Van Noorden (2013). The true cost of science publishing.

Van Noorden, R. (2013). The true cost of science publishing. Nature, 495(7442), 426–429.
“‘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.” (p 426)
“… the industry’s finances are largely mysterious … the prices that campus libraries actually pay to buy journals are generally hidden by the non-disclosure agreements that they sign.” (p 427)
“The past few years have seen a change, however. The number of open-access journals has risen steadily, in part because of funders’ views that papers based on publicly funded research should be free for anyone to read.” (p 427)
“The variance in prices is leading everyone involved to question the academic publishing establishment as never before.” (p 427)
“Data from the consulting firm Outsell in Burlingame, California, suggest that the science-publishing industry generated $9.4 billion in revenue in 2011 and published around 1.8 million English-language articles–an average revenue per article of roughly $5,000. Analysts estimate profit margins at 20-30% for the industry, so the average cost to the publisher of producing an article is likely to be around $3,500–4,000.” (p 427)
“Elsevier’s reported margins are 37%, but financial analysts estimate them at 40-50% for the STM publishing division before tax.” (p 427)
“… estimated margins at 20% for society publishers, 25% for university publishers and 35% for commercial publishers. … commercial profits … money goes to shareholders rather than being ploughed back into science or education.” (p 427)
” The more effort a publisher invests in each paper, and the more articles a journal rejects after peer review, the more costly is each accepted article to publish.” (p 428)
“Many researchers in fields such as mathematics, high-energy physics and computer science … post pre- and post-reviewed versions of their work on servers such as arXiv … researchers would organize their own system of community peer review …” (p 428)
“… highly competitive biomedical fields, for instance, researchers tend not to publish preprints for fear of being scooped …” (p 428)
“… connection between price and selectivity … By rejecting papers at the peer-review stage on grounds other than scientific validity, and so guiding the papers into the most appropriate journals, publishers filter the literature and provide signals of prestige to guide readers’ attention.” (p 428-429)
“A more-expensive, more-selective journal should, in principle, generate greater prestige and impact. Yet in the open-access world, the higher-charging journals don’t reliably command the greatest citation-based influence, argues Jevin West, a biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. Earlier this year, West released a free tool that researchers can use to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of open-access journals (see _Nature_; 2013).” (p 429)
“… the idea that research is filtered into branded journals before it is published is not a feature but a bug: a wasteful hangover from the days of print. … could be filtered after publication using metrics such as downloads and citations, which focus not on the antiquated journal, but on the article itself …” (p 429)
“… subscriptions tend to be paid for by campus libraries, and few individual scientists see the costs directly.” (p 429)
“… ethical argument … publicly funded research should be freely available to everyone.” (p 429)
“… the fundamental force driving the speed of the move towards full open access is what researchers–and research funders–want. … ‘… my frustration lies primarily with leaders of the science community for not recognizing that open access is a perfectly viable way to do publishing’ …” (p 429)

Selected References

  • Cost Effectiveness. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2014, from
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