Publisher wants to take journal Open Access

October 12, 2015

Someone forwarded me what appears to be credible evidence that Wiley is considering taking Addiction Biology Open Access.

To the tune of $2,500 per article.

At present this title has no page charges within their standard article size.

This is interesting because Wiley purchased this title quite a while ago at a JIF that was at or below my perception of my field’s dump-journal level.

They managed to march the JIF up the ranks and get it into the top position in the ISI Substance Abuse category. This, IMO, then stoked a virtuous cycle in which people submit better and better work there.

At some point in the past few years the journal went from publishing four issues per year to six. And the JIF remains atop the category.

As a business, what would you do? You build up a service until it is in high demand and then you try to cash in, that’s what.

Personally I think this will kill the golden goose. It will be a slow process, however, and Wiley will make some money in the mean time.

The question is, do most competitors choose to follow suit? If so, Wiley wins big because authors will eventually have no other option. If the timing is good, Addiction Biology makes money early and then keeps on going as the leader of the pack.

All y’all Open Access wackaloons believe this is inevitable and are solidly behind Wiley’s move, no doubt.

I will be fascinated to see how this one plays out.

50 Responses to “Publisher wants to take journal Open Access”

  1. zb Says:

    My inclination would be to suspect that this is a sign that the subscription model is marching off the cliff.

    Wiley is presumably facing resistance from subscribers (i.e. libraries) in bundling Addiction Biology with its other journals in its package.


  2. zb Says:

    PS: It’s easy for me to be an open access wackaloon because I think many of the journals I’ve published in had page charges (especially if you include the color figure charges).


  3. WH Says:

    NPG did the same thing with Nature Communications. At first, you could have your article published there behind a traditional paywall with no publication charges at all.

    Now that its OA is in the double digits, the journal is open access only for the low, low price of $5,200 per article.


  4. Newbie PI Says:

    That is a pretty steep charge for an IF=5.3 journal. I’d predict that people will find alternatives unless it really is akin to a glamour journal in your field. Nature Communications can get away with their outrageous fee because people will do just about anything to have “Nature” on their CV. Same with Cell Reports. But I don’t see that same mindset applying to Addiction Biology.


  5. Pinko Punko Says:

    Nature and Cell can do it with their open access publication nets because many of those papers will already have been reviewed/rejected from their other higher tier journals. Authors pay that because they view the price as worth it to save 2-3 months that a “fresh” submission might take to get re-reviewed. In these cases open access charges happen because libraries previously were subsidizing the costs.


  6. DrugMonkey Says:

    Wiley is presumably facing resistance from subscribers (i.e. libraries) in bundling Addiction Biology with its other journals in its package.

    That’s an interesting hypothesis. Why do we presume this?

    That is a pretty steep charge for an IF=5.3 journal.

    How do you calculate what the appropriate JIF/OA charge relationship would be?

    unless it really is akin to a glamour journal in your field

    It is not. However, I suspect that the mere fact that it tops a specific category lets it punch above JIF weight class, i.e., makes it a first option among lateral peer journals.


  7. jmz4gtu Says:

    Publication costs are chargeable to grants, right? So if this is a sign of things to come, it’s another burden universities will be unshouldering on to their faculties’ R01s. For a reasonably successful lab, that could be about 5-8k per year at the prevailing costs. It wont’ sink anyone, but it sure won’t help. Does anyone know if IDCs go to the libraries to pay publisher’s extortionist rates?

    My sense is that now that the big boys have gotten in on the OA game, we’ll see all manner of perversions of the original intent. It’ll bring us closer to their ideal business model, in which labs and universities pay them directly to be bequeathed with academic prestige proportionate to the money spent. Academic prestige of which they are the sole arbiters and gatekeepers.

    Has anyone floated the idea of whether expanding the number of University Press journals into open access (the only one’s I’m familiar with are Rockefeller’s and they are pretty respectable in my field) might be a good idea? They have less incentive to run it as a money making business (as they’re nominally non-profits) and some institutional incentive to maintain scholarly credibility. This would separate them from traditional publishers and open access. I suppose there are conflicts of interest with faculty, but I don’t see that they’re completely unavoidable, nor that they’re not worse than what happens now.


  8. qaz Says:

    Will Wiley be decreasing the subscription cost of its subscription packages by the many thousands of dollars that it will be getting from faculty paying to publish as “open access”?


  9. @qaz: Hahahahahahahahaha!


  10. dr24hours Says:

    I’m beginning to think that the entire scheme of OA from the outset was not to develop a replacement or alternative model, but to destroy scientific publishing entirely. It’s advanced primarily by radicals who built their own reputations by traditional means, and now want to pull up the ladder behind them by demolishing the “means of production”. Leninists to the core.

