating cost btw are 0.015% of the NSF yearly budget. You saying they can't fund a government journal. for that? Especially when they know they can reduce the size of grants by requiring publication in government journals?

Yes epijournals would add some expense, they are after all anotheer layer of processing. The extra processing would add a tiny amount. The editing and the reviewing can be obtained from the same place that the present day journals obtain them: the science community, and at the same cost: $0.

Re:No (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year and a half ago | (#43307277)

Here are some issues;
Bigger government. Conservatives would call that another service that the Government should not be involved in.
Government bias. There will be many people stating that government journals will favor government positions and would loose independence.
All papers are not government funded. How do you recover costs from publishing the non-funded papers?

The extra processing would add a tiny amount. The editing and the reviewing can be obtained from the same place that the present day journals obtain them: the science community, and at the same cost: $0.

I guess you have never dealt with getting papers reviewed and edited by several people. The papers have to be sent out, people reminded, multiple edits reconciled, and all this may take several iterations. Even if the actual editing and reviewing is free the administration costs money.

Instead of looking at one aspect and saying that sisnce it does not cost anything therefore the whole process costs nothing try finding where costs could come in. Several small costs add up into a much bigger cost

Why we need editors (-1, Flamebait)

concealment (2447304) | about a year and a half ago | (#43305837)

Everyone that does actual work does not get payed for it by the publication.

That's "paid," homeslice. Thanks for submitting.

Re:Why we need editors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306363)

Be nice, he's probably not a native speaker. When someone says "the bus is over their" THEN jump his ass.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43305875)

Even the things they claim to add are not useful.
Editorial quality? Yeah right.
They start messing with layout and margins and stuff to make it "look better".
Then you end up with too many pages and they tell you to cut out more.
They don't actually read and edit the papers, they leave that up to the authors.
All they do is tell you to do it over.

u r a moron (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43305883)

It costs to have editors and proofreaders to make sure the ms is ok
It costs to have editors who can find the right scientists to review the paper, and then it costs to have editors to deal with biased referees and authors who won't accept referee criticism
It costs to have some one smart to filter the huge amount of dreck, and as a PhD molecular biology, I mean dreck, that comes in
it costs to maintain the servers with the pdfs so people can find things (question: who pays for the servers at "free" places like xarchive ? surely those servers don't run on free electrcicity, do they ?

Now it may not cost as much as publishers currently charge, but the idea that it costs nothing is just plain wrong, so why don't you shut up until you know something

Re:u r a moron (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306011)

A true moron uses "u r".

Re:u r a moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306219)

The editors that find rhe right scientists are the academi editors and they are volunteers. The editors that are paid are the technical editors which are not academics and who do not manage peer review.

Arxiv cost 1 million $ a year to operate. Subscriptions costs billions of $ every year.

Re:u r a moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43307071)

I've seen people on Slashdot claim editors are not paid and are volunteers. But the only volunteer editors I've seen are for mini-conference proceedings, other non-periodical or limited frequency publications, and new open journals. I've volunteered for a mini-conference proceedings editor position once before, and I don't see how I could have managed the workload if I had to do that year round. A larger team might have helped, but it would take some brilliant organization to get a decent result.

So maybe it varies by field (assuming people know what they are talking about... a few people around here insisting editors are volunteers had no connection or experience with publishing before...), but there are a lot of fields where the editors are paid, full time employees.

Re:u r a moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43307419)

Really, then just go to a random math springer journal. Go to editorial board. I'll even do that for you Editorial Board of acta mathematica [springer.com] . I didn't selectively chose one I clicked on one at random. See, all academics with university(or research center) affiilation. These are the ones who manage peer review. The technical editors who are paid by the publishers don't manage peer reviews, they only manage a paper once it has been accepted. Astroturfer like to confuse the public about the difference between academic editors who manage peer review and technical editors who don't manage peer review.

Re:u r a moron (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306601)

What journal do you use that actually has proofreaders, let alone paid ones?

And the editors and reviewers are all doing it for free.

Other than the publisher, nobody gets paid.

