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The cost of publishing

He evaluates potential advantages and disadvantages from the viewpoint of top management and company employees to understand how this practice diffuses within the corporation, and who is likely to support it. Simultaneously, the author demonstrates how corporate processes can be designed to increase the odds of success of free revealing.

Oliver Alexy war Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter bei Prof. Joachim Henkel am Dr.

Using the example of corporate OSS engagement, Oliver Alexy shows how free revealing can be carried out both effectively and efficiently by companies. He evaluates potential advantages and disadvantages and looks at related organizational processes to understand how this practice diffuses within the corporation and how firms can use it successfully. Read more Read less. The most insightful comments on all subjects will be published daily in dedicated articles.

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Money Deals. The Independent Books. Scientists pondering why some publishers run more expensive outfits than others often point to profit margins.

Nature says that it will not disclose information on margins. Commercial publishers are widely acknowledged to make larger profits than organizations run by academic institutions. This is an irritant for many researchers, says Deborah Shorley, scholarly communications adviser at Imperial College London — not so much because commercial profits are larger, but because the money goes to shareholders rather than being ploughed back into science or education.

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But the difference in profit margins explains only a small part of the variance in per-paper prices. One reason that open-access publishers have lower costs is simply that they are newer, and publish entirely online, so they don't have to do print runs or set up subscription paywalls see 'How costs break down'. Whereas small start-ups can come up with fresh workflows using the latest electronic tools, some established publishers are still dealing with antiquated workflows for arranging peer review, typesetting, file-format conversion and other chores.

Still, most older publishers are investing heavily in technology, and should catch up eventually. The publishers of expensive journals give two other explanations for their high costs, although both have come under heavy fire from advocates of cheaper business models: they do more and they tend to be more selective. The more effort a publisher invests in each paper, and the more articles a journal rejects after peer review, the more costly is each accepted article to publish. Publishers may administer the peer-review process, which includes activities such as finding peer reviewers, evaluating the assessments and checking manuscripts for plagiarism.

They may edit the articles, which includes proofreading, typesetting, adding graphics, turning the file into standard formats such as XML and adding metadata to agreed industry standards. And they may distribute print copies and host journals online. Some subscription journals have a large staff of full-time editors, designers and computer specialists.

But not every publisher ticks all the boxes on this list, puts in the same effort or hires costly professional staff for all these activities. For example, most of PLoS ONE 's editors are working scientists, and the journal does not perform functions such as copy-editing. Some journals, including Nature , also generate additional content for readers, such as editorials, commentary articles and journalism including the article you are reading. Would scientists' appreciation for subscription journals hold up if costs were paid for by the authors, rather than spread among subscribers?

The real question is whether that work is needed, and that's much less obvious.


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Many researchers in fields such as mathematics, high-energy physics and computer science do not think it is. These approaches suit communities that have a culture of sharing preprints, and that either produce theoretical work or see high scrutiny of their experimental work — so it is effectively peer reviewed before it even gets submitted to a publisher. But they find less support elsewhere — in the highly competitive biomedical fields, for instance, researchers tend not to publish preprints for fear of being scooped and they place more value on formal journal-based peer review.

Tied into the varying costs of journals is the number of articles that they reject. The connection between price and selectivity reflects the fact that journals have functions that go beyond just publishing articles, points out John Houghton, an economist at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia.

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By rejecting papers at the peer-review stage on grounds other than scientific validity, and so guiding the papers into the most appropriate journals, publishers filter the literature and provide signals of prestige to guide readers' attention. Such guidance is essential for researchers struggling to identify which of the millions of articles published each year are worth looking at, publishers argue — and the cost includes this service.

A more-expensive, more-selective journal should, in principle, generate greater prestige and impact.


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  • Yet in the open-access world, the higher-charging journals don't reliably command the greatest citation-based influence, argues Jevin West, a biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. And to Eisen, the idea that research is filtered into branded journals before it is published is not a feature but a bug: a wasteful hangover from the days of print. Rather than guiding articles into journal 'buckets', he suggests, they could be filtered after publication using metrics such as downloads and citations, which focus not on the antiquated journal, but on the article itself see page She argues that the brands, and accompanying filters, that publishers create by selective peer review add real value, and would be missed if removed entirely.

    PLoS ONE supporters have a ready answer: start by making any core text that passes peer review for scientific validity alone open to everyone; if scientists do miss the guidance of selective peer review, then they can use recommendation tools and filters perhaps even commercial ones to organize the literature — but at least the costs will not be baked into pre-publication charges.

    These arguments, Houghton says, are a reminder that publishers, researchers, libraries and funders exist in a complex, interdependent system.

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    His analyses, and those by Cambridge Economic Policy Associates, suggest that converting the entire publishing system to open access would be worthwhile even if per-article-costs remained the same — simply because of the time that researchers would save when trying to access or read papers that were no longer lodged behind paywalls.