    /tinfoil hat


  11. Crystal Voodoo Says:

    Having done a boat load of journal recommendations recently, $2,000-2,500 is the standard OA fee for the bulk of reputable journals (Elsevier, Wiley, PLOS). PLOS One dropped it’s cost to $1,495 this month, but the other flavors are still in the 2k range. Sadly, the cheaper journals are usually suspect.


  12. Jonathan Badger Says:

    Here’s the thing that I never got from anti-OA article charging folks. Are you really saying that you don’t *care* if lots of people can’t read your article because it is behind a paywall? Is the point of publication just to have a publication whether or not it is read? I kind of understand when social scientists and mathematicians complain about OA charges because they are typically dealing with $25,000-$50,000 grants. But in biomedical science with grants in the hundreds of thousands of dollars? Article charges are basically a rounding error.


  13. drugmonkey Says:

    You are moronic if you think $2,500 is a rounding error. And anyone with an email address or access to the mail can read any of my papers for free for the asking.


  14. Ola Says:

    $2500 is daylight fucking robbery IMO. PeerJ can do it for $100. PLoS does $1500, and they’re a >$20m/yr operation. 20 mil! For running a fucking website! Puhleeze!

    Apart from pimping and drug trafficking, what other business model do you know in which the raw material is provided to you essentially for free, the labor is free or peanuts, and you have guaranteed customers who will pay whatever it takes? It’s a license to print money.


  15. Philapodia Says:


    “And anyone with an email address or access to the mail can read any of my papers for free for the asking.”

    You are taking hard-earned money from the poor publishers by circumventing their system and giving away THEIR product for free. It takes them whole MINUTES for them to send e-mails out to ask other scientists to review your article for them, skim the reviews and click the yes/no button, take your data and put it in their format and make a PDF using automated tools, and send information to Pubmed. Your “altruism” will destroy the publishing industry, just like internet destroyed the music industry. You, my friend, are a socialist. [cue dramatic music]


  16. Philapodia Says:

    Question: How much does an editor get paid for their services to these journals? I edited a special edition for one of these publishers awhile back and got about $400 for my services, so is there a “salary” for standing editors? If so, I wonder how much of the page charges goes towards that. A small fraction I assume…


  17. Grumble Says:

    @Ola: “It’s a license to print money.”

    Does that explain why I keep getting spammy e-mails from brand new journals I’ve never heard of, asking me to submit a paper or become an editor?

    I think I should actually accept an invitation to edit for a journal that is completely outside my field, just for kicks. Then I’ll reject every single paper without review. That would go some way towards revoking their license to print money, at least until they wise up and fire me.


  18. qaz Says:

    @JB: “Are you really saying that you don’t *care* if lots of people can’t read your article because it is behind a paywall?”

    But, see, lots of people can read my articles, even behind a paywall. Almost all practicing scientists can read the articles immediately because the universities are paying the subscription fees. And because all of my articles were partially funded by federal dollars (your tax dollars at work), all of my articles are legally required to become free in one year. So the real question is “Are you really saying that you don’t *care* if lots of non-scientists can’t read your article for one year because it is behind a paywall?” which just doesn’t sound so bad.

    And, as DM says, anyone with an email address can read any of my papers for free immediately (as soon as the paper is in press, actually, so before publication) just by asking. Anyone with a web browser can read any of my papers for free on my website if the paper is more than one year old.

    Finally, as I noted in another discussion, science has a long time-constant. Actually, I’m not so sure it would be a bad thing if all scientific articles were required to be held by scientists for a year (for post-pub review! 🙂 ) before being allowed out into the wild.

    Note: I am NOT defending the extortion by publishers who control the fates of our careers. But I fail to see how getting faculty to pay those fees rather than libraries is any less of extortion.


  19. drugmonkey Says:

    JB- what evidence do you have that substantial numbers of people want to read your papers and can’t? I would think a high rate of email reprint requests would be the minimum here. How many do you field for a given paper per month?


  20. zb Says:

    My presumption: Wiley is presumably facing resistance from subscribers (i.e. libraries) in bundling Addiction Biology with its other journals in its package.

    “That’s an interesting hypothesis. Why do we presume this?”

    Because of emails from libraries, with lists of journals, and use statistics, and requests for which journals they can cut. Don’t know about this addiction journal, but have seen it for others.


  21. zb Says:

    A link to a summary of studies on the effect on citations of articles w/open access. Worth reading even if you think the subject needs further study:

    Interesting to note from the chart that Biology is at one extreme. I continue to wonder why open access is largely working in Physics, but not yet in Biology.