Re:u r a moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306649)

"free" places like xarchive

What the fuck is an xarchive? Are you people so fucking dense?
This entire story is followed by comments referring to xarchive and xarciv.
It's arXiv.
Goes to show how interested in science you REALLY are, slashdot.
arXiv, pronounced 'archive'.
Because of the Greek letter Chi, written as 'X', pronounced 'ki', rhymes with 'hi'.
Commonly used in the field of statistics (Chi-squared), a field that is heavily borrowed from in the sciences.
So it's arXiv, pronounced ar-ki-iv, like 'archive'. Get it? Clever, huh?
Imbeciles. This place has been overrun by imbeciles.

devil's advocacy... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a year and a half ago | (#43305943)

hosting a 3mb pdf will never cost 30$ per copy, no matter how much they say it does.

Getting to that 3mb pdf is a long process, which does cost money. Now of course whether or not it really costs $1500-2000 (USD) to do that is another matter, but it does cost money. The hosting is, of course, trivial in expense. However the files do need to be hosted in a reasonable manner so that the papers can be searched and updated (particularly updated when other papers reference them).

So there is certainly a cost incurred by the journals. The question is how well the publication charges reflect that.

Re:devil's advocacy... (1)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about a year and a half ago | (#43307061)

hosting a 3mb pdf will never cost 30$ per copy, no matter how much they say it does.

Getting to that 3mb pdf is a long process, which does cost money.

How much money does it cost to type "pdflatex"?

Re:devil's advocacy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43307327)

When typing pdflatex wonks out on graphic layout or chokes on some combination of extensions, or conflicts between ps and pdf LaTeX, that easily eats up $100+ of my time. This problem is compounded when trying to collate contributions from other co-authors, because they choose a different convention, or made a typo, or just plain suck at LaTeX. Even then, the default layout options will occasional suck and look real bad. But at least for internal documents I have the options of saying, "Screw it, it is still all legible," and for actual publications I can say, "Screw it, the content is all there but the copy editor can fix the layout."

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306025)

Judges are NOT paid a dime. Only the Editor is paid.

Re:No (1)

blind biker (1066130) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306433)

Right now, it's ridiculous and it will die sooner or later if someone comes forth with a good alternative (no matter how good nature is).

PLoS publishes Open Access journals with high impact factors. More importantly, they publish extremely interesting scientific research and have visibility that goes way beyond the impact factor alone. A lot of people link to PLoS articles in their blogs, on Google+, Reddit etc.

Nature, in contrast, keeps articles captive. Even old articles, from the 20s and 30s (some topics are still relevant, like surface tension), can be only accessed by paying those greedy bastards. Fuck Nature.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306547)

This is for me kind of funny.

In the mid 1980's I was a grad student that found out the hard way how to publish papers, including the rather non-transparent way in which some papers are published quicker than others; still meaning months or years. In the late 1980's I was working in the field of library management systems - an era when the web was waiting to happen. My first thought was how science publishing - an area where clearly all actors are both consumers and producers of information - could use the web to cut out some of the middle men that seemed to add little value, add major costs and months to the publishing process. What took this so long to happen?

Re:No (1)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about a year and a half ago | (#43307067)

This is for me kind of funny.

In the mid 1980's I was a grad student that found out the hard way how to publish papers, including the rather non-transparent way in which some papers are published quicker than others; still meaning months or years. In the late 1980's I was working in the field of library management systems - an era when the web was waiting to happen. My first thought was how science publishing - an area where clearly all actors are both consumers and producers of information - could use the web to cut out some of the middle men that seemed to add little value, add major costs and months to the publishing process. What took this so long to happen?

The middle man doing everything he can to prevent things from changing.

Re:No (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306885)

Really? How much is it costing you to maintain that secure hosting site? How much are you paying the administrator(s)? What are you doing about archival? Providing access to individuals and libraries? You seem to think of it as just a cost of storage on a hard drive. Its not.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306925)

So I'm looking for a new apartment. In the city I'm in, Paris, there are well known websites for renting directly from the owner, and there are real estate agencies. I think real estate agents charge an obscene amount of money for what little they do, but I find that when I go directly to the owner, I find the quality is not so good, the owners may be nice people, but maybe not, it's very stressful to find what you really want... there's just a lot of stuff that's a headache to go through, and it's worth having someone else do that for me, and so ultimately I go through an agent.

