# Why do we have to pay for scientific journals/ research papers?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by kira, Nov 15, 2009.

1. ### S.A.M.uniquely dreadfulValued Senior Member

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Yeah, thats why I am back in India.

3. ### iceauraValued Senior Member

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People generally underestimate the work involved in publishing. They take for granted the finished product, and they take for granted the sufficiency of what ordinary writing etc looks like, and the difference never registers as something somebody has to do.

The Toronto daily newspaper recently cut staff. They laid off some of the editors and proofreaders and related staff formerly employed at one daily newspaper publishing house - the same product, every day, routine. They laid off one hundred people.

The standards of an academic house would be higher than those of a daily newspaper, one would hope.

It also doesn't make sense that you would trust the communication of years of work to uncertain grammar - you do realize that actual errors, real confusion, can be the result? The impression is that you are careless, that you don't really care whether you are understood. It becomes harder to trust you - and the publishing house has its reputation involved as well.

It isn't always simple to correct other people's grammar - and if it involves the meaning of something important that can't be cleared up easily in conversation, it isn't that safe. I imagine it would be a difficult and expensive job to fill, at a house dealing with serious academic writing - and high risk. I don't blame such a house for refusing to do it. For example, I can easily imagine circumstances in which this:
would make a serious, meaning-changing difference. That judgment belongs with the author, in those circumstances - even if the reviewer was, this time, just being an asshole.
? Bizarre. No one else would be surprised by finding more intellectual snobbery in Europe than in America. Looking down the nose at Americans for their uncouth and uncivilized ways, for example, is an old European intellectual tradition - one that seems to have spread to India, among other places.
It would have been Latin, not too long ago. Maybe you'll get lucky, and next generation it will be Chinese - because the Chinese have such a welcoming and non-judgmental tradition of intellectual discourse, compared with the Americans, right?

There's always a standard language of intellectual discourse. Most Americans also have to put some work into learning the current one, if that's any consolation.

Last edited: Nov 16, 2009

5. ### S.A.M.uniquely dreadfulValued Senior Member

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Don't newspapers pay the journalists to get stories? Who do the journal publishers support? They have neither to fund the research, the output of the research, the writing or the peer review [nor the expenses of travel or stipend for any of the above].

My own experience with European academics is not sufficient to reach a conclusion. In the US, however, research is a corporate exercise, not an intellectual endeavor. So correcting pronunciations is the best they can come up with. Appearance matters more than content. If you have pretty pictures, its easier to get published.

7. ### kiraValued Senior Member

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Ok, so, thanks for further responses. Sorry I've just been able to post again, because yesterday was my bf’s birthday

If not too much work for you, you can tell me anytime whenever I make spelling/grammar mistakes, especially if you notice that the mistakes are repetitive. Thanks!

I also can access some journals at my department & university libraries. When I am at the university, I can just access any journals in which my uni has subscription. When I am at home, I can use so called “VPN client” thing (provided by the uni) which enable students/staffs to access journals from anywhere as if they are accessing from the university. However, the subscriptions are limited. It happens many times that I tried to access some journals, but fail, and get message that I have no authority to access the journal. In this case, I would firstly order the articles to the library (in which I have to pay 1.5 Euro per article, but not anymore since last month), wait 1-2 days, then sometimes I got the articles, sometimes not. Then I would send it to mailing list of my friends who work in the same fields all over the world, sometimes I got the article from them, sometimes not. If this doesn’t work, I would write an email to the author of the article. This mostly works. When it didn’t work, and I really need the articles, I would purchase them. Now, if everything is accessible for free (like your arxiv.org), things would have much faster…!

Thanks for the compliment. I am trying my best to write grammatically correct, especially when I am writing paper/ my research work. I activate the “check spelling and grammar” option, too, but I guess sometimes my English just sounds awkward. Also, the reviewers said that I mixed up the a/an/the, but it doesn’t appear as spelling mistake in my word file (especially with regards to “the”).

I have mentioned about this in the OP, that I have access to some, but not all papers. For some journals, the new ones (like last 5 years) are not accessible; the old ones are.

Ok, I post this first, because otherwise it’ll be too long. To be continued.

8. ### NasorValued Senior Member

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The thing is, in academic journals the vast majority of that work is done by the authors and reviewers for free.

9. ### NasorValued Senior Member

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Wait, you had to pay just to submit articles? I have never heard of that. What journal was it?

10. ### kiraValued Senior Member

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Um, yea, the abstract is always free, but it’s not enough. It’s only enough for deciding whether I need to read the full text or not.

Yes, this is true. Maybe you can write to the publisher to get the complimentary copy?

Ice, what SAM said. Also, some journals would ask $100-200 for submitting an article. Imagine how many people work in research fields (PhD students, researchers, etc), and they are mostly obliged to publish a number of articles from time to time. Compared to the number of journals available, I would say that it is possible that some journals would get hundreds of article submission per month. In addition to that, Nature, for example, got some 5 million visitor per month. Then, there are also people who download (purchase) their articles. Some articles would even get hundreds of download: http://www.sensorsportal.com/HTML/DIGEST/Top_articles.htm Then, in average, the price of article is between$20-40 each. Does this make sense??

I understand that, but really, not everyone is an English native speaker. How do I know that I suppose to write (for example):
Three different fiber coatings have been evaluated with regard to sensitivity, linear range, precision, and detection limits.

Three different fiber coatings were evaluated with regard to sensitivity, linear range, precision, and detection limits.

My word file says both are grammatically correct.