    (Would be interesting if the potential of increased citations, and, thus, higher IF, is another driver for Wiley — though the Biology data doesn’t look hugely promising).


  22. zb Says:

    I don’t know if JB can address your question of whether are being blocked access to his own work, but here’s an analysis about Ray Frost, a chemist, and the effect of placing his work in open access repositories on his personal citation rates (that is, they went up).

    Open access repositories aren’t the same phenomenon as pay per publication open access through for-profit journals, so I don’t know how access + citation is influenced by open access but peer reviewed publication in OA v closed journals.


  23. Jonathan Badger Says:

    @qaz, drugmonkey
    I don’t presume that many people are clamoring for my papers (but I’m old enough to remember getting cards in the 1990s from people asking me to physically mail reprints — remember those?). But why not make things as easy as possible for the few that care? Sending me email may be easier than the old postcards, but that’s still much more work than just finding my abstract on Pubmed and clicking “free full text”.

    My main enthusiasm for OA comes from my own experience trying to get papers while working at TIGR (a soft-money institute that did the first microbial genomes), and constantly hitting paywalls. It just isn’t true that “almost all practicing scientists can read articles immediately”. Basically that’s only true for scientists at large universities (and in the first world). Scientists in soft-money institutes and small universities, not to mention the third world, don’t have access to every journal published.


  24. AcademicLurker Says:

    I’m convinced that access is a huge factor in the citation rates of my papers. If I could just get my publications downloadable via Netflix streaming, my h-index would go through the roof.


  25. C.E. Petit Says:

    Even if it’s called a “page fee,” it’s functionally a vanity-press model… and neither more nor less ethical than a vanity press under any other circumstances. Of course, understanding that requires knowing something about how Enlightenment-era “publishing” worked, both on the continent and in England; let’s just say that the various publishing industries have done their (unconscious) best over the last century to bury that knowledge and leave it at that, analogous to ignoring a history of slaveholding in the family.

    What makes this particular change annoying to me is that the publisher’s scientific publications are almost uniformly profitable from ad sales before a single copy is printed or purchased; indeed, the entire cost of the print run would be covered by about three or four subscriptions at the going “library rate”…


  26. zb Says:

    The library backlash against subscription prices, and the attempts of libraries to agitate among faculty is something that I am personally aware of, hence my presumption.

    I wonder if the experience those at high overhead research institutions whose major budget comes from NIH is different from lower overhead universities who support broader libraries?


  27. zb Says:

    Sorry for the bad editing.


  28. drugmonkey Says:

    JB- that right there is classic goal post moving. Nice try.

    zb- having experimented with my own work, I see zero advantage to #OA. And maybe a slight detriment, given uninformed sneering about OA journals in the people that count most- my peers who actually cite my stuff.

    (Also, as it happens, wrt mainstream press/media attention)


  29. qaz Says:

    In response to both JB and DM, re my own work, I do find that OA helps increase citation count (as one measure of readership), but only once you’ve matched impact factors. So, in my experience, for my papers, an open access article is going to get cited at a rate equivalent to a journal that has a slightly higher impact factor (so an OA journal with an impact factor of 3 is cited like a journal with an impact factor of 4). I haven’t seen sneering at open access journals; they seem to be similarly respected to non-OA journals with similar impact factors. However, any advantage of OA is swamped by the impact factor / Glamour problem. A GlamourMag with a high impact factor (16) will get cited, commented on, and (as far as I can tell) read much much more than any open access journal (none of which have even remotely close impact factors to the Glamour journals).

    In terms of mainstream press/media attention, Glamour of the journal and coolness of the press release has definitely trounced any open access impact that I’ve seen in my own work.


  30. Jonathan Badger Says:

    How is it in any way “goal-post moving”? You are the one who made the argument that OA only would help if hordes of people were trying to read my papers.


  31. Grumpy Says:

    My experience is the same as Badger’s, having worked in basic research in Silicon Valley for 5 years following my PhD. I’m surprised that qaz (usually a huge fan) chose such a narrow definition of practicing scientist.

    I’d guess that the *majority* of scientists/engineering MS and PhDs who might want to read a paper in a typical IF=5 Wiley journal are behind a paywall. This includes many of the folks in small universities, third world, retired folks, most corporate forms, etc.


  32. drugmonkey Says:

    . Are you really saying that you don’t *care* if lots of people can’t read your article because it is behind a paywall?

    “Lots of people can’t” morphed into “slightly inconvenient”. That’s moving the goalposts.


  33. WH Says:

    Reddit scholar is also useful for ‘procuring’ articles behind paywalls.


