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RE: Costs of publishing a journal

>Submissions, queueing, distribution to reviewers, distribution
>throughout the decision-making process, and >"publishing" the
>work online are all automated, so the actual cost of publishing
>a peer-reviewed journal can be >quite low.

When working in an electronic or web-based system (compared with
paper-based peer review), authors, editors, and reviewers do need
help in uploading manuscripts, converting the occasional file
(yes, our system creates PDFs on the fly, but authors can cause
errors), ensuring manuscripts through correctly queues, assigning
reviewers, and completing review forms. Not everyone needs
assistance with these steps, but just because a peer-review
system is online and works well does not mean that it is fully
automated (unless you remove users from the equation).

Susan Pollock
FASS Director of Publications
and Managing Editor
-Journal of Animal Science
-Journal of Applied Poultry Research
-Journal of Dairy Science
-Poultry Science

2441 Village Green Place
Champaign, IL 61822

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
[mailto:owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu] On Behalf Of Nat Gustafson-Sundell
Sent: Thursday, October 22, 2009 5:26 PM
To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
Subject: Costs of publishing a journal

Can anybody answer these questions:

Is there any available data about showing proportion of peer
reviewers are paid for their work?

What proportion of editors of scholarly journals are paid for
their work (or paid more than the <$1000 nominal fee)?

I studied under the founder and editor of a highly regarded
peer-reviewed journal, who also happened to support Open Access
strongly, and one of his points was that online publication
applications had obviated the need for much of the staff to
handle the workflow of publication.  Submissions, queueing,
distribution to reviewers, distribution throughout the
decision-making process, and "publishing" the work online are all
automated, so the actual cost of publishing a peer-reviewed
journal can be quite low. The app he recommended was open source.
Infrastructure costs (hosting) can often be footed by
universities (his publication is hosted by a university which
hosts many other journals).

As I recall, one of the only real questions in his view was
whether to pay the editor and peer-reviewers, although he stated
(anecdotally?) that most scholarly peer reviewers, board members,
etc.  are essentially volunteers (although they get career
rewards for their work) -- I think he mentioned that there are a
handful of notable exceptions among the big name commercial
journals.  I know there are numerous studies showing how
commercial journals have much higher costs per page to publish
than nfp and oa journals, but I don't know why exactly those
costs are so much higher and I don't buy the handful of defenses/
apologies I've seen (tobacco use does cause cancer, global
warming does exist, and so does commercial journal gouging).

I suppose, since commercial journals don't have access to
semester after semester of committed intern teams, which give
university and library published journals an advantage, that is
probably a factor.  As an intern on a peer-reviewed journal, I
worked with a team to digitize old print volumes of the journal
(scan, ocr, copy-edit, html), to help re-design the journal, and
to convert submitted works to clean html (with slight
copy-editing duties), so I suppose these could be costs under
other publishing models. In addition, all of the higher level
work, the real editor work, was volunteered by scholars in the
field and the journal's board consisted of international
scholars, likewise volunteering their work.

As an aside:  it seems to me that a huge advantage of library and
university published journals, for students, is that grad
student-interns get the opportunity to learn much more about what
they are studying to become -- not just to become aware of the
publications in their field and the work contained therein, but
also to learn lots of highly applicable real-life lessons about
some aspects of their upcoming professional lives (and the
opportunities to network within the field are unique).  Such an
internship can be a much more valuable learning experience than
the typical grad student term paper or presentation.  In fact,
the professor I mentioned above ventured that there should be a
program to teach universities and libraries how "easy" and
inexpensive it can be to publish peer-reviewed journals, since a
journal can be run by a small core of committed faculty and staff
(each giving some <30% proportion of their work-time), utilizing
grad students for the grunt work and a rotating set of scholars
interested in advancing their fields (and in their fields) to
serve as board members and peer reviewers.  One by-product of
such a program could be a stiffening of the definition and
quality of peer review in general, since one complaint I've seen
published a couple of times is that few commercial journals have
training or formal assessment programs for their peer reviewers.