The publisher Springer tries to stiff me

There’s not much news today except for what you already know: Trump is imposing ridiculous tariffs on China, which will, contrary to his stupid claim, cost U.S. citizens more. Tariffs are never a good idea. And Doris Day died.  The big news from Chicago is that all ten of my ducklings are still alive and thriving, which goes a long way toward counteracting the bad news.

In the absence of news, here’s a personal rant, which I’ve made before. Commercial scientific publishers like Springer and Elsevier are well known for gouging both scientists and university libraries by charging huge amounts for subscriptions to journals, for “publication charges” (what you pay when you publish a paper in their journals), and for online reprints. I recently discovered, for instance, that the University of Chicago Library, which is not impecunious and is well stocked with journals, can’t afford to carry Nature Ecology & Evolution, an important journal in my field. That’s because its publisher, like all Nature journals, is Springer, and is charging more money for the journal than our library can afford. (This is not a predatory journal or an obscure one; it’s one I would read if I had access.)

As I wrote in 2016, the profit margins of commercial science publishers are obscene. My beef at that time, which still holds, was this:

I’ve long complained about the bloated profits of commercial scientific publishers, which can be as high as 40%. That’s obscene if you realize that other companies which actually make a product make far less money, that the scientific publishers get that money by not only charging authors to publish there, but having their scientific papers refereed and improved by reviewers who are paid nothing. Those reviewers—and I’ve done plenty of gratis reviewing for journals like Nature and Current Biology, as well as for journals issued by less greedy publishers—are done out of a sense of “public service”. Profit-hungry journals like to play on our sense of duty and public service, all the while raking in huge profits by using scientists to do the journal’s job for free. And remember that these journals charge people for access to papers that are, by and large, funded by government grants—by the taxpayer. It’s reprehensible that the public who funds such research is denied access to the results of that research.  (Some funding organizations, however, allow journals to charge for access for only one year. But even that is too much.) Commercial publishing of taxpayer-funded research is a travesty unless the profits, beyond those needed to pay salaries and run the company, are plowed back into more science.

But young scientists, who need to make their reputations by publishing in well-known journals like Cell and Nature, have no choice, for their hiring, tenure, and promotion often depend on what journals accept their papers. Sadly, many of the “high quality” journals are put out by greedy publishers. And it’s not just young scientists, either: organizations that hand out grants often look at where you’ve published your papers before deciding whether to give you further funds.

I’ve complained about this before, especially about the company Elsevier, one of the greediest scientific publishers around (see here). Eventually I, and 16,383 other scientists (the number is growing), pledged to do no more work for Elsevier until they adopted reasonable business practice instead of gouging scientists. Even editors have fought back: as I reported last November, “all six editors and 31 editorial board members of Lingua, a highly reputed linguistics journal that has the misfortune to be published by Elsevier, have resigned in protest of high library and bundling fees and of Elsevier’s refusal to convert the journal to open access.”

Companies like Springer and Elsevier are, unlike society journals or university-published journals, purely capitalistic: their aim is not to disseminate science, but to make money. And they do. Here are the profits I reported in the post above; note that I can’t be sure that these figures hold now, nor that they were absolutely accurate in 2016. But this is what I had:

Want to know the obscene level of profits these companies make? From Sauropod Vertebrata Picture of the Week, we have a listing of the profits of well known technical scientific publishers. These are from 2012 and represent profits as a percentage of revenue:

Here’s a comparison of profits from various companies, including nonscientific ones, listed on Alex Holcombe’s blog in 2013; they’re compared to profits of other companies. [JAC: I believe these are profits as a percentage of revenues.]

