07 October 2011

Pressuring journals you dislike

Mike Taylor at SV-POW exhorted scientists to stop reviewing for journals that are not open access.

Sorry, but I’m not stopping.

I say this not because of any great love for “for profit” publishers, but because I don’t think it will hurt them.

If I don’t review an article, who do I hurt? I hurt the scientist(s) who submitted the paper. A journal editor is going to keep looking for reviewers until they have them. Indeed, they have to. I want you to imagine what you would think and feel if you got back a reply from a journal saying, “I’m sorry, but we cannot publish your paper, not because we find any fault with your science, but because we cannot find a willing reviewer.”

If I don’t review a paper I could review, all I am doing is needlessly dragging out the review process, making it more difficult for the scientists submitting their results.

For whatever reason, they picked that journal to publish in. They don’t deserve to become pawns in someone else’s game.

If you don’t think a journal deserves your support, don’t submit papers to it. Submit your paper elsewhere, especially if it’s good. Encourage others to submit their papers elsewhere, especially their best papers. The glamour magazines like Science, Nature, and Cell thrive on the high-profile articles that drive up their impact factors, keep their brand in the eyes of both scientists and journalists.

Don’t tear down the castle. Build a more livable city instead.


Rafael Maia said...

I've actually had a paper rejected once because they could not find suitable reviewers, and it indeed sucks big time.

Rafael Maia said...

I've actually had a manuscript rejected before because the journal couldn't find suitable and willing reviewers for it, and it indeed sucks big time. I agree with you; refusing review when you are capable, available and would otherwise be willing hurts not only the scientists submitting the manuscript, but science as a whole, as it stalls the availability of information - and making scientific information available is one of the goals of Open Access. The only way that such an initiative would hurt publishers is if people stopped submitting to for-profit journals; but I don't agree that intentionally trying to harm those submitting to such journals is the way to go. If your argument is strong and convincing - as I believe that for OA is - your role is to convince more scientists to side with you, and not strive to impair the process for those who don't.

Mike Taylor said...

"If I don’t review an article, who do I hurt? I hurt the scientist(s) who submitted the paper."

And in so doing, you give them an incentive to send their manuscript to a publisher who will NOT steal their work.

deevybee said...

Thanks for pointing me to this post (from my blogpost that also argued we should stop reviewing for and submitting to Elsevier: http://deevybee.blogspot.com/2012/01/time-for-academics-to-withdraw-free.html )
I simply can't review all the papers I get sent anyway. So for anyone in that position, this is a rational basis for deciding which to accept to review.
But for those with a lighter reviewing load, I'd still recommend adopting the refusal policy, at least for a limited period, and telling the editor why you aren't reviewing. It's a case of short-term pain for longer-term gain. We just have to get the message to publishers that enough is enough.