Being very keen on access to education and information, I was very keen on ‘open access’ journals. Right up until I heard how much they charge to ‘print’ articles.

Okay, so they need to cover running fees, if no one is subscribing.

But €500?!

Or €750 for a ‘priority service’.

This covers “covers costs for: professional copyediting; immediate publication quickly upon acceptance; different format of publication (HTML, PDF); inclusion in many archives as IndexCopernicus, DOAJ, JCR, among others.” Oh and you’ll need to pay 20% tax on that too.

Does this cover running fees? Or does it cover turning a profit for the publishing company?

More importantly, does this sort of charging structure leave the whole process open to accusations of vanity publishing? And can we even consider this to be ‘open access’ if it simply reversus the onus of payment from the reader to the producer?

Some researchers received earmarked money from funding bodies to publish in this way, but this level of cost seems wrong to me. Research needs to be easy access, and that means easy to read and easy to publish. This sort of charging structure drives out students and independant researchers and does nothing to democratise knowledge communication. If this is the future of academic journals, I can see it becoming even more elitist than it already is, not less.

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3 thoughts on “‘Open Access’ Journals

  1. Most decent OA publications charge much more, so I’d be interested to know how they can get it down to €500. Who can pay £1000 or more? The idea (in the sciences) is that publication costs are covered in the research grant. Ideally the AHRC would also recognise that it’s in their interests to fund research that can be read by the public who funded it, but so far I’ve not heard of anyone getting publication funding as part of their grant.

    Great if you have a grant, but what if you don’t? That’s not such a barrier to research in the humanities. Some journals, PLoS One being an obvious example, have provisions for unfunded scholars to publish. It’s not perfect, but my own experience with PLoS is that they’re very helpful and friendly people.

    Participation cuts both ways. If you can’t access research then you can’t sensibly write a publishable paper in the first place, and for many science journals subscriptions are routinely thousands of pounds.

    An additional factor is bundling, so libraries have to buy several journals to get the ones they want. This can push out small publishers who might publish just one journal. If you want to trim a small amount from a library budget it’s easier to drop one journal rather than a bundle of that might have three of four journals that people want tied in it.

    Of course there is a conflict of interest to some extent here as I work for a journal that has a pay-for OA option. We’d love to be able to do it for just €500+tax.

    1. I can see how OA journals with lower/waived fees for unfunded researchers could counter-act the problems I thought of. But (beyond special funding from an outside source) you’re essentially following a ‘welfare-state’ approach to publishing, by over-charging the higher-earners to fund the lower-earners.

      This is great, but seems only acceptable within a movement towards greater equality between the two. It strikes me that this approach is an acceptable retro-fix to a dysfunctional system, but not something you design the system to have to being with.

      I think I just find the idea of charging to publish research incompatable with my ethical perspective. I don’t have a better suggestion, but I do wonder if the journal-funding issue is a factor of the increase in journal numbers in the last few decades, as well as an increase in research published which is never cited again (suggesting a lack of value).

  2. Alan wrote: “the AHRC would also recognise that it’s in their interests to fund research that can be read by the public who funded it”

    Part of the remit of Intute was to locate and catalogue/describe online AHRC projects, publications and research materials. Sadly, Intute has been shut down due to funding cuts.

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