As pointed out in the article I’ll shortly summarize, Elsevier made a profit of $1.13 billion dollars in 2014—1.3 times the entire annual budget of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

One way that companies like Springer fatten their purses is by getting scientists to do reviewing for them, and then paying them nothing or almost nothing. What this means, in effect, is that scientists are working as no-wage slaves so that commercial scientific publishers can make more money. Here’s an email I got yesterday from an editor at Springer (names changed to protect the capitalists):

From: [NAME REDACTED]
Sent: Monday, May 13, 2019 2:50 PM
To: Jerry Coyne
Subject: Population Genetics-Historical Fiction

Dear Prof Coyne,

Greetings from New York.  Please allow me to introduce myself as an editor in Life Sciences at Springer.  As you may know, Springer is an international publisher of scholarly research and reference works in a variety of academic disciplines.

We have recently received a book proposal entitled [TITLE AND DESCRIPTION OF BOOK REDACTED]. Given your academic interest in this field, I wonder if you are available to review this unique project for scope and suitability for publication (2 pages plus sample chapters).  I am delighted to offer any ebook of your choice from Springer (valued at $250 or less) as a token of my gratitude.  In the event that you are unable to review for us,  please feel free to suggest a colleague who might be a suitable alternative.

I look forward to hearing from you, and thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

With best wishes,
[Name REDACTED]

Note what they’re offering. In return for several hours of work (I’d have to review a short book proposal but also “sample chapters”, which are long and take time), I get an ebook of my choice. Now what does that cost Springer? Nothing! Once an ebook is produced, handing out one free copy to a reviewer has a marginal cost of zero. (And I don’t even read books online.) In other words, they’re asking me to put in several hours of work in return for bupkes. Nobody else who invested so much time in acquiring scientific expertise would be expected to work for nothing. But journals like this one do, counting on our “sense of duty as scientists.” (Some companies do offer real books, but often of a value less than that of a reviewer’s time, especially given that the cost of a book to a publisher is about half what you’d pay in a bookstore or online.)

Well, I will and do exercise a sense of duty for journals that aren’t run for profit, but not for companies like Springer. I wrote them this reply:

Sorry, but the offer of an e-book, which costs you virtually nothing, is hardly reasonable payment for what would be at the minimum several hours of work on my part. I should make at least as much as a plumber, don’t you think?

And I don’t have an e-reader.

I consider such offers pure exploitation of academics so that your already obscenely large profits (34% of revenue) can become even larger. When you offer a decent stipend instead of e-books, then maybe you’ll get more takers.

I’ll add that your journals cost so much that our library at the University of Chicago cannot even afford to take Nature Ecology & Evolution, which is a journal right in my area.

I can see why you make so much profit: you pay book reviewers virtually nothing.

Yours,
Jerry Coyne

46 Comments

  1. Murali
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Can’t people set up a web service to host the papers that would otherwise appear in Nature Ecology & Evolution? You could, in principle, have the same review process. Would that be cheaper?

    • David Harper
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      This already exists. It’s called Public Library of Science, or PLOS. All papers are open access — free to everyone with an Internet connection. PLOS does require authors to pay a processing fee for submitting a paper, although it has various assistance programmes for authors who have limited funds. But overall, PLOS is non-profit. The fees are intended only to cover operating costs.

      • Murali
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        I see; I was not aware. Then I would expect scientists to prefer PLOS over Nature Ecology & Evolution. It can potentially reach a wider audience. However, charging a large sum of money for Nature Ecology & Evolution suggests that the strategy works for Springer. Does it? If so, why?

        • David Harper
          Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:34 am | Permalink

          Researchers in universities are under huge pressure to publish papers in high-impact journals such as the Nature family. Careers are literally made or broken on how many papers a researcher can publish each year, and in which journals. Publishers such as Springer, Elsevier and Wiley are simply taking advantage of this publish-or-perish culture, and the fact that the PLOS family of journals still don’t have as high a reputation as the Nature family.

          • Murali
            Posted May 14, 2019 at 11:11 am | Permalink

            I see. So they have something you badly want and they put a high price on it. It seems that a natural solution to the problem is to have a stringent review process that sets high standard for a cheaper alternative like PLOS.

          • Posted May 15, 2019 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

            You explain nicely the root cause of the problem, which scientists (as a hierarchically organized community) have created and are maintaining themselves.

