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Comment on Cloudy Ethics with Cloud Journals by Peter Matthews

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Dear Mohan,

Thanks for the links.

In one of those articles, the writer mentions that Author Processing Charges:

“British universities now pay around £200m a year in subscription fees to journal publishers, but under the new scheme, authors will pay “article processing charges” (APCs) to have their papers peer reviewed, edited and made freely available online. The typical APC is around £2,000 per article.”

(cited from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jul/15/free-access-british-scientific-research)

The Britisher planners hope APCs will decline with competition. As an author, I hope so too!

Individuals and institutions can only justify paying such high charges if they can be sure that the journals do: (i) actually provide services, (ii) have high quality reviewers, (iii) have an established readership (i.e. a good reputation), and (iv) have stability and accountability.

New journals have a natural barrier that they must cross, from merely offering (i) to actually providing the services (e.g. in-house copyediting, site maintenance, journal promotion, prompt correspondence with all parties involved, etc.), and then building up (ii-iv). The British plan to switch to a full open access but author pay system is possible for Britain because they have a huge number of well established journals with good reputations (not all of course!).

Just as academics are rebelling against the high subscription fees charged by Springer and the like, academics will rebel against high APCs, if they can discover good journals with lower APCs.

A new publisher cannot instantly build a reputation for dozens of new journals simultaneously, from zero. By offering too much, a new publisher debases its own effort, and creates doubt about all aspects of the effort, even if the effort is sincere.

Sincerity is necessary but is not enough to succeed in the world of publishing!

The present OAS blog is just a vanguard for quality control services that will help researchers find the best value for money publishers. One way or another, authors and readers need to know as much about who publishers are, and how they compare to other publishers. The Scopus citation index and other such measuring services can help, but do not give authors and readers the full story. A new journal with no citation record, but with transparently great support from great researchers and editors, could be the best deal for some people.

How to effectively and fairly find and compare publishers is the elephant in the room of the open access movement. It is a problem that the present blog is attempting to address, but many people need to think about this problem.


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