Innovations in Scholarly Publishing - Does Predatory Publishing Start With Publication Fees?
"John Bohannon's article Who's Afraid of Peer Review?, which details the 'little or no scrutiny at many open-access journals'1, has gone viral in academic publishing circles and has led some to believe that the Open Access movement can't or is less likely to deliver good scholarship. Bohannon's article focuses primarily on poor quality control and the paucity of rigorous peer review amongpredatory open access academic journals. He briefly touches on what I find to be the most distressing part of the piece: that publication fees can incentivize journals to publish subpar scholarship. If a journal can charge a thousand dollars to publish an author's work, the journal has a monetary incentive to publish as much as it can. Someone outside of academia would be quick to ask, 'why would anyone pay a publication fee that high'? The answer is a very simple: because publication fees have been inherited from a print paradigm and are still accepted as a normal practice in a increasingly printless world. Over the years, publishers have charged fees for all sorts of things including color images, page charges, and, more recently, open access charges. Anna Sharman has an interesting blog post where she does a roundup of some of these types of charges. At the time of the post, for example, Evolution (Wiley-Blackwell) charged $500 per color figure2. Likewise, J Biol Chem had page charges of '$80 per page for the first nine pages and $160 per page thereafter.'3 Of course, these are used by journals that do print publications. One would find it reasonable that charges like this are justified in terms of ink, paper, shipping, etc. That said, we would expect these prices to fall as more journals publish electronically, but we see nothing of the sort. Instead, we find that the traditional publishing fee has been replaced by the open access publishing fee. For instance, Wiley asks authors to pay a $3000 fee for their published work to be available in their open access platform, Wiley OnlineOpen 4. Furthermore, 'Any additional standard publication charges will also apply, such as for color images or supplementary datasets.'5 You read that correctly: if the author wants to do something like include a color digital image – fees still apply. Sami Kassab, Executive Director at the investment company Exane BNP Paribas, monitors developments with large publishers (including Elsevier, Wiley, etc.), and despite the challenge from open access Kassab is 'is positive about the sector'6. He believes that gold OA is something that publishers will co-opt, and that their profit motives will lead them to publish more articles so they can then collect more article publication fees ... "