        • Jonathan Wallace
          Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:39 am | Permalink

          Basically for the reason that Prof Coyne outlined. Many of the Journals involved are prestigious and it is important for scientists to get published in these journals for career progression. Because a lot of the top quality science gets published in them it is equally difficult for university libraries to refuse to subscribe to them if they wish their institutions to remain at the forefront of scientific disciplines. In other words Elsevier et al have the academic community over a barrel. It is very difficult to break this hegemony.

  2. Joseph McClain
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    I worked at Case Western Reserve University for a time. In the early 90s, they put the university libraries under the aegis of the VP of IT. The U. build a new library, under his watch. The guy was certain that there would need to be less floor/shelf real estate for this thing, dubbed “the library of the future,” as academic/science journals would now be available digitally…AND because there was no printing, they would cost much less.
    Long story short…the library was constructed along those lines and it was a dual miscalculation.

    • Janos Simon
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      It was not a dual miscalculation. Science journals, especially in technical fields, are typically read online. The same is true of many popular textbooks — sometimes through legitimate sites (e.g. many of the books by Cambridge), often through pirated copies. Even in the humanities, scholars use JSTOR as much as paper journals.

  3. Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    So true. It gets worse

    I wrote a chapter in a text for osteopathic medical students on how to approach orthopedics.
    Took many hours as biomechanics or bone physiology not a big part of curriculum but all docs should know differential diagnosis of hip pain in all ages and how to examine, or why knees become angled and what can be done.

    I got a free book

    Cantankerous, I expected all applicants to the residency be able to explain the concepts.

    The pay walls for Springer and others high cost of medical journals profoundly high and papers written are not pay for writing.
    Even decades ago authors had to buy reprints of papers to send to fellow researchers.

    Thanks

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Your review of the greed in science publication is a condition of the new reality in business and in education. It is a sad and corrupt system that we see developed in many other areas. Today we see corruption in the application to the top schools and we see schools almost bragging they turn away 90 percent of their applicants. It is like a hostel for the poor bragging they turned away 90 percent of the homeless looking for a place to stay.

    The answer, if there is one, seems to be along legal angles or maybe academic regulation? I do not know the answers but it is getting worse all the time. We see our entire democratic systems going away while people sit around hopelessly playing with their cell phones.

    • Posted May 15, 2019 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      It is not a good system, however, to accept too high a proportion of applicants. Many high school graduates do not really qualify for university, do not realize this (or do not care), and if let in, will disturb the education and try to graduate by any means.

  5. bugfolder
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Ebooks as compensation? That is exceptionally cheapskate. I’ve reviewed book proposals for my book publisher (CRC, part of T&F, part of Informa, so yeah, their journal side is part of the racket) and they’ve given me copies of real print books of my choice in exchange.

  6. Simon Hayward
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Jerry, agree with the general point, and the e book offers are just insulting. They will also sometimes offer a percentage off one of their titles, again pretty much cost free from there end. I do note however, that my U Chicago library account gives me access to Nature Eco Eco (just checked because we have a paper in review there and I wanted to be sure I could get to it if it ever gets accepted)

    Short of finding the actual library (whose location is unknown to me, you prob know better) I have no way of knowing if they have physical copies, but you should be able to get the pdfs.

    • Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Simon,

      Thanks. I looked this morning and couldn’t find it, but I must have searched wrong. But I know that a few months ago I couldn’t find the journal there and I used the “ask a librarian” chat, and that librarian told me they didn’t have the journal because it was too expensive. My suggestion that they subscribe might have worked.

      • Dominic
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:42 am | Permalink

        was going to say, we have it if you are in need… we have to cut £1m across the UCL libraries next year… !

  7. BJ
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    This is obscene and horrifying. All scientific studies should be available to the public, while the companies should be raking in far smaller profit margins. This is a problem that has become worse and worse over the last few years.

