24 September 2017

Paying to publish and Poynder

Richard Poynder and Michael Eisen got into it on Twitter over the weekend over open access publishing. Poynder wrote:

My view is that PLOS legitimised a deeply-flawed business model: pay-to-publish.

Hm. The problem is that many journals used “pay to publish” before PLOS journals came along. They were called “page charges.” You can still find many journals with page charges that are not open access. Cofactor has a list here.

These seem to indicate that asking scientists to bear some of the cost of publication is not inherently problematic. At least, I certainly don’t recall any serious discussion about them as deeply flawed. There probably should have been. But people accepted page charges as a normal, routine part of some corners of academic publishing. Saying PLOS legitimized that model is questionable.

PLOS ONE revolutionized academic publishing. But what was revolutionary was its editorial policy of not screening for “importance.” That lead to it publishing a lot of papers and generating a lot of money. It was through that combination that PLOS ONE paved the way for many imitators, including bad journals (documented in Stinging the Predators).

To me, the bigger problem is that “pay to publish” is very often equated – wrongly – with “open access.” The business model used to support publishing is not closely related to whether people can freely read the paper.

External links

Journals that charge authors (and not for open access publication)

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