Open access journals, guest editors, and a new means of exploitation

I’ve recently turned down an ‘invitation’ to serve as the editor of an article for a new open access journal. It’s actually with a recognised an reputable publisher, rather than these pop-up ones of dubious merit. Given its very broad remit, they need to find guest editors, as well as peer reviewers, for any submission.

Two things rankled about this. First, was their claim that acting as editor was less time, though more responsibility, than being a reviewer. I edited the Society and Space journal for nine years, and Foucault Studies for a couple. One is subscription based, one open access. I really think that the first part of the claim isn’t the case. I can review an article in a couple of hours. I can’t serve as editor for an article in that time, unless it is a simple reject before review or that very rare thing of an unconditional accept. An editor has to read the submission, decide reviewers, read the reports, balance their claims and maybe reread the paper, make a decision, write a decision letter, and unless it is a categorical reject, read a revision or resubmission, maybe get more reports, etc. Almost all submissions involve some correspondence with the author.

But I was also dismayed by the business practice. The journal requires an author processing charge from authors, but then outsources the editing to academics. As article editor I’d have been given access to journals for a short period (which I already have through Warwick) and a ‘free book’, though they were clear to exempt their most expensive titles. Doubtless the actual reviewers get even less. So where does the APC go? I recognise that there are other parts of the production process for accepted articles (copyediting, design, etc.), but the editorial part is crucial, and here it is clearly done on the cheap. Open access was supposed to be about freeing up the product of academic research, but it seems to now be about cutting costs and making profits for corporate publishers.

I said most of the above in my reply refusing to take on this work. I’m under no illusion that this one refusal will make any difference. But it seems that this practice is, as yet, relatively little known. What are others doing about such requests?


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3 Responses to Open access journals, guest editors, and a new means of exploitation

  1. Thanks for sharing this story, Stuart,
    really no words for commenting, if not that we must be really collectively confused to still accept publishing/editing/reviewing with and for corporate journals…

  2. Thanks so much about this. The standard man thing and glad you didn’t fall for it.

  3. I had one of these and deleted it. The fact remains that corporate academic publishing is a huge moneyspinner, APCs and other costs are not dealt with transparently, and publishers can charge what the market will bear. Academic have the power to change it since we supply the product and also consume it, but change is very slow – as long as we continue to send articles off to exploitative outlets.

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