  8. peterschaeffer
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    ‘Tariffs are never a good idea’ Really? The US economy was built (literally) behind high tariff barriers. To some degree, the Civil War was over tariff (Dicken’s supported the South for a while because he opposed tariffs). After the Union prevailed, high tariffs became American policy and America boomed.

    Over the last few decades the U.S. has moved towards much lower (or zero) tariffs. The results have been decidedly mixed.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      Mercantilism passed from fashion long about the turn of the century — the one where the 19th turned into the 20th.

      • peterschaeffer
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

        “the one where the 19th turned into the 20th”

        Perhaps you can convince the Chinese and Japanese of the merits of your position. Good luck with that.

        In real life, the U.S. was highly protectionist until after WWII. Check “Tariff in United States history” in Wikipedia. Find the chart labeled “U.S. Productivity, Real Hourly Compensation and Trade Policy (1948-2013)”

        For better or worse “free trade” has brought relatively slow growth in GDP but a fantastic increase in inequality. Of course, I would be the first to argue that other (related) factors are also responsible.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      I would disagree with your use of history as justification for Trump actions today. All through the early days of this country there was no revenue producer except tariffs on imported goods. No income tax. Certainly not true today. Also, a young country getting started in the world attempting to grow it’s beginnings of industry is different and needed some protection. Again, not true in the global economy today. The really bad thing Trump is doing here today is attempting to solve other issues with China via a tariff war. I suppose if you don’t know anything about diplomacy you attack. He makes stupid statements like companies should move back over here or tariffs provide income. Both show he does not know what he is talking about.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        In the meantime, NSA John Bolton keeps goosing the Donald toward some type of military adventurism in Iran. He’s got a bomber-wing equipped carrier group in the Persian Gulf, and the Pentagon has drawn up plans for sending over 120,000 troops.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted May 14, 2019 at 11:23 am | Permalink

          Where are the democrats on this in congress. They should be raising hell. So should the republicans. The house, where the democrats are in charge should be working on a bill to appose this crap. What has Iran done to cause any of this? Nothing.

          I cannot understand the low key on democrats either in congress or the 22 or more running for office. Hello folks – the enemy is Trump, not your fellow democrats.

      • peterschaeffer
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

        “Again, not true in the global economy today”

        You are naive. In 1960, the could afford to be complacent about our economy (were actually weren’t). Now China is the dominant economic power of the world and the U.S. is in decline. Of course, life for the elite is good so no need to rock the boat.

        In the 1960, when American preeminence was quite real, the U.S. was hardly complacent and jealously guarded its foreign trade. Now American leadership is gone, we have gigantic trade deficits, and an an utterly complacent elite.

      • peterschaeffer
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

        Your post contains two directly contradictory statements

        “All through the early days of this country there was no revenue producer except tariffs on imported goods”

        “He makes stupid statements like companies should move back over here or tariffs provide income”

        So do tariffs provide income or don’t they?

      • peterschaeffer
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        Let me quote from a well-known Republican

        “Give us a protective tariff and we will have the greatest nation on earth”

        “I don’t know much about the tariff, but I know this. If I buy a coat in England, I get the coat and England gets the money. If I buy a coat in America, I get the coat and America gets the money”

        Those quotes are from Abraham Lincoln. The first one is a campaign promise. How many politicians have ever delivered on any campaign promises, much less promising to create “the greatest nation on earth”?

        Let’s try another well-known Republican

        “Pernicious indulgence in the doctrine of free trade seems inevitably to produce fatty degeneration of the moral fibre,” wrote the Rough Rider, “I thank God I am not a free trader.”

        The author in this case was Teddy Roosevelt.

        It is a sad truth, obviously missed by the George Will (and other Democrats / Republicans), that “free trade” has historically been associated with economic decline. If George Will paid a bit more attention to economic history, he would know this.

