27 January 2016

Fluctuating publication costs

Savraj Grewal was bemoaning that it would cost Canadians CAN$7,000 to publish a paper in the open access journal Cell Reports. Lively discussion about this followed on Twitter.

Here’s how Cell Report’s cost stacks up to other open access journals. You have to break the axis to compare it to most other journals.

My first reaction was, “Why would anyone pay this when they could publish in PeerJ for a tenth of the cost?” There are a lot of open access journals, so what are people criteria are authors using to distinguish between them? I don’t understand how people pick between Nature Communications (US$5,200), Science Advances, or Cell Reports. They’re all open access versions of existing “brands,” but I don’t know if they genuinely provide difference services. I don’t think they do. And providing the publisher name is the only service they provide that PLOS ONE, PeerJ, and a wide variety of other journals don’t.

Then I realized the cost to Canadians is not purely a function of Cell Press’s higher than normal article processing fees. The Canadian dollar is weak right now (0.7109 USD, according to my quick trip to CBC).

I don’t think I’ve seen discussions of open access fees and publication costs that have acknowledged currency volatility. When the cost of a publication is in US dollars, minor changes in exchange rates can make big differences in a researcher’s budget. Especially when the cost in as high as Cell Reports.

I’m not sure if anything can be done about that.

Update: Because I can’t stop plotting things,  here’s the how the big three biological publishers’ open access journals stack up:

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