I think academic publishing is like that -- you may not perceive them as providing much value, but they seem to do something, and you're welcome to go around them if you like. But you may just be making your life harder for no particular reason.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43307239)

I don't know how much this matters, considering I don't know how many people that whine on Slashdot are involve in publishing, or involving in trying to actually fix the problems related to academic publishing (and sometimes it shows when someone has had almost no involvement with the processes...):

I find it rather irritating to say the least how many people act like publishers do nothing. I've been on both sides of the fence, both the typical academic side of submitting things for publication and reviewing articles, and also the other side working as editor. I've found the latter half to be a huge amount of work and rather difficult and time consuming. It is even more difficult when doing so with part time volunteers, which requires a larger staff and a lot more organizational overhead. Quality suffers as a result without a few people on hand that have a lot of time to spare and really know what they are doing. I can see why things would be a lot better and more efficient if such things were done by a full-time, paid employee (I've actually never seen a closed journal that publishes more frequently than annually with volunteer academic editors, despite what a lot of people seeming to suggest otherwise).

However, I am NOT saying that a volunteer run, open access journal is impossible or that we should stick to closed journals. I've been an advocate for open access journals and trying to put some of my time towards making that more of reality. My only problem is that people saying publishers/editors/journals whatever are contributing zero to the articles are completely misunderstanding and misrepresenting the problem. That only makes the issues much harder to actually fix if you don't understand what is going on. This is analogous to how Slashdotters get upset when movie studios blame pirates and text messaging for poor box office results of a bad movie, because they studios look at the problem wrong they won't bother or see fixes to the actual problem.

The issue open versus closed access issue shouldn't delve into a discussion about how useless publishers and journal editors are. Besides being not true, even if it was, it should be irrelevant to the actual issues: minimizing resources used by resources, maximizing communication between researchers, and the issue that people should have a right to results of work done with public resources.

(Obligatory car analogy: It is like watching an argument for allowing people to fix their own car and why proprietary interfaces or artificial restrictions on car parts are bad, and suddenly see people turn it into an argument about car mechanics being completely useless and not contributing anything... even if some car mechanics out there are bad or fraudulent.)

Re:No (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about a year and a half ago | (#43307359)

Everyone that does actual work does not get payed for it by the publication.

Wait, the people who organize all of the reviews, keep the list of reviewers, store all of that information, arrange for the printing, manage the typesetting, chase after academics who don't format their work properly or who submit in a bad format are not doing 'actual work'?

Yes, the core content of the journal is paid for by someone else, but that doesn't mean all the people who exist in support of the journal itself are not doing real work. By your logic our department of 20 professors and 160 grad students are the only ones doing the real work, an the 4 administrative staff, 6 IT staff and university building staff should cost nothing since they aren't doing 'actual work'.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43307445)

It does *not* cost them nothing. It may be cheap when spread out over a lot of articles, but you still usually need some person to be a full-time coordinator of the journal articles (handling the delivery of the documents to/from the authors, reviewers, editors, etc.) unless you expect the editor to do all that as a volunteer as well (good luck getting them to agree to that). Someone still needs to convert the submitted documents and figures to final page layout (unless you think authors can *reliably* do all that themselves -- good luck with that too, given the horrible documents I've received in Word or other formats). Someone still needs to pay for the web site maintenance, etc. Costs may be relatively low compared to traditional print, but there are still genuine costs. Boiling it down to only the costs of hosting a PDF file is a ridiculous oversimplification.

Simple rule ... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43305723)

Never trust the people who make the money off something when they dismiss your alternatives.

Of course the journal publishers are going to say they bring value to the game. In reality, they're just looking out for their own bottom line.

Re:Simple rule ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306899)

Sigh. I hear what you're saying, but I'm in research, which is to say that I publish for a living. And I tell you if someone put their research on some random website, I'll read it, I don't care. I'll use it if I can. But no one puts anything of value just anywhere. An article not in a journal is like a website not indexed by Google. Not to say there aren't good unpublished papers out there, but I don't have the time to go look for them.

Also, the whole concept of an academic paper is that it builds on the earlier references. Papers that were not in other journals are generally considered very weak references, if allowed at all. If you want to turn over the idea of academic journals, great, there are some drawbacks -- but there are reasons why it has been around for centuries.