    • Harrison
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      I don’t agree with PCC that tariffs are “never a good idea,” but I definitely don’t think this administration has the first clue how to use them properly. And Donald still refuses to understand that tariffs are a tax levied on the domestic populace, not a fine imposed on a foreign nation.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        Trump’s top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, essentially admitted as much this weekend to Chris Wallace on Fox News, although he did his damnedest to hedge the truth, so as not to get in Dutch with his boss.

      • peterschaeffer
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

        Of course, tariffs are taxes on domestic consumers. Like all taxes they have some economic impact. In this case, they favor domestic product over foreign production.

    • Posted May 14, 2019 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      Tariffs are taxes on Americans, so you might think Republicans would hate them. But they are very regressive taxes, which is why Republicans like them.

      • peterschaeffer
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

        If you were correct, Republicans would favor energy taxes (which are highly regressive) and a VAT (also regressive). In real life, Republicans oppose both. Republican (some Republicans) support for tariffs is long-standing. Let me quote from a well-known Republican who made the most outlandish campaign promise in all history and delivered on it.

        “Give us a protective tariff and we will have the greatest nation on earth”

        That a quote from Abraham Lincoln.

        • BJ
          Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for making these far more nuanced posts in this comment thread.

  9. Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    One small point. When deciding if the compensation for doing a job is worth it, you shouldn’t be considering what that compensation costs the other party but what it is worth to you. If somebody offered me $250 worth of ebooks as compensation for a job and I considered it a reasonable amount, it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest that it cost them nothing. They have something I want. I have something they want. Both sides benefit.

    That said, even 250 actual dollars isn’t enough for the work you describe. I’d find being offered a book token for serious work insulting whether they got it for free or had to pay for it.

    btw, having an eReader is not such a bad thing. It’s great when you are travelling because it eliminates quite a lot of weight in terms ofd real books.

  10. rickflick
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Is disgust the right emotion? 🤮

  11. P. Puk
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    My favourite words in this article were, “virtually nothing.”

  12. Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Nature communications and subject journals asre taking advantgage of the frontline status of Nature itself.

    Does Nature now suggest to authors who submit papers that do not make their exalted and at times arbitrary cut that they submit to one of these offshoots? At a much lower level, approaching the predatory, Taylor and Francis does this sort of thing, as the Conceptual Penis demonstrated

    There are problems with the author pays model. I commend submitting to journals published by learned societies; these generally provide both good value, and high standards

    • David Harper
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Your comment about journals published by learned societies isn’t universally true, alas.

      In my own field, astronomy, the American Astronomical Society publishes two top-rated journals: The Astronomical Journal and The Astrophysical Journal. Both have page charges that authors must pay, and both are available only to paying subscribers.

      The Royal Astronomical Society, by contrast, doesn’t levy page charges on authors who submit papers to Monthly Notices of the RAS, another top-rated journal, even if they are not members of the RAS. It does, however, charge non-members for access to papers.

      Another leading journal, Astronomy & Astrophysics, is supported by the European Southern Observatory organisation (ESO), and doesn’t levy page charges, but it only accepts papers where at least one author is a member of an institution affiliated to ESO.

      There’s no such thing as a free lunch, even in journals published by learned societies.

  13. Charles Sawicki
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Clearly a rip-off. Is online access only much cheaper? Or library did this years ago for ones of interest to me and it saved a lot of money. I like it much better than paper journals since it’s easy to download digital copies which can be converted to Word or other software and stored on your HD.

  14. Janos Simon
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    It is worth looking at Gowers’ blog
    https://gowers.wordpress.com/category/elsevier/

    (he is a Fields medalist, and very active in this)

    An extra irony is that Elsevier got its name from the unrelated Renaissance publishing house, founded by a Lodwijk Elzevir in 1583. (The name suggest Marrano Jewish origins) They published Galileo’s banned Dialogue on two New Sciences, when it was banned by the church…

    • Posted May 15, 2019 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      I understand the current name is just sort of a pun on the original publisher by that name.

  15. Posted May 15, 2019 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    One of the wisest things a mentor ever taught me was this gem from an old attorney: “You can always count on greed.”