  34. jmz4 Says:

    “This includes many of the folks in small universities, third world, retired folks, most corporate forms, etc.”
    -Most large biotech’s and pharma’s have the same access as most universities (e.g. Phizer, Novartis, Genentech, Merck, Abvi). In fact, sometimes I email people at those places to get around paywalls, since they can have more thorough collections. Considering about 60% of practicing scientists work in academia (via Rocky’s blog and the NSF report) or the Feds (which have comparable access) and the majority of the remainder are employed at one of these large endeavors, I don’t think quaz was wrong to say that most “practicing scientists” have access to most subscription journals.


  35. drugmonkey Says:

    Update: From the observable chatter on this, people who publish in this journal are against taking it Open Access.


  36. Jonathan Badger Says:

    It’s a heck of a lot more than “slightly inconvenienced” – I probably at least skim half a dozen articles a day when I need to get details on something. I’m lucky where I am now has a pretty good set of subscriptions but if I had to send email to get all these articles (probably getting them days after they were relevant to what I need to know) then there is no way I could get work done. When I was back in TIGR I basically ignored papers I couldn’t access in favor of those accessible.


  37. drugmonkey Says:

    I take it you don’t remember the days when you had to walk to the library to “skim” articles you need, JB?


  38. zb Says:

    I talked with a 14yo about open access yesterday — they’d been discussing peer review in biology class and a larger discussion of scientific publications arose.

    She was horrified that there was someone who opposed open access out there on the internet.

    I tried to explain, I think, that the person was opposed to the method of payment (payment by publication rather than subscription), but then I realized I wasn’t sure. Is there opposition to the actual open access to the work? Some reason why only a subset of people should be able to read the taxpayer funded work, even if only during the first year?

    She has found herself enormously frustrated by the number of times she tried to click through to those tempting “pdf download” links only to find that she did not have access and would have to pay to get the original article. No, she’s not a “practicing scientist” and so far she only has used citations in google science fair projects and in debate competitions. But should she have access to the papers? Or, do we want her to have more formal education, and potentially a mentor with academic access before she’s permitted to read the entire paper (and not just the news articles and abstract)? Is there some reason (other than working out the appropriate payment scheme) to limit her access to scientific publications?

    (And, the idea that a teenager should email a scientist in order to obtain access isn’t really a very reasonable one — if she were under thirteen, and she was, not so long ago, she’s not even allowed to have a gmail address).


  39. zb Says:

    Could we address the OA issue if NIH stopped subsidizing university libraries and used the savings to set up a fund used to pay page charges for open access of articles?


  40. zb Says:

    “Update: From the observable chatter on this, people who publish in this journal are against taking it Open Access.”

    Is that the same as saying I want someone else to pay? Or, really (I’m not just being rhetorical) are there other reasons?


  41. Jonathan Badger Says:

    Oh, when I started grad school there wasn’t the Web – I remember those days of photocopying papers from journals whole librarians chided us for pressing down on the bindings (the only way not to lose words on the margins) . No doubt the publishing industry pines for those days when nobody doubted their business models. I’m less nostalgic myself.


  42. jmz4 Says:

    “Is that the same as saying I want someone else to pay?”
    -I think the issue is more that OA journals have a direct financial incentive to publish anything and everything. While the more glam subscription journals have publication costs, many society journals and others will publish a paper without receiving money directly from the lab. Theoretically, their goal is to achieve a level of scholarship that makes university libraries want to carry their journal and subscribe. The financial incentives in this case are properly aligned with scientific goals.

    That being said, this all went out the window when everything started getted bundled into these conglomerates and libraries have to pay the costs for some worthwhile journals and a bunch of journals no one cares about.


  43. zb Says:

    “Theoretically, their goal is to achieve a level of scholarship that makes university libraries want to carry their journal and subscribe.”

    I can see how that if that theory worked in practice, the subscriber model would more closely align with the goal of publishing scientifically curated research (i.e. legitimate peer review) (though it might also incentivize flash, as we sometimes believe it does with the Nature/Science).

    But, as you point out, the bundling models of the large scale publishers (who also publish many of the society journals) does substantially undermine that alignment of incentives.

    The explanation does give me more insight into why the issues of open access, subscription/publication payment, peer review, and post-publication commentary are intertwined. I don’t think that holding on to the subscription model is what’s going to save the gate-keeping model of peer review, though.