And finally, almost all articles are revised. Editors do provide some value, though nobody likes the middleman. Once had a paper with no revisions, all of my colleagues were shocked.

Re:Simple rule ... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306937)

Never trust the people who make the money off something when they dismiss your alternatives.

That's pretty near everyone who makes money off things.

Adding value isn't adding to the costs. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43305727)

"But publishers of subscription journals insist that such views are misguided — born of a failure to appreciate the value they add to the papers they publish"

Adding value doesn't add to the costs.

It merely makes the increase in price over the costs reasoned.

A peer review panel that works for free adds ZERO to the costs. but they do valuable work, which for free, does NOT increase the costs, but DOES increase the value.

Re:Adding value isn't adding to the costs. (1)

Yebyen (59663) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306053)

Are you crazy? Ain't nobody got time for that.

(Now you're on the other side, and I'm the one insisting that you should work for free.)

Do you want to try that with some sanity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306259)

No, really, where the hell did that come from?

"Now you're on the other side" what? If I were to tell you "The sky is blue", would you rejoin me with "Now you're on the other side..."?

A panel review is done for free.

The reviewers do not get paid.

I am not, as you may be imagining, saying they MUST, I'm saying they DO.

Seriously, if you're paid anything you're robbing some poor bastard.

Re:Do you want to try that with some sanity? (1)

Yebyen (59663) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306313)

If you don't want them to get paid then don't publish in their journals? Seems they want to make that a condition of continued episodic publication of their journals, under the trade name they've established. So, go take your business elsewhere.

I was right: you're an idiot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306407)

Where do i say I don't want them to get paid?

Nowhere.

The journals don't pay them. If you want to whine about not getting paid then whine to the journals ,not me you fucking idiot.

Re:I was right: you're an idiot. (1)

Yebyen (59663) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306655)

Who said I'm not getting paid?

Well, not to write this post. But you seem to think I'm saying the authors should be paid. I'm not.

Re:Do you want to try that with some sanity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306987)

The vast, vast majority of reviewers of academic journals are volunteers and not paid. Usually that is necessary so as to track down a wide variety of experts relevant to each incoming paper. Considering it has been that way for a very long time, it is traditionally considered part of academic work to spend time reviewing papers, as it is an additional way to contribute to the community. Your previous response doesn't seem to make any sense in view of that considering the original post was referring to the fact that this is the way things are, with opened or closed journals, and not suggesting it is a new way to do things. The other AC objects saying essentially this, just less elegantly.

And a lot goes into the choice of with journal to publish in, and typically concerns about where the money is going is low on the list of priorities. The raw cost is much higher on the list of priorities, and the potential impact of publishing in different journals on an academic's career and funding are is near the top. So it is not as simple as taking business elsewhere over the one issue. It is more on par with having to put up with an asshole salesman at a company, because the competitors cost more and take longer. In other words, there are a lot of factors at play.

Re:Adding value isn't adding to the costs. (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year and a half ago | (#43307065)

Are you crazy? Ain't nobody got time for that.

(Now you're on the other side, and I'm the one insisting that you should work for free.)

Judges for journals already work like this; it's just the editor and the publishing house that actually get money. Everyone else is paid in prestige, which is the same thing you get when published in said journal. Therefore, the journals are worth as much as the reputations of those who judge and are published, plus the salary of an editor and the actual costs of publishing, indexing and archiving. Everything else is an add-on that could be provided by any lowest-bidding third party (for that matter, the actual publishing, indexing and archiving could be provided by someone like Google for a very reasonable price).

Re:Adding value isn't adding to the costs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43307241)

A peer review panel working for free doesn't mean there is zero cost.

Just Another Good 'ol Boy Operation (1)

sycodon (149926) | about a year and a half ago | (#43305737)

Inflated costs, connections, bias, kickbacks etc. Same story we see all the time.

English Skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43305743)

Have you seen some of the IEEE papers submitted from overseas?
Not what I would call editorial excellence. However, the math is usually just fine.

