Sunday, March 23, 2014

Richard Van Noorden - "The True Cost of Publishing"

This week we visit the question of pricing, specifically in relation to publishing of scientific and peer-reviewed journals. Van Noorden makes a point to highlight the advent of open-access publishing as an alternative the typical practice of paying exorbitant fees to get a scientific article published, and some insight as to why it's so expensive to get an article published from a big-name company.

Richard Van Noorden (the author for this article) has a vested interest in publication, it would appear. He's a reporter for Nature out of London since 2009, and has a great many posts on the Nature's online blog regarding publications specifically (one that caught my attention was an amusing one from a month ago about how over a hundred scientific publications were, in fact, pure nonsense dreamed up by a computer).

For the most part, Van Noorden confirmed my suspicions on the high price to publish; oftentimes the overpricing of scientific publications is for either a high profit margin or for exclusivity rights (the journal through which this article was published, Nature, supposedly only published 8% of all submissions in 2011). Setting the bar for entry high can certainly add panache to a paper...but it also discourages scientists who can't afford the asking price from even trying at all.

Open access journals, conversely, have no prestige they need to uphold. Additionally, since they tend to only publish articles online, their upkeep costs are quite reasonable (only paying for a server as opposed to paying for an article to get printed on paper).

It would appear that his main thesis is in favor of the newer open-access model, and it's easy to see why. The open-access model is easier on essentially all parties involved; from the content-creators to the researchers to the creators' institutions. A point I never really realized on my own (but is quite important nonetheless) is that those who wish to publish their works in these journals never see the price. Instead, their institution foots the bill (often a university or library). These high prices to publish then potentially take money away from academic libraries that could be better used for outreach programs or material acquisition.

Citations / Links:

The article I reviewed:
Richard Van Noorden, "The true cost of science publishing," Nature (28 Mar. 2013), pp. 426-429.  4 pages.

Van Noorden's Twitter (if you use it):

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