We should think carefully about where we publish. Not only should we ask ourselves if the journal is appropriate (right audience) and well-respected (who else publishes there and who is on the Editorial Board), but who profits from our work. Apparently, the big science publishers make larger profits than most industries, in the order of 20-40% profit. Maybe we should be investing our pension money in such companies. They are subsidised by their authors who provide content for free, referees who review papers for free, and most editors who work for free (occasionally small “honoraria”).

Publishing in journals owned by scientific societies is not necessarily any better. Most scientific societies have outsourced their publication to for-profit publishers. Thus their journal needs to make a profit for both the society and publisher. The authors’ universities and research institutions buy their work back again, now peer-reviewed, professionally presented, abstracted and with a DOI. Universities are catching on and calling for a better deal.

‘Open access’ is not a solution. By charging at least three times the actual cost for open-access publishing, the publishers seem likely to continue to profit from the open-access movement. Now they get paid up front by the authors, even better for them. Looking across the prices charged by for-profit journals, it seems that a fair price (allows publisher some profit) is about $1,000 per paper.

There are other options, see Journals free to authors and readers.

Further reading

The war to free science: How librarians, pirates, and funders are liberating the world’s academic research from paywalls. By 

It’s time to stand up to the academic publishing industry and here’s how we can do it. By Adriane MacDonald & Nicole Eva (2018)

Below from The Guardian (which seems to highlight the issue at least once a year)

2019 The Guardian view on academic publishing: disastrous capitalism (A price to be paid for open-access academic publishing (letters from three publishers and a retired academic)

2018 Scientific publishing is a rip-off. We fund the research – it should be free by 

2017 It’s time for academics to take back control of research journals 

This is a great story of how scientific publishing evolved to make so much profit: Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science? By Stephen Buranyi

2016 It’s time to stand up to greedy academic publishers

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