Re:English Skills (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306627)

I agree. The technical English I see in engineering papers I review is atrocious, but thankfully we review and comment on it so it gets fixed (or at least greatly improved) prior to publication. Some of the papers I've found from "open" sources are more akin to the drafts I've reviewed than the final papers I've seen when it comes to this problem.

need to make bank to pay off PHD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43305749)

need to make bank to pay off PHD

Salaries for editorial staff. (1)

concealment (2447304) | about a year and a half ago | (#43305825)

As in many cases, their costs are mostly to hire people who are capable of making intelligent editing decisions as well as doing the bulk work of editing.

Who do you want in charge of the place where you're submitting a paper? Someone who has little education, low intelligence and low personality skills, thus is paid very little? Or a relatively highly-paid, educated, personable and intelligent editor?

If you want quality, it costs all the way. It's not limited to the scientists alone. You will need to hire a competent editorial staff and that is far from free.

Re:Salaries for editorial staff. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43305925)

I think you missed the topic here. This is about scientific journals. Editors are not payed by the journal but by the university or other directly or indirectly state funded orginisation they work for. The only decisions the journals do is how much money they will demand. (The only requirement to be editor is that you do not give your free copy to your university (i.e. your employer should not only pay you for working for free for them, but also pay them for the result)).

But then on the other hand, I guess some staff knowing how much money they can coerce out of you is expensive.

Re:Salaries for editorial staff. (4, Insightful)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306035)

So when will this quality of editing staff actually manifest in better edited articles? After having to read far too many journal articles in a pretty wide range of journals the quality has been pretty universally poor.

Quality should cost more. However just because something costs more does not mean it is high quality.

Re:Salaries for editorial staff. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43307017)

After having to read far too many journal articles in a pretty wide range of journals the quality has been pretty universally poor.

While many top journals do have some crappy and poor articles that academics should demand improvement of, I wouldn't say journals are universally poor. They can get much, much worse as you go down the tiers. If you think they are all the same, either you work in a field where the top journals are exceptionally crappy, or the bottom journals are exceptionally good. Because in my experience, regardless of how bad the top journals have been, it goes down from there.

Re:Salaries for editorial staff. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306445)

Editors who make the decisions are academic editors which are not paid by the publisher but by the universities who end up paying the subscriptions. The editors that are paid are the technical editors which are direct employees of the publisher and they do not make any choice concerning peer review.

Re:Salaries for editorial staff. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43307051)

Every editor I've dealt with in physics and math journals has been a paid, full time employee and not a volunteer paid by a university. And a couple of those times was dealing with multiple tiers of editors due to review conflicts or other issues.

Re:Salaries for editorial staff. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43307175)

Just look at the editorial board of any random math journal. These are the ones managing peer reviews. I went to Elsevier site, and chose one of the first math journals in alphabetical order. http://www.journals.elsevier.com/applied-numerical-mathematics/editorial-board/ Note the affiliation near each editor. Always an academic institution. I don't know of any math journals for which this is not the case. Have you ever dealt with a math journal at all? Because the only way your statement is true is for you to never have dealt with an editor for a math journal.

Re:Salaries for editorial staff. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306533)

The [academic] editors, the reviewers, etc., they're all volunteers.
They're not far from free, they are literally free, gratis, costless.

Re:Salaries for editorial staff. (1)

CBM (51233) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306747)

In the scientific field I work in, the primary journals are owned and run by our (non-profit) professional societies. The journal expenses are transparently reported the society management and membership. There is no incentive for profit, but rather to have an excellent quality journal that will be preserved for posterity. Refereeing is done pro-bono by professional members. After a few years from publication, the journal issues become open access.

Even though it is a non-profit enterprise, it's still expensive: ~ US$ 100-200 per page for submitters and $500-$2000 for annual subscriptions. The quality pays for editorial services, copyediting and publishing.

Re:Salaries for editorial staff. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306763)

Slashdot editors are paid, and look where that got us.

UNBElIEABLE BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43305849)

Nature Publishing is one of thelargest scientific publishing houses in the world
ARe you actually going to tell me that from their own internal data they can't tell you the costs associated with publishing ?

Re:UNBElIEABLE BS (1)

KramberryKoncerto (2552046) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306301)

Learn to separate the following three things: 1) What the CEO says 2) What the accounting department shows you 3) How people in the company actually do stuff

Re:UNBElIEABLE BS (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#43307041)

as far as I understood this was a study published in nature - not published by nature(except that it was published by nature in nature but not made by nature for nature). IF I got it right.

but of course they know their profit margin. it's on their board meeting agenda. just giving it away would have everyone asking why the fuck are we paying 40% too much for this service for these goons that happened to get in control of this credibility selling scheme?

