Tag: author processing charges

More unwanted invitations

In a post I wrote in May I complained about academic spam, and particularly the endless receipt in my email inbox of unwanted invitations to write papers for unknown journals specialising in areas I know absolutely nothing about. Emails of this type keep on coming, and I thought I’d share one directly with readers who may be interested. Remember, the additional sting in the tail is that if I ever do take one of these offers up I’ll probably then be asked to pay an author processing charge.

Today, the OMICS publishing group sent me this:

Dear Dr.Ben Hannigan,

Greetings from OMICS!
We are really happy to connect with an expert like you in the field of Journal of Civil and Legal Sciences which is a very important area of publication in our Journal of Civil and Legal Sciences.
We believe your potential in submitting a manuscript towards our journal and please let us know your response regarding this.
In the context of your busy timings or other professional commitments if you cannot agree to this, we expect you to suggest any other expert like you for this.
Hope to hear from you soon.

Nice to know that civil and legal sciences are an important area for OMICS to publish in their Journal of Civil and Legal Sciences. Who’d have thought it? I’ve actually hidden my personal expertise in this area very well, pretending instead to be an academic mental health nurse who knows something about systems, services, work and roles.

OMICS, you won’t be hearing from me.

Unwanted invitations

A brief, early morning, rant. I’m all for open access, but this morning – and most certainly not for the first time – I received an unsolicited and entirely unwanted email inviting me to submit a paper to an open access journal. The editor asked me to write in an area I know nothing about, and informed me that if my manuscript is accepted for publication I shall have to pay an author processing charge (APC). I did the only thing possible in the circumstances, which was to delete the email.

I don’t mind a bit of academic spam, but I despair at the poor targeting and am a little affronted at the invitation being so baldly attached to a fee. I still don’t get why APCs are (often, but admittedly not always) as high as they are. Had I bitten at this morning’s ‘opportunity’, having done all the hard graft I would have needed to part with around £950 (so my online currency converter tells me). Where’s that going, then? Not to the peer reviewers, who like authors are not paid directly for their efforts.

Gold and green

Further to my earlier open access blogs, here and here, having finally worked my way through the unexpectedly heavy traffic around the University Hospital of Wales I spent the first part of today in an open access workshop, facilitated by colleagues from Cardiff University’s library and information services. I was struck by the speed with which things are changing. I learned that Cardiff researchers now have a good chance of securing University funding to support the open access publication of papers arising from RCUK-funded studies. Whether this applies to all papers submitted to all journals with all varieties of open access (‘gold’, ‘green’ or ‘hybrid’) I’m not sure about. I hope it does, because I’d hate to think that researchers end up making decisions on where to publish based solely on their need for financial support to cover their APCs.

I also learned that, as things stand, there is no University financial support for the open access publication of papers from projects completed with funding from the NIHR or NISCHR. This is because neither is a Research Council, even though both run highly competitive funding schemes of particular interest to health and social care researchers. Bids to both bodies can include requests for funds to cover APCs, but this is a cost which can quickly add up. If everyone adds APC fees to their grant proposals then fewer studies will be funded, as the money to support paid-for ‘gold’ open access publication has to come from somewhere. The cost-free ‘green’ open access model, using institutional repositories, is an option here: but generally I am, again, driven to the conclusion that APC tariffs urgently need to come down.

Research, open access and academic blogging [2]

In last month’s Research, open access and academic blogging post I neglected to ask the obvious question: why are the article processing charges (APCs) levied by some open access journals so high? In that post I gave the example of BMC Health Services Research, which (unless a waiver is applied for and granted) demands the sum of £1,290 before each accepted paper progresses to online publication. What, exactly, is all that money for? It’s certainly not to pay peer reviewers for their time or expertise, because if it was I would have received some additional earnings from BMC by now. Does it really cost so much to iron out the typos, format to house style and upload an article to the journal’s servers?

I pointed out in my original piece that it is neither reasonable nor sustainable to systematically expect individual academics to pay APCs. This being the case, universities and grant awarding bodies are going to have to stump up. But via this post on the Sussex (and former Cardiff) physicist Peter Coles’s In the Dark blog I was alerted to this cautionary note from the Royal Historical Society on the unintended consequences of this arrangement. For the interested reader there’s also this RHS President’s letter on the same. The argument goes like this: if universities are going to be paying the APCs associated with individual open access articles then academic freedom will be eroded, as the final decisions on which publications are to be financially supported and which are not will be made by budget-holding managers.

The problem, then, is not with open access per se but with the extortionate costs currently associated with some versions of it. These need to come down, and quickly.

Research, open access and academic blogging

Martin Webber, social work academic at the University of York, is inviting discussion on why researchers should blog. Martin will be drawing on what people say at a seminar he’s giving early next month as part of a York Social Research in the Digital Age series.

So, why indeed? Here are some personal reflections, on blogging and also more generally on the process of writing in an internet-connected world. These I’m basing on my (very) preliminary experiences on this site, some thinking done over the last couple of days, and an awareness of how academic practice is changing.

