Academic Publishing: Scientific Journals Need to Open Up-Part 7

The open access model- where the authors “pay-as-you-go” with “transparent article processing charges”.

First the historical context:

The reliance on article fees also tilts journals toward publishing more articles, and there are “predatory journals” that will publish anything as long you pay. But the divergent fees at PLoS One and Nature Communications are a sign that even legitimate open-access journals can take very different approaches.

PLoS One accepts two-thirds of the papers submitted to it, according to industry analyst Christos Petrou, and publishes two-and-a-half times as many as Nature Communications. This allows Nature Communications to exercise greater quality control, resulting in its articles having four to five times the average impact (as measured by citations) as those in PLoS One — which has quite intentionally not aimed to maximize its impact factor, welcoming research papers that report negative or inconclusive results.

Career-minded scholars seem to still care about impact, though. Submissions to PLoS One have been declining, and the Public Library of Open Science, which also publishes six more specialized open-access journals, reported a deficit of $6 million on revenue of $32 million in its 2018 financial statement.

Viewpoint: Covid-19 Shows That Scientific Journals Need to Open Up

PlosOne has interesting origins and here’s their mission statement:

What is the measurable impact of PloS on academic publishing? It merits a serious consideration, especially because, it has been nearly twenty years.

Personally, I am not inclined (or turn starry eyed) towards the moniker of “non-profit”. It only signals the emergence of another power structure (and misaligned incentives) plus the din of transparency reports, but the primary aim still remains to gain a perceptible influence. I had written earlier about excessive marketing and requirement for metrics- which would then help to understand that in a deeper context- why are journals so expensive.

Digital Rights Management, likewise, are another thorny issue where in you exercise the “rental model” for content that you pay for. Assuming you get an article for USD 35- you still don’t get to share or “publish” it.

Here’s something I encountered from Science magazine:

Ironically, it was about open access!