I don’t think this is substansial mistake. :/

11. ### kiraValued Senior Member

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Yes, some journals ask submission fee, i.e. just to submit (the) article. (see... I don't know whether I suppose to add "the" or not in that sentence

). For example, a friend of mine gotta pay $100 to submit his article in "The Energy Journal". I work in chemistry field, I will not name it Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image! p), but a chemistry journal asked me$100 submission fee AND $250 extra fee if the article is published T_T Not sure what about other fields, but my friend who lives in USA and studying economics said that he gotta paid$500 for submission fee to "journal of financial economics" or something like that (I am not sure what is the right name, you have to google it yourself.

Anyway, it's not so much problem because I don't submit as much as I try to download papers.

Last edited: Nov 17, 2009
12. ### kiraValued Senior Member

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There are also good chemistry journals that allow free submission fee, but you have to be member of their organisation. To be member you have to pay, though. At this moment I am paying 2 memberships in water-related fields (each 18 and 30 Euro/year), and 1 membership in a chemistry-related field, in which I have to pay 70 Euro/year. But this is student's price (or student price)*. If I finish my study, they will charge me much higher in case I still want to be member. For members, journals are free to access, but I can't possibly subscribe to many different journals.

* Now I feel more and more not confident with my English.. or is it less and less confident? :runaway:

13. ### kiraValued Senior Member

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--erased---

Last edited: Nov 17, 2009
14. ### iceauraValued Senior Member

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And that's the only way they can make out. The "small minority" left is substantial, and there is little volume of publication to spread out the overhead.

Yeah, it does. Compare it with the cost of a vanity publisher of your sixty pages of poetry or whatever - similar circulation, actually much less overhead.

Another factor: single articles sold cheaply cut down on the demand for subscriptions, where the solid money is.

I'm not saying it's always justified, but it could often be. It's in the ballpark.

By itself, I don't either. In fact, you might have had it correct. But the context matters - they don't mean quite the same, and maybe that small difference was critical for some reason. Or maybe the reviewer was just being a jerk - a pedant offended by your sometimes awkward constructions, taking any excuse to nitpick.

You write easily understood and comfortable English prose around here - better than several of our native speakers, for sure.
("Less and less confident" is cleaner, "more and more not confident" is OK but a bit awkward. Compare "less tall" to "more not tall")

Last edited: Nov 17, 2009
15. ### OphioliteValued Senior Member

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Kira,
don' worry about your English. I would not know from reading your posts that you are not an native speaker. There are some awkward constructions, but fewer than some I see from some native speakers. I wish I could berchakup bahasa 1/8th as well.

16. ### DreddDreddRegistered Senior Member

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Why do we have to pay for scientific journals / research papers?

Commercialism? :shrug:

17. ### kiraValued Senior Member

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Oops, I was writing some long reply but a colleague asked me if I would like to join her to coffee shop. I'll write later, thanks for the responses!

18. ### NasorValued Senior Member

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Having actually published scientific papers, reviewed them, and knowing two people who currently work as editors for major academic journal publishers, I strongly disagree with your assessment that the publishers do a "substantial" amount of work. The only real work that they do at any cost to themselves is the final copy formatting, which is typically done by someone with an associate's degree in graphic design for something like \$12/hour. Then they charge people thousands of dollars/year to download .pdfs of the article that other people wrote and edited and then handed to the publisher at no cost. The profit they extract in the process is often enormous; as you could imagine for any business model where someone else produces the product and gives it to you for free for you to sell. Check out the profits of the major journal publishers some time; many are in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Clearly they are extracting far more money than is necessary to cover the meager costs associated with copy editing and maintaining a webpage that serves up .pdfs.

The reason they are able to extract such high profits is that many journals have become monopolies that every research university and many corporations simply must purchase if they want to keep up with current research, so the journals can charge more or less whatever they want. The nature of academia helps perpetuate this monopoly, since researcher are more or less forced to publish in the "prestigious" journals if they want to advance their careers - so even though it would be trivially easy for competitors to start their own publishing service, no one would be willing to use them. This situation is a classic example of "market failure," where the free market is unable to operate efficiently due to extraneous factors.

19. ### iceauraValued Senior Member

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That's new to me - in my days of acquaintanceship, not too long ago, that was not the situation.

Are we talking about the "major publishers", here in this thread? Are we talking about the profits per journal ?

OK, break out the pitchforks - Kira's Revenge it is.

20. ### NasorValued Senior Member

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I was talking about the major publishers (the journal branch of Elsevier, etc.) I imagine the profits per journal are much smaller.

21. ### kiraValued Senior Member

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It seems that Nasor has already answered this in his later post, in a way that I couldn’t say better. In addition to that, I’d like to add that publishers and/or scientific organizations also got a lot of money from making conferences. They collect hundreds of Euros/Dollars/etc of registration fee times hundreds/thousands of participants in a single conference from time to time.

Last edited: Nov 19, 2009
22. ### kiraValued Senior Member

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Thanks, Ice, thanks Ophi!!

Ophiolite, Bahasa is not difficult at all (very simple grammar), but it's not very useful in international conduct

I have now a TOEFL book on my table, I just borrowed it from city library today. I hope this book will help me to improve my grammar.

And monopoli, too (see Nasor previous post).

What's the meaning of 'break out the pitchforks'..?? I googled that phrase, and found "break out the pitchforks and torches" but I couldn't get the meaning.

Last edited: Nov 18, 2009
23. ### DywyddyrPenguinaciously duckalicious.Valued Senior Member

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It's an indication that we're going to turn into an unruly mob and storm the publishing house. (On your behalf).

Think of the crowd attacking Frankenstein's castle in the movie.
It's an uprising of "peasants", pitchforks and other agricultural tools being their only weapons