Monday, April 18, 2011

Write us an article, and pay us for the privilege!

The author-pay model is one approach to open access journal publishing. It makes sense and seems to work in the hard sciences, where researchers can put article fees into their research grants. For the social sciences and humanities, where most authors would have to pay the big fees (ca. $1,000 and more), this model is more problematic. But it only makes sense for peer reviewed journal articles, not for other types of publication.

I have just been invited to contribute to a scholarly encyclopedia that advertises itself as "open access," and they want me to pay about $1,000 for the privilege of publishing with them. Normally, scholarly encyclopedias pay authors for the hassle of writing articles that are not peer reviewed and not very valuable (for scholarship or for career building). A typical deal gets the author X amount of dollars (I've seen between $50 and $2,000 for encyclopedia entries), or twice that amount in books published by the press.

This encyclopedia is called "Urban Planning," published by "Intech," a Croatian company. They claim to have an editorial board of experts, but their listing of editorial boards includes fields like biology, engineering, and medicine, nothing in urban studies or social sciences. Their website gives these reasons to publish with them:
  • High quality publications
  • High impact and visibility
  • Worldwide readership
  • No copyright transfer
  • Efficient publishing process
  • Free access to research
Sounds like a scam to me. If I want to write something that is not peer reviewed, and I want it to have wide distribution on the internet, I'll just post it on my website.* I certainly won't pay a Croatian company big bucks to put it in an internet book of possibly dubious quality.

* NOTE -  I did this for once for an "anti-Wikipedia" article. The Wikipedia entry on the Aztecs was quite bad, almost beyond redemption, and the people who worked on it were defensive and hostile to my involvement. So I wrote a summary of Aztec culture and posted it from my home page. Later a Wikipedia editor contacted me and praised my summary. He claimed he was prevented from using it, however, since it did not have an official affiliation or citation! I guess wrong information from amateurs is fine for Wikipedia, but not correct information from scholars.


samarkeolog said...

Wikipedia are looking into the problem of ignorant editors and reluctant academics.

(I don't contribute there - I put my non-peer-reviewed stuff on my blog, unmolested by nationalists and other ignoramuses - but heard about their efforts to engage academia, and took part in their survey on academic non-involvement.)

Here's hoping they get somewhere with it...

Anonymous said...

Dear Michael,

Could you perhaps do a post on the usefulness of My department has just recently discovered it and it seems that it is fast becoming the Facebook of academics. How useful do you think will be in promoting academic work or helping young academics in the hiring process?

Anonymous said...

I second that notion. It seems like almost all of my archaeology colleagues suddenly have pages. I have been reluctant to make one for myself, mainly because I am not entirely certain if an page will successfully promote my work and/or career.

Michael E. Smith said...

Good idea - I'll post something soon on

samarkeolog said...

Well, I'm glad that exists because if someone searches for the keywords of one problematic paper I gave, it takes up the first four results and makes the subsequent ultranationalist libels just a little less visible; but I appreciate that's a fringe benefit.