  16. Posted May 15, 2019 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Appalling, if a private university in the richest country in the world with (what I take to be) an excellent department in the relevant field cannot afford things like this. Imagine what it is like in less fortunate circumstances!

    And it is so hard to change “the best journal” – it is sort of a multiplayer prisoner’s dilemma situation.

  17. peterschaeffer
    Posted May 15, 2019 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    One obvious question (once you accept that “free trade” isn’t working) is “what is to be done”

    I favor a much broader and deeper trade policy. More specifically, I favor the “Squanderville” plan outline by Warren Buffet back in 2003. See below.

    “America’s Growing Trade Deficit Is Selling The Nation Out From Under Us. Here’s A Way To Fix The Problem–And We Need To Do It Now.” http://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2003/11/10/352872/index.htm

    The Squanderville plan requires that importers (of everything) to obtain their money to pay for imports from exporters. In other words, it forces imports to equal exports. From an economic perspective, it amounts to a (large) tariff on imports and a (large) subsidy for exports. Stated differently, it amounts to a major devaluation of the dollar for trade purposes.

    Of course, U.S. adoption of the Squanderville plan would trigger a much larger international response. The rest of the world likes that status quo where they profit and America declines. They won’t give it up (the status quo) lightly. They will threaten tariffs and non-tariff barriers to US trade and investment. Since the Squanderville plan does not discriminate against any specific product or country, they U.S. will be in a strong position to resist foreign retaliation. The real problem is that powerful domestic interests like the status quo, irrespective of how bad it is for the U.S.

    Another set of ideas can be found in the writings of Andrew Grove.

    “Andy Grove: How America Can Create Jobs”
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2010-07-01/andy-grove-how-america-can-create-jobs.

    Grove died this year. One of the commentaries on his death, extensively noted his commitment to prosperity in America. See

    “Andy Grove’s Warning to Silicon Valley”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/26/opinion/andy-groves-warning-to-silicon-valley.html. Quotes
    “Mr. Grove acknowledged that it was cheaper and thus more profitable for companies to hire workers and build factories in Asia than in the United States. But in his view, those lower Asian costs masked the high price of offshoring as measured by lost jobs and lost expertise. Silicon Valley misjudged the severity of those losses, he wrote, because of a “misplaced faith in the power of start-ups to create U.S. jobs.”

    Mr. Grove contrasted the start-up phase of a business, when uses for new technologies are identified, with the scale-up phase, when technology goes from prototype to mass production. Both are important. But only scale-up is an engine for job growth — and scale-up, in general, no longer occurs in the United States. “Without scaling,” he wrote, “we don’t just lose jobs — we lose our hold on new technologies” and “ultimately damage our capacity to innovate.””

    • Posted May 15, 2019 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      This is fine but please make your comments shorter in the future as per the Roolz.

      • peterschaeffer
        Posted May 16, 2019 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        Interesting… My sense of it is that short comments (except this one of course) tend to be expressions of bias, opinion, spleen, etc. Longer comments tend to be more factual and better substantiated.

  18. Posted May 19, 2019 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    I think the profit margin figures are misleading. Making 40%margins isn’t that much for a company like Springer or Elsevier whose products are mostly digital. On the other hand, companies like BMW (car manufacturer) and Rio Tinto (mining) have lots of hard assets, like factories and manufacturing equipment—which costs money to acquire and maintain—which makes it a lot harder for them to be extremely profitable.

    It would be better to compare the publishers’ profit margins to those of Internet companies like Moneysupermarket or Google, or perhaps even a Facebook. This is not me defending the publishers, I just want like to be compared with like, to avoid giving people the wrong impression.

    And, as an ex-academic myself (turned business analyst), the problem isn’t really with the publishers; it’s with academia—which needs to stop asking of people to publish in high-impact journals and instead ask hiring committees and funding bodies to actually -do their jobs- and assess competency based on merit and no what journal they’ve published in. If this is hard to do, well, you they are free to keep paying the publishers for their impact factors.


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