Re: Submission Fees (was: RE: "Overlay Journals" Over Again...)

From: Jan Velterop <openaccess_at_BTINTERNET.COM>
Date: Sun, 5 Jul 2009 12:37:54 +0100

So it seems double-dipping unless it's honest? Perhaps it's honest
unless it's clearly double-dipping. 
A very wide-spread misconception, on this list and elsewhere, is that
subscriptions somehow are priced linearly. That if 10% of the papers
are OA, and paid for on behalf or by the author, the subscription
price should be reduced by 10% as well. To think that is not to
understand the fundamental nature of subscriptions. Subscriptions are
never ever going to be priced linearly with the amount of papers
published. Simply because they can't. In any event not as long as the
number of subscriptions is not a guaranteed and immutable element in
the equation. 

Another characteristic of subscriptions is that, in science in any
case (due to the monopoloid nature of journals and the uniqueness of
articles), they are utterly inelastic in economic terms. Or rather,
somewhat elastic in one direction, but inelastic in the opposite one.
When prices go up, there is a chance of cancellation. When prices go
down, there is essentially no chance of selling more subscriptions. 

These characteristics 'conspire' to make a sensible publishing
strategy one where the highest possible subscription price is
charged, and the highest level of selectivity of articles to publish,
in order to justify that high price. The defense cannot be lower
prices, as that doesn't result in more subscriptions. Stricter
selection of papers (sometimes called 'quality') is a much better bet
for a publisher.

Neither of these effects is there in an author-paid publishing
system. But if the charges only apply to published (i.e. accepted)
papers, the remaining problem is the one of loading the economics
solely on those published articles, introducing an incentive to have
a lenient acceptance policy. A few OA journals have been able to
square that circle and avoid low acceptance thresholds by
cross-subsidies or substantial grants. Once a journal's reputation is
built, sustaining it with a high degree of selectivity is easier.
Vide PLoS. 

For most unsubsidized OA journals, however, the ones that need to
keep up their own trousers, a submission fee -- not a publication fee
-- would be the most rational. That is not to say, of course, that
the most rational system is the one that eventually prevails. We've
had this discussion for a decade now, and it may still be a while.
But there is a precedent. To say it is impossible for a publisher to
go that route, because others don't do it, belies the fact that the
very same thing happened with OA.  Charging authors was considered
impossible as long as other publishers didn't. And yet it happened.
And it's growing. And although the pace is slow, it's steady. 

For any publisher who needs to hold up his own trousers, a belts and
braces approach is sensible. That doesn't imply double dipping.
Innocent until proven guilty. That applies to publishers as well.

Jan Velterop

On 4 Jul 2009, at 11:21, Stevan Harnad wrote:

      A subscription journal charging submission fees (or
      acceptance fees or both) seems like a bit of double- (or
      triple-) dipping , unless it is honestly faithfully and
      fully translated into lower subscription fees.
It is very likely that if and when universal Green Open Access
(as a result of universal mandates to self-archive the author's
final refereed drafts of all peer-reviewed journal articles
immediately upon acceptance for publication) causes
subscriptions to become unsustainable -- and hence causes
journals to cut expenses, phase out the print edition as well
as access-provision and archiving, provide only the service of
peer review, and convert to the publication-fee-based Gold OA
model, paid for out of a portion of the institutional windfall
savings from the subscription cancellation -- then the Gold OA
fee will be a conditional one, with an initial, lower,
submission fee, credited toward part of the acceptance fee, if

But this is all premature and unnecessary now, when most
journals are still subscription-based, institutional funds to
pay Gold fees are still tied up in subscriptions, Green OA is
far from universal, and hence journals have not yet phased out
 the print edition, access-provision and archiving. For all
this to happen, universal Green OA is needed first. Otherwise
we are doing voodoo calculations.

All this will be familiar to readers of the AmSci Forum, where
it has been discussed many times before, in years

Stevan Harnad

On 3-Jul-09, at 11:38 PM, Zac Rolnik wrote:

      The use of submission fees for journals in the area
      of business
      and economics journal publishing is not unusual.
       As a matter of
      fact, I cannot think of any top ranked finance
      journals that do
      not charge a submission fee.  Some of these fees
      can range
      between $250-500 and often they are charged for
      resubmission if
      the article is given a "revise and resubmit"
      decision.  And the
      more prestigious the journal, the more price
      inelastic this
      submission fee becomes.

