Is It Such a Big Deal? On the Cost of Journal Use in the Digital Era

Authors : Fei Shu, Philippe Mongeon, Stefanie Haustein, Kyle Siler, Juan Pablo Alperin, Vincent Larivière

Commercial scholarly publishers promote and sell bundles of journals—known as big deals—that provide access to entire collections rather than individual journals. Following this new model, size of serial collections in academic libraries increased almost fivefold from 1986 to 2011.

Using data on library subscriptions and references made for a sample of North American universities, this study provides evidence that, while big deal bundles do decrease the mean price per subscribed journal, academic libraries receive less value for their investment.

We find that university researchers cite only a fraction of journals purchased by their libraries, that this fraction is decreasing, and that the cost per cited journal has increased.

These findings reveal how academic publishers use product differentiation and price strategies to increase sales and profits in the digital era, often at the expense of university and scientific stakeholders.

URL : Is It Such a Big Deal? On the Cost of Journal Use in the Digital Era


Gender and international diversity improves equity in peer review

Authors : Dakota Murray, Kyle Siler, Vincent Lariviére, Wei Mun Chan, Andrew M. Collings, Jennifer Raymond, Cassidy R Sugimoto

The robustness of scholarly peer review has been challenged by evidence of disparities in publication outcomes based on author’s gender and nationality. To address this, we examine the peer review outcomes of 23,873 initial submissions and 7,192 full submissions that were submitted to the biosciences journal eLife between 2012 and 2017.

Women and authors from nations outside of North America and Europe were underrepresented both as gatekeepers (editors and peer reviewers) and last authors. We found a homophilic interaction between the demographics of the gatekeepers and authors in determining the outcome of peer review; that is, gatekeepers favor manuscripts from authors of the same gender and from the same country.

The acceptance rate for manuscripts with male last authors was significantly higher than for female last authors, and this gender inequity was greatest when the team of reviewers was all male; mixed-gender gatekeeper teams lead to more equitable peer review outcomes.

Similarly, manuscripts were more likely to be accepted when reviewed by at least one gatekeeper with the same national affiliation as the corresponding author. Our results indicated that homogeneity between author and gatekeeper gender and nationality is associated with the outcomes of scientific peer review.

We conclude with a discussion of mechanisms that could contribute to this effect, directions for future research, and policy implications. Code and anonymized data have been made available at

URL : Gender and international diversity improves equity in peer review


APCs – Mirroring the impact factor or legacy of the subscription-based model?

Author : Nina Schönfelder

With the ongoing open-access transformation, article processing charges (APCs) are gaining importance as the dominant business model for scientific open-access journals. This paper analyzes which factors determine the level of an APC by means of multivariate linear regression.

With data from OpenAPC, APCs actually paid are explained by the following variables: (1) the “source normalized impact per paper” (SNIP), (2) whether the journal is open access or hybrid, (3) the publisher of the journal, (4) the subject area of the journal, and (5) the year.

The results show that the journal’s impact and the hybrid status are the most important factors for the level of APCs. However, the relationship between APC and SNIP is different for open-access journals and hybrid journals.

The journal’s impact is crucial for the level of APCs in open-access journals, whereas it little alters APCs for publications in hybrid-journals. This paper contributes to the emerging literature initiated by the “Pay It Forward”-study conducted at the University of California Libraries.

It sets the foundations for the assessment whether the large-scale open-access transformation of scientific journals is a financially viable way for each research institution in general and universities in particular.

URL : APCs – Mirroring the impact factor or legacy of the subscription-based model?


‘Publication favela’ or bibliodiversity? Open access publishing viewed from a European perspective

Author : Pierre Mounier

A number of initiatives exist in European countries to support open scholarly communication in humanities and social sciences.

This article looks at the work of Open Access in the European Research Area through Scholarly Communication (OPERAS), a consortium of 36 partners from all over Europe, including many university presses, that is working to build a future European infrastructure to address the challenges in open access publishing.

Their initial study, OPERAS‐D, revealed a variety of models among the partners influenced by national cultures. Although the partners’ activities were found to be fragmented, they also reflect the ‘bibliodiversity’ that exists in European societies.