How much news... (1)

PortHaven (242123) | about a year and a half ago | (#43305913)

Breaks on blogs first than makes it to mainstream media. A lot...

And seriously, how many times have you read articles on CNN.com filled with typos and poor grammar.

***

Sorry, I believe a system akin to Wikipedia but for research would do a far better job than the commercial journals in this role.

Re:How much news... (1)

PortHaven (242123) | about a year and a half ago | (#43305915)

Doesn't even have to be non-commercial. Think of all the chemical and lab equipment companies that would love o advertise. Granted, it wouldn't make millions. But probably could sustain itself.

Betteridge's law of headlines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43305951)

No... Just no.

It's basically free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43305959)

You put it up on your web server. How much are those these day? A buck a month?

If you want to buy reputation by having the paper printed in an "esteemed" journal, that's another question. PUBLISHING is free.

Counterproductive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306129)

So let me get this straight... one of the reasons that SCIENCE journal publishers give for why you should keep paying them is so they can prevent articles from being published... Is not this the opposite of science? Do research, publish findings. Allow readers to draw conclusions. Don't refuse to publish articles based on the conclusions you draw. This is a huge problem in the science journal arena lately.

Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306223)

About tree fiddy.

Which question? (4, Informative)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year and a half ago | (#43306269)

What Does It Actually Cost To Publish a Scientific Paper?

There are several questions that may get swept up in this debate;
How much does it cost to publish an externally edited scientific paper?
How much does it cost to publish a peer reviewed scientific paper?
How much does it cost to publish a scientific journal?
How much does it cost to publish an externally edited, peer reviewed scientific paper?
How much does it cost to publish an externally edited, peer reviewed scientific paper in a scientific journal?

All of these have different costs. ArXiv is an e-print repository funded by donations with an operating costs for 2013-2017 are projected to average of $826,000 per year, including indirect expenses. They are not editors, peer reviewers or journals. In effect they are the entry level in scientific paper publishing and they have significant expenses. Even if peer reviewers and editors are not paid there are still significant support staff needed to shuffle the documents around and maintain the servers, hardware cost, bandwidth costs, insurance costs, customer service costs, etc. The cost of publishing is non-zero and adding editing, peer reviews and journals adds to the cost. Someone has to pay for it and the question is whom.

Re:Which question? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43306499)

It's the taxpayer who does it through library subscriptions. Might as well take out the middleman and subsidize academic journals directly. It'll be cheaper and everybody will have access instead of just academics.

Re:Which question? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43307227)

That's socialism! Go back to Russia Commie!

Re:Which question? (2)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about a year and a half ago | (#43307197)

As opposed to the $10,000,000 annual operating budget of Wikipedia or the $16,000,000 annual budget of the Internet Archive?

Re:Which question? (3, Interesting)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year and a half ago | (#43307355)

Both are funded by donations and grants. Both have a much bigger audience than scientific journals and therefore a much bigger pool of possible donors to draw from. Going to a donation model would in effect be a voluntary subscription fee that may or may not cover costs. .

Hollywood accounting? (1)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about a year and a half ago | (#43307179)

And how much of this is due to Hollywood accounting?
The kind where Christopher Baen is paid 5% of the profit of his move "Light Ninja Naps" by Galactic Studios and despite a box office of $100 billion,
is only paid $100,000 because much of the reveneue went to Galactic Sudio parking, Galactive Movie Equipment Rental, Galatic Set Rental ....?

gn44 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43307267)

that Fr3eBSD is

How to Publish in 1-2-3 Easy Steps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43307349)

Everybody (including, and especially, the OP) should go read the paper by Rick Trebino, here [PDF warning]:

http://scienceblogs.com/catdynamics/wp-content/blogs.dir/382/files/2012/04/i-81ac180ea8bf28d4236839536fc7f035-How%20to%20Publish%20a%20Comment.pdf

I think this is evidence that initial studies should be difficult to publish but rebuttals and scientific commentary should be easy, or at least easier.

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