  44. Juan Lopez Says:

    My problem with OA is that it is increasing publication costs for labs. A journal in which my lab publishes recently decided to go OA and fees increased substantially. I don’t know if overall the system is now more efficient, and the library is saving a ton of money. Maybe, but I doubt it. Ultimately, the journal is setting the fees to avoid getting any less money, so the difference is that now I am paying from my tight funds. I can afford to pay for it, but the money will have to be cut from something else.
    I didn’t like having my papers locked for a year. But now I am effectively paying for someone else to see my papers. If the student you mentioned had emailed me and asked “would you mind paying $35 so that I can read your paper?”. I would have said no. Now the journal is forcing me to pay in advance, with the argument that this makes it more democratic. My option is to publish elsewhere.
    The only solution is to make publishing not for profit. Only then can things truly become more efficient and money be saved. Right now, it’s only a matter of shifting who gets stuck with the bill. OA is transferring that from libraries to labs. More people get access, but the difference is a year. I don’t mind them waiting for me to save thousands of dollars a year.


  45. qaz Says:

    I am absolutely in favor of open access. I just don’t think it’s the big bugaboo that everyone is screaming about. It takes several years to publish a paper anyway (fighting with journals, working your way down the Glamour hierarchy) and I think that the extra year before the paper is totally free on the internet for all to see (in pubmedCentral or elsewhere easily found by Google Scholar) is not that big a deal.

    Moreover, I think the charges being paid are outrageous. And I don’t like the idea that individual labs are getting squeezed. This will be yet another way that universities can shift costs onto individual labs. I think the cost the libraries paid was also outrageous, but I don’t hear anything about decreasing those costs. So it sounds like the publishers are going to get paid twice.

    By the way, how close is $2500/paper equal to what libraries were (are) paying for journals?


  46. Jonathan Badger Says:

    You do realize that this “extra year” you are talking about only applies to NIH funded research right? Depending on your field, you may only care about that, but realize that, for example, genomics also depends on research funded by the NSF, DOE, USDA, and even NASA (yeah, laugh about the crappy arsenic bacterium paper, but they’ve actually funded a lot of good work on extremophiles). Many for-profit journals (and even bizarrely Science) keep their papers behind perpetual paywall — they really expect you to pay $40 for a paper from 1995.


  47. zb Says:

    “Right now, it’s only a matter of shifting who gets stuck with the bill. OA is transferring that from libraries to labs. ”

    I’m sympathetic, if you would have had to pay that bill out of your pocket. If you write a book on your own time (or even being paid by Novartis or some other private entitty), I don’t think you have to give it to anyone for free (or worse, pay to have it produced) so that anyone could read it.

    But, if your lab is funded, and, especially if government fund the part of your salary that allowed you to produce the work, I think it’s a reasonable expectation that the people funding the work (i.e. the taxpayers) should have access to the work.

    The reality of shrinking budgets I understand, especially the understanding that less work actually might get done, so that the random people who might want to click through to the PDF get it. I can see the cost analysis from the point of view of the lab. But, I don’t understand the ease with which scientists dismiss those who don’t get access to the work as a result of that cost benefit analysis, though, with talk of citations, “practicing” scientists, they can see it in a year (if it’s NIH funded) . . . .

    And, I do think the subscription model will die eventually. The attempts of the publishers to enact law to protect their model is a sign, I think, of the market failure and attempts at special interest rent-seeking.


  48. Juan Lopez Says:

    JB, the year does not apply only to NIH. You might not care about Wellcome Trust funded research, or other sources that also require making the manuscripts available for free, but they do important work. See what I did? Maybe you should not conclude that if I didn’t mention something it means that I don’t care about it. Especially if you are wrong in asserting that this is only about NIH.

    There’s another problem with the free availability after a year: it only applies to new stuff. There’s tens of thousands of old articles for which the companies keep charging. I am at a fairly large R1 university, and still about once a week I find that we are not subscribed to the journal and I can’t read it online without paying. For old papers they don’t have an email.

    Zb, nobody said anything about not making publicly funded research available. Quite the contrary. It should. I have actually paid from my own pocket for publication.

    “But, I don’t understand the ease with which scientists dismiss those who don’t get access”. Perhaps what is blocking your understanding is that we do not dismiss those who don’t get access. It is a problem. I myself want more access to papers (see above). But that’s different from thinking that it’s fair to pay $10k-$20k/ year. It is excessive and someone is getting rich milking this. Transferring costs from libraries to labs will not make it better.

    By the way, I keep hearing the argument that the papers should be available for free because they were supported by taxpayers. Thats a poor argument. They should be available because it makes science better, and humanity better.


  49. Jonathan Badger Says:

    I was actually responding to qaz’s idea that the one year rule was “due to [US] federal funding” as per an earlier comment, which it isn’t — it is an NIH-only thing in regard to federal funding agencies. It’s nice that foreign private sources of funding like Wellcome like openness as well, but that is another matter entirely.


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