To address the challenge of fragmentation, it is argued that, by following a cooperative model, European actors can benefit by sharing expertise, resources, and costs of development for the good of all.

As a future infrastructure to support open scholarly communication across Europe, OPERAS aims to coordinate a range of publishers and service providers to offer researchers and societies a fully functional web of services to cover the entire research lifecycle.


L’obsession de la productivité et la fabrique du chercheur publiant

Auteur/Author : Franck Aggeri

À quoi rêvent les jeunes doctorants en gestion lorsqu’ils débutent leur thèse ? Leurs aspirations ne diffèrent pas fondamentalement de celles des doctorants d’autres disciplines : ils valorisent l’autonomie supposée du métier, la réflexion et les discussions intellectuelles, la lecture, la création, l’écriture, la pédagogie.

Cette vision romantique du métier est souvent renforcée par la rencontre avec des enseignants-chercheurs qui leur ont donné le goût de la réflexion, leur ont fait découvrir l’esthétique de l’écriture et de l’argumentation, des textes marquants ou des recherches de terrain originales.

Bref, ils rêvent souvent de devenir des enseignants-chercheurs singuliers. Modèle des singularités vs modèle productif Le modèle des singularités dans la recherche, rappelle Lucien Karpik, est celui auquel se réfèrent traditionnellement les chercheurs.

Il repose sur une orientation symbolique « autour d’un ensemble de normes et de valeurs classiques : la découverte comme finalité, l’importance de l’originalité, de l’ambition et du plaisir intellectuel, un imaginaire enraciné dans l’histoire de la science, la position centrale du jugement des pairs, le pouvoir collégial ou semi-collégial, une conception du métier organisée autour de l’indépendance individuelle, une compétition animée par la volonté d’être le premier à découvrir et le premier à publier, le premier reconnu et le premier primé » (Karpik, 2012, p. 119).

À rebours du modèle des singularités, se développe depuis quelques années, notamment en économie et en sciences de gestion, un modèle productif qui repose sur une performance « objective » mesurée à partir d’une métrique simple : le nombre de publications de rang A.


Liberation through Cooperation: How Library Publishing Can Save Scholarly Journals from Neoliberalism

Author : Dave S. Ghamandi

This commentary examines political and economic aspects of open access (OA) and scholarly journal publishing. Through a discourse of critique, neoliberalism is analyzed as an ideology causing many problems in the scholarly journal publishing industry, including the serials crisis.

Two major efforts in the open access movement that promote an increase in OA funded by article-processing charges (APC)—the Open Access 2020 (OA2020) and Pay It Forward (PIF) initiatives—are critiqued as neoliberal frameworks that would perpetuate existing systems of domination and exploitation.

In a discourse of possibility, ways of building a post-neoliberal system of journal publishing using new tactics and strategies, merging theory and praxis, and grounding in solidarity and cooperation are presented.

This includes organizing journal publishing democratically using cooperatives, which could decommodify knowledge and provide greater open access.

The article concludes with a vision for a New Fair Deal, which would revolutionize the system of scholarly journal publishing by transitioning journals to library publishing cooperatives.

URL : Liberation through Cooperation: How Library Publishing Can Save Scholarly Journals from Neoliberalism


The rent’s too high: Self-archive for fair online publication costs

Authors : Robert T. Thibault, Amanda MacPherson, Stevan Harnad, Amir Raz

The main contributors of scientific knowledge, researchers, generally aim to disseminate their findings far and wide. And yet, publishing companies have largely kept these findings behind a paywall.

With digital publication technology markedly reducing cost, this enduring wall seems disproportionate and unjustified; moreover, it has sparked a topical exchange concerning how to modernize academic publishing.

This discussion, however, seems to focus on how to compensate major publishers for providing open access through a “pay to publish” model, in turn transferring financial burdens from libraries to authors and their funders.

Large publishing companies, including Elsevier, Springer Nature, Wiley, PLoS, and Frontiers, continue to earn exorbitant revenues each year, hundreds of millions of dollars of which now come from processing charges for open-access articles.

A less expensive and equally accessible alternative exists: widespread self-archiving of peer-reviewed articles. All we need is awareness of this alternative and the will to employ it.