Editors vs Publishers – The Times Higher story on Prometheus and Taylor & Francis

The Times Higher has an interesting and worrying piece about the clash between the editors of a journal and their publisher Taylor & Francis. Here’s the opening few lines:

A journal’s editorial board has been left on the brink of resignation after an eight-month standoff with its publisher Taylor & Francis over the publication of a debate on academic publishing and the profits made by major firms.

The debate, in the journal Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation, was due to appear last September, but was delayed by Taylor & Francis and published only at the end of last month.

Its “proposition” paper, “Publisher, be damned! from price gouging to the open road”, by four academics from the University of Leicester’s School of Management, criticises the large profits made by commercial publishers on the back of academics’ labours, and the failure of the Finch report on open access to address them.

The paper compares academic publishing with the music industry, which, it says, has “booming” sales after lowering prices in the face of widespread piracy. It suggests that “doing nothing to prevent the trading of electronic copies of our academic work” could also force prices down in publishing.

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5 Responses to Editors vs Publishers – The Times Higher story on Prometheus and Taylor & Francis

  1. My experience with academic publishing is dispiriting. Mostly editors and so-called peer reviewers don’t like (my) thinking, but demand scholarly or standard scientific discourse instead. The lesson: Don’t rock the academic boat. Don’t challenge orthodoxy in its infinite variety and complacency. Academic publishing is a rigged game. Academics (thankfully, I’m not one) have to publish in well-reputed journals or by a well-reputed publisher to get ahead in their careers by boosting their who-status as somewho purportedly worth listening to, who gets a pat on the back from colleagues.
    The academic scholar has to submit to the publisher’s rules and, these days, often even has to pay for the review and editing process, or the printing, him/herself. Academic reputation has a monetary price. The publisher then locks up the textual product behind a pay-wall. For a single short article today’s standard prices are around USD30 to USD50 (or EUR40). At that price, your article doesn’t get into wide circulation to polish your reputation. Those citing it are largely those with a pre-paid institutional access, i.e. those with some more or less modest position of power in an academic institution. They’re the ones who have a say in whether your career flourishes or withers on the vine. Keep the club closed to the initiated. Apart from gouging academic authors in reputational need, the whole who-game stinks, serving as it does to keep thinking within bounds already established by some institutional power play or other. Maybe you’re lucky or clever enough to be swimming along in one of the current streams, whether main or subsidiary. Just be prepared for disappointment and exclusion if you try to think anything unheard of.

  2. At the root of this debate (even more lively in the natural sciences) are important questions about journal peer review. In my research on the topic at natural science and medical journals, I have attempted to investigate journal peer review as a scientific object of study – which means I did not espouse peer review in everyday understanding as a process… and the first comment on this blog post touches on many of the dynamics that helped shape contemporary journal peer review. Here is a preprint with a view of historic shaping: http://www.ruor.uottawa.ca/en/handle/10393/31161. In the preprint, I also present a model for pre-publication journal peer review and explore how closed pre-publication journal peer review can contribute to lower potential for rational decision-making when compared with more open forms.

  3. Thanks stuartelden for the link! Following are a few more preprints that might be of interest to readers of this debate:

    http://hdl.handle.net/10393/31238 – Gaudet, J. 2014. All that glitters is not gold: The shaping of contemporary journal peer review at scientific and medical journals. uO Research. Pp. 1-23.

    http://hdl.handle.net/10393/31198 – Gaudet, J. 2014. How pre-publication journal peer review (re)produces ignorance at scientific and medical journals: a case study. uO Research.

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