      I am not sure if you could create a sustainable
      business model on
      submission fees, but I never understood why open
      access journals
      would not implement them.  It seems wholly unfair
      to charge only
      the papers that make it "successfully" through the
      review process
      to acceptance, while the majority of papers that
      are being
      rejected (I am assuming this, but it may be a big
      assumption) get
      a free ride through the process.  Maybe the
      submission fee could
      be applied to the acceptance fee once the article
      is accepted --
      this would be even fairer to the accepted authors.

      I do not think submission fees encourage journals
      to accept
      papers or increases the potential for abuse as some
      may have
      claimed.  In a certain way, fees charged on
      acceptance only would
      create a greater incentive for abuse and
      "acceptance" decisions
      for less worthy papers.

      Finally, charging submission fees may make authors
      think twice
      before submitting a paper that may not be ready for
      prime time.
      As a publisher, I often see authors submit articles
      too early
      knowing that the chance of acceptance on the first
      submission is
      low and hoping the reviewer can provide some
      feedback.  In talking to some journal editors, they
      feel that
      submission fees is a rationing mechanism -- you are
      less likely
      to submit a paper if there is a fee unless you feel
      it is ready
      for the review process.


      Zac Rolnik
      now publishers

      -----Original Message-----
      [] On
      Behalf Of Ivy Anderson
      Sent: Thursday, July 02, 2009 11:08 PM
      Subject: Submission Fees (was: RE: "Overlay
      Journals" Over Again...)

      The idea of submission fees is one that we at the
      Digital Library have also repeatedly attempted to
      advance in
      recent years. Publishers frequently cite the steep
      rise in
      submissions as a factor affecting their cost
      structure.  It makes
      no sense that this activity is entirely subsidized
      by other
      players in the publication chain.  Some recent
      modeling that we
      have done at CDL - admittedly based on rough and
      figures from a variety of sources - suggests that
      even very
      modest submission fees, if implemented by publishes
      across the
      board, would come close to completely covering the
      systemic cost
      increases associated with the steady increase in
      output overall (another factor to which annual
      price rises for
      journals are frequently attributed by some
      analysts).  If anyone
      has studied this - i.e. the potential contribution
      submission fees would make to the cost of the
      publishing system as a whole - with any rigor, I
      would be very
      interested to see those data.

      It's easy to understand how the current incentive
      system works
      against this: what publisher will voluntarily
      disadvantage itself
      in attracting submissions by imposing such fees if
      competitors do not? Nonetheless, as library budgets
      continue to
      contract, the survival of scholarly publishing may
      just depend on
      finding ways to distribute costs across a wider
      base. Submission
      fees - even if modest ones - should be on the

      Ivy Anderson
      Director of Collections
      California Digital Library
      University of California, Office of the President

      -----Original Message-----
      [] On
      Behalf Of Jan Velterop
      Sent: Wednesday, July 01, 2009 9:54 PM
      Subject: Re: "Overlay Journals" Over Again...

      The situation is this:

      1) researchers HAVE to publish and HAVE to have
      publications  peer-reviewed;
      2) existing systems (OA-author-paid as well
      subscriptions) ONLY
      pay  for PUBLISHED articles.

      So the real problem is this: in neither case is the
      of  peer review per se paid for. Those who argue
      that it is,
      place the  entire burden of cost exclusively on the

      What is needed is a system such as, say, your
      diving test. You
      pay  for the test, whether you pass or not.
      Translated to
      publications, a  fee at submission is what we need,
      for which
      peer-review is  organized. And this fee should be
      whether the article  is accepted for publication or

      Where is the courageous and/or visionary
      'publisher' (just using
      a  familiar term that should probably be changed
      into 'assessment
      organization' or pithier equivalent) who starts a
      system like

      Jan Velterop
Received on Sun Jul 05 2009 - 18:36:33 BST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:49:49 GMT