Word cloud 28.01.13First, researchers might want to blog because this is a very direct, free-to-access, way of communicating. This is especially important in disciplines in which most research papers are published in journals which sit behind paywalls. In applied areas like my own (mental health nursing, systems and services), a blog can be one way of connecting with important audiences (practitioners, policymakers, managers, service users) likely to lack the necessary subscriptions

This does not mean that academic blogging is therefore redundant in disciplines where all or most research outputs are publicly available, and for free. To say why this is so, I probably need to say something about open access. Here in the UK a big shift is taking place in favour of publishing in journals which are both peer reviewed and free to the reader. Check out, for example, the 246 titles currently offered online by BioMed Central. Plenty of longer-established publishers are now also offering open access options to authors submitting to their titles. Increasingly this means that, within single issues of journals, open access content sits side-by-side with subscription or one-off payment content.

A major driver behind these developments is the Finch Report, which appeared last year. This recommended open access as the preferred publishing model for the future, particularly in the case of papers reporting research supported by public funds. Making further progress along the open access route, however, means finding new ways of covering the costs. In the traditional model authors pay nothing to see their papers in print, the costs of publishing being recouped via institutional (or individual) subscriptions or from payments made by readers of single articles. Publishers like BioMed Central do things differently, requiring authors (unless they secure waivers) to pay an ‘article processing [or publishing] charge’ (APC) for each peer reviewed and accepted paper. APCs can be hefty. For example, the current submission checklist for the journal BMC Health Services Research indicates that it usually levies an APC of £1,290 on each accepted paper. The Times Higher Education reports that in the majority of open access papers published in the new social sciences and humanities journal Sage Open, the APC has been paid by individual authors. I’m not sure that’s either fair or sustainable. In the future, financial support for what Finch and others have called ‘gold [APC] open access’ will surely have to be provided by funders and universities (presumably using money currently being used elsewhere). Government and charitable funding bodies will require applicants to include in their bids the costs of open access publication, and universities will sign up as members of organisations such as BioMed Central with the aim of waiving or reducing the costs associated with individual article processing.

There are other ways of making available, freely and publicly, the full text of published research outputs. Publishers’ policies in this area differ, but under the terms of their copyright agreements many allow versions of accepted papers to be uploaded to institutional repositories for access, at no cost, by interested readers. The best deals allow authors to deposit post-peer review versions of papers as soon as they have been accepted for publication. Other deals allow the same, but after an elapsing of time to make sure that readers wanting immediate access have to obtain paid-for versions. The text in these author-own manuscripts is the same as that appearing in journals’ versions, but the papers lack the ‘added value’ of volume and issue details, layout and formatting as per journal house style, and so forth. This ‘green open access’ model is one I have been making use of in this blog, via links to post-peer review versions of papers saved in the Cardiff University ORCA repository. Check out my Enduring posts page, which has examples of posts and linked papers on wicked problems, work and roles in mental health systems, and research ethics and governance.

So if the gathering pace of the open access movement means that research papers will be more likely to be publicly and freely available via ‘gold’ and ‘green’ routes in the future, does this reduce the need for research blogs? Not at all, in my view. Blogs can be vehicles for making clear the connections between multiple papers and projects, giving researchers opportunities to write in-the-round overviews of cumulative bodies of work. They can also help contextualize research, and unpack the detail of full-text papers irrespective of whether these are open access or paid-for. In this way blogs can perhaps help translate ideas, promote uptake and increase the use of findings. This, I think, is part of the task researchers now face to maximise what the Research Excellence Framework (REF) refers to as ‘impact’. As an aside, I am reminded in this context of the excellent material on using social media to promote research available at the LSE’s Impact and the Social Sciences blog. If anyone working in the health and social care fields has examples of blogs, tweets and the like being successfully used to promote impact outside of academia, I’m sure I’m not the only one who would like to hear more.

Blogs are also interactive, allowing fast-moving, two-way, communication between writers and readers via the use of the ‘comments’ function. This is very different from traditional academic publishing, which can be distinctly one-way. This said, there are some journals (like the BMJ) which directly encourage readers’ online responses to published papers, and which host journal content and supplementary material (blogs included) at single sites. Further, whilst publishers will often accept study protocols in their journals they are less keen on progress reports. The immediacy of blogging offers an option here. For instance, Martin Webber on his site has some excellent examples of using his blog to keep interested parties aware of his ongoing projects.

To sum up what has turned into a lengthier-than-expected post. Martin Webber asks why researchers should blog. Based on my (admittedly brief) excursion into the genre, my response is that a more appropriate question might actually be, ‘Why are researchers not blogging as a matter of course?’ I have also taken this opportunity to think, in a more general way, about blogging in the context of changing academic practice. Blogs are a way of sharing research ideas, progress and findings, and can be used to wrap around and support full-text open access content. They have the potential to promote engagement between research producers, and research consumers. They allow connections to be made, and they encourage interaction. What’s not to like?