Zoran Skoda
subtracted value

Commercial scientific publishers are bitching that their journals added value to the papers as opposed to the preprint versions. The talk typpesetting, UNIFORMITY of formatting (really: what for ?? Readers are usually picking one article per a time, and the next article to read will be typically anyway in another journal, with another style), especially in reference and font formatting, color pictures, grammatical proofreading, advertising etc.

While it is sometimes true, most treatments of the discussion about the need for commercial scientific journal publishing, even the magna charta of the recent The Cost of Knowledge action contra Elsevier’s practices, neglect the subtracted value of the papers subtracted by the journals in the process.

For example

  • many journals ask for a short format of references, thus imposing the stripping off the title, MR number or the full reference information in general
  • many journals ask to omit the arxiv number for the commercially published papers: if the paper has published version it is written as the only version
  • many journals require adding some irrelevant information because they like it: for example requiring that one writes not only Cambridge University Press, but Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. This can be considered better for some purposes, but isn’t the author the one who is truly interested on balancing which presentation to offer as optimal for his targetted audience; isn’t he the most informed about his audience and its needs ? Is instead more concerned the money-blinded and money-blooded publisher, which bundles for instance Chaos, solitons and fractals (which was a bandit journal for a long period) in their diet package for a library sale ? In ordinary life this would be sort of bullying.
  • very often the journal size limitations or preference force people to shorten writing, often making it hard to comprehend, with omitted large parts of the created material
  • very often the journal’s proofreaders introduce new errors in the final stage of the process, like spelling errors in names, changes in language which change the meaning, formula errors, and so on, without author’s chance to approve or overwrite the change

In personal communications with colleagues I heard hundreds of such complaints.

While in mathematics it is not so much of a concern, in some other sciences, the publishers sometimes ban on posting the preprint version on the web page, either before or after the publication acceptance, or ever. For example, papers considered by journals like Science and Nature can not be available anywhere, any news on the result publicly available beforehand automatically leads to a rejection and maybe more serious charges. Another aspect is that some journals offer the following policy: they offer expensive preediting service. In other words, before the paper goes to the referees they will lift its cosmetics, color pictures and so on up. One pays for the service, pays for the colors, and so on. If your paper comes with hi colors and was pre-lifted it may receive favorable status by the editorial and it will be easier to get accepted (some journals nowdays claim the opposite, but I believe that the independence of the decision is rare). If you insist not to retouche before the decision, or not to add color page with color page charges at all, you are likely not to get friendly treatment, possibly you can be rejected before contacting the expert referees.

It is substantial also that adapting to all the specific style requirements of the journals (as opposed to generic internet archives, e.g. arxiv.org) is quite a substantial hussle for authors who publish with variety of different publishers. It takes time (and even psychological adaptation) to adapt the formatting and style requirements from title pages, citation styles, theorem-styles, emphasis styles, section breaks, the level of detail allowed in the bibliography etc. With publishers changing their formatting macros from time to time, it is even messy for self-archiving the sources. Publishers consider this standardization as they use their standard, but for the author it is precisely breaking her/his own working standard over and over again with new papers. Finally, one sometimes changes the emphasis in working version and submits to another journal, which makes new cycle of changes, and the same if the paper has been rejected and has to be resubmitted to another journal. It is also an additional problem to inexperienced PhD students who write their theses with typically quite different formal requirements than the journals which publish the same material, hence the style can not be universally planned in advance. All this time better being spent for doing research. In experimental sciences, than say in mathematics, as the internal structure of the texts has less internal structure, namely one describes and lists the results, along with illustrations and data, while in mathematics one has extensive and highly structured lemma-theorem-proof-equation internal referencing and many authors optimized their internal systems of macros for bookkeeping it effectively and it leads to waste of time and lowering of the psychological control and intellectual clarity in the eye of the author when one has to break all of these and replace them with artifacts of the journal. When this adds to other frustration in the writing and publishing process, it adds to hesitation of many authors to start or timely finish their writings.

It is important to note that there is an alternative. Establishing overlay academic journals where the refereeing would certify the quality of paper which are otherwise posted on public archives, which, based on refereeing and editorial process, just get some stamp-confirmation/certificate of quality with practices of very mild conformation requests. And other free or cheap online journals respecting the authors and their creative choices and copyright.

Last revised on January 27, 2020 at 06:50:50. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.