Academic dilemma

By Siouxsie Wiles 01/08/2012

I’ve just been listening to Cambridge mathematician Sir Tim Gowers interview from last night on Radio New Zealand National’s Nights programme. He wrote a blog post which sparked the recent boycott of academic publishing giant Elsevier. Currently 12,541 academics have pledged to either not publish, review for or do editorial work for an Elsevier owned journal. I am one of them.

Since becoming head of my own group, I have pledged to publish all my work open access. This means that any papers on which I am a corresponding author will not be behind a pay wall. I’m not doing too badly so far, mainly because I have been able to rely on the generosity of my collaborators at Imperial College London. In fact, Imperial now has a fund that its staff can apply to for help with open access charges.

But I’ve been in Auckland 3 years now and have about 5 papers that are in various stages of being written. So now comes the time to decide which journals to start submitting the papers to. Without the money I had at Imperial. I’m trying to balance impact factor with open access mandate and article processing charges.

Option 1 would be to go for an open access journal that has an impact factor. My current favourites which would be suitable are:

PLOS One: NZ$1,700 per article
BMC Microbiology:NZ$2,385 per article
mBio: NZ$1,850-3,700 per article

Option 2 is to try new kid on the block Peer J, an open access journal which is aiming to be like PLOS One. Basically Peer J charges a one off fee per author starting at US$99 to publish with them. PeerJ is also trying to encourage engagement within the community by requiring each paying member to provide one ‘review’ per year. This can be as simple as commenting on an article, or formally reviewing a paper in the normal pre-publication manner.

Option 3 would be to try the new post-publication peer review ‘journals’ like F1000 Research which aims to rapidly publish papers online under an open access model where the articles will hopefully be peer reviewed by the community. They are currently waiving article processing charges for the rest of the year.

I guess I could try submitting a paper to each model and then see which ones will be understood by whatever PBRF-type system we have to assess academic outputs in 6 years time! I’d be keen to hear everyone else’s thoughts on the matter, though.

On another note, I’ve recently started playing with the awesome Utopia Documents, a free pdf reader which searches the internet for content relevant to the paper you are reading. Go watch the demo on the website. It is amazing.

0 Responses to “Academic dilemma”

  • The ‘other information’ feature of Utopia looks interesting, but other than that, I prefer skim as a PDF reader and annotator (also free).

    (Others might prefer Papers; not free. Still meaning to check how development on that has gone!)

  • As an avid OA supporter, I can only encourage you to try various options. Your pledge to publish all your work with OA is admirable and deserves being widely followed.

    As for Utopia Documents, the ‘other information’ is, of course, one of its key features, connecting PDFs to the web (see Grant Jacobs’ comment). It also gives you the latest article level metrics, new articles in PubMed, and many more up-to-date information resources, up-to-the-minute you open the PDF (not just up to the date you downloaded it). Utopia Documents is available for Mac, Windows and Linux.

  • Utopia looks cool, but I like Mendeley as a Papers-equivalent (although Papers has a Windows version now) – especially like that my library syncs through the cloud to my laptop and home PC. Can annotate PDFs and still print the unannotated versions (useful so students don’t see my ignorant scrawlings). Still haven’t dared to abandon EndNote for references though.

    Re: publication costs, I have observed that OA journals can be cheaper than non-OA once you have paid colour figure charges and page costs (outrageous). I like the PLoS One flat fee model better than colour and page charges (really, I mean, really… it’s the 21st century, or does offset printing still use monks and nibs?). eLife model also looks interesting with strong academic editorship as unique selling point.

  • I posed the same question in a similarly worded tweet a few weeks ago, so they must be putting Open Science in the water now!

    I had a great experience with my last paper, which we sent to PLOS ONE. I like the idea of PeerJ but as far as I can tell they’re not manuscript-ready and won’t be for a bit (end of summer last I heard).

    F1000 is a cool idea and I really dig their partnership with figshare.

    Isn’t competition a wonderful thing?

    • Hi Ethan

      Thanks for dropping by. So what did fellow tweeps reply with?

      I just took a look at your new website, it’s amazing! And I love your animation.


  • A dilemma facing many of us Siouxsie. I’ve published OA two articles this year in med journals at US$3000 a piece! At NZ$10K and rising for publication costs this year it is a real issue, especially as I am on soft money. I think the uni’s & major funding organisations in NZ need to get together to form some policy around this, possibly with a pool of $ dedicated to OA publishing. The other driver in this is PBRF. The impression I got in the recent round was that we should emphasize publications in “high impact” journals. Whilst most journals now have OA possibilities, most OA only journals in the fields I work in are not high impact.

    ps. Grant – I’ve been using Papers for a few years (now v 2.3 on the Mac and also a PC version available, + an iPad version). Because they introduced a referencing feature I have now abandoned EndNote :).

  • kiwiski – I’ve been meaning to review Papers 2.0 for the longest time. My recollection is that when I tested it I felt that while it had an excellent interface it was lacking in some features, one being the bibliography aspect. Others have since pointed at that – hence my meaning to return to it a see how it’s progressed. I’m bumping it up a little on my to-do list 😉 (It was on the list, just languishing down in those things that never really get done. We all know how that goes… things we’d like to do but more important things stand in the way. I did make some progress towards an in-depth review of many bibliographic products and still have the notes; I stopped eventually as it’d be a major undertaking to complete and write up.)