‘Does it pay to pay? A comparison of the benefits of open-access publishing across various sub-fields in biology’

Amanda D. Clark, in a February [*PeerJ* study](https://peerj.com/articles/16824/) looking at citations in hybrid journals:

> …. we found that publishing open access in hybrid journals that offer the option confers an average citation advantage to authors of 17.8 citations compared to closed access articles in similar journals. After taking into account the number of authors, Journal Citation Reports 2020 Quartile, year of publication, and Web of Science category, we still found that open access generated significantly more citations than closed access (p < 0.0001). […] This citation advantage based on access type was even similar when comparing open and closed access articles published in the same issue of a journal (p < 0.0001). However, by examining articles where the authors paid an article processing charge, we found that cost itself was not predictive of citation rates (p = 0.14). Based on our findings of access type and other model parameters, we suggest that, in the case of the 152 journals we analyzed, paying for open access does confer a citation advantage. The cake-and-eat-it-too business of hybrid-journals—where subscription revenues are joined by per-author APCs—hinges on the presumed citation (and readership) benefits for the OA articles. In theory, authors get the boost of inherited prestige from legacy journals with, as an expensive bonus, OA gatelessness. cOAlition S has, of course, gone after publishers’ hybrid-style double-dipping, but that hasn’t stopped the practice. Clark and her *PeerJ* coauthors [mention](https://peerj.com/articles/16824/) the author-exclusion stakes, but the [piece](https://peerj.com/articles/16824/) settles for what amounts to author self-help advice: Publish gold if you can, but if you can’t, take the green route. That’s all well and good, but—as the authors [claim](https://peerj.com/articles/16824/)—“publishing gold OA article in a hybrid journal maximizes citations in most scenarios.” Even if green citation results are better than the closed alternative, it’s still the unjust reality that only well-heeled researchers can, so to speak, reach for the top shelf.

‘An Interview with Tracey Armstrong of CCC’

Tracey Armstrong, in an [interview for The Scholarly Kitchen](https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2024/04/03/kitchen-essentials-tracey-armstrong-ccc/) last week:

> What keeps me up at night is the unlicensed use of copyrighted material in AI systems and the lack of recognition globally of the critical, foundational, and perpetual role that copyrighted material plays in powering AI systems. I am focused on ensuring that we have viable market-based licensing solutions for the use of copyrighted content in the training of AI systems and on elevating awareness of the critical importance of using quality content in training, and of the fact that copies are being made in that training process.

The publishers that CCC represents aren’t kept up at night. No, they’re dreaming of licensing revenue from OpenAI and its big-tech peers. It’s almost certainly the case that the marquee LLMs have trained on giant scholarly publishers’ copyrighted content. Last week’s [*New York Times* report](https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/06/technology/tech-giants-harvest-data-artificial-intelligence.html) on the tech firms’ “cut corners” testifies to their insatiable demand for materials. CCC and its publisher-clients are, no doubt, preparing lawsuits *and* negotiating—with the aim, either way, to [profit yet again off the unpaid scholarship of researchers](https://upstream.force11.org/large-language-publishing/).

A side note: Armstrong, in [The Scholarly Kitchen interview](https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2024/04/03/kitchen-essentials-tracey-armstrong-ccc/), claims that CCC is a non-profit. That’s misleading at best. In the early 1980s the U.S. courts [forced the firm to drop its non-profit status](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Clearance_Center), since it had no “interests of any substance beyond the creation of a device to protect their copyright ownership and collect license fees.” As the [Copyright Society notes](https://copyrightsociety.org/organizations/copyright-clearance-center/#:~:text=Founded%20in%201978%20as%20a,is%20a%20for%2Dprofit%20corporation.), “CCC still maintains not-for-profit status in New York, but for federal purposes is a for-profit corporation.”

‘The Cost and Price of Public Access to Research Data: A Synthesis’

Gail Steinhart and Katherine Skinner, [announcing a new Invest in Open Infrastructure report on data-repository funding](https://investinopen.org/blog/the-cost-and-price-of-public-access-to-research-data/):

> Here, we present an initial report on our findings as part of [our project to investigate “reasonable costs” for public access to United States federally funded research and scientific data](https://investinopen.org/blog/ioi-nsf-reasonable-costs-announcement/), generously supported by the US National Science Foundation. This paper focuses on research data as one of the key scholarly output types impacted by the Nelson Memo.

The [full report is worth reading](https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.10729547?ref=investinopen.org)—there’s good definitional work, as well as an impressive overview of the data-repository landscape. My one qualm is that the report, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t address the implications of US public-access policies for *unfunded* researchers. The report is mostly neutral on the various approaches to funding, with direct “structural” support surveyed alongside membership and per-deposit fee models. The problem is that *any* approach that relies on researchers or their host institutions to pay membership or per-deposit fees will exclude scholars; the only fair and sustainable approach is a direct, collective approach that is free to researchers. If the US adopts a mechanism-neutral policy—akin to its APC agnositicism on the article side—we may find ourselves with a broader, fee-based landscape that leaves researchers (including those from the Global South) unable to share their data.

The Publication is Alive!

Mikhail Gorbunov-Posadov, [in a November article in *publications*](https://www.mdpi.com/2304-6775/11/2/24):

> An alive publication is a new genre for presenting the results of scientific research, where the scientific work is published online, and then is constantly being developed and improved by its author. Serious errors and typos are no longer fatal, nor do they haunt the author for the rest of his or her life.

Gorbunov-Posadov has in mind perpetual revision, and a [slew](https://www.mdpi.com/2304-6775/11/2/24) of thoughts for how the publishing world should adapt. And he expects it to happen:

> Only absolute geniuses write perfect texts on the first attempt. All other authors will notice this or the imperfection of their publication after some time and will undoubtedly be happy to have a window of opportunity to improve, correct, or update it. A new paradigm for presenting the results of research is the future. Alive publications will replace many of the current forms of publications based on print traditions. In a few years, the scientist’s mind will be transformed. Taking care to keep a publication up to date will become the norm; moreover, it will become a long-term, irresistible, and vital need, akin to a parent’s care for a child’s development.

Alive or not, widespread support for versioning—with less reverence to a *version of record*—is overdue, especially in [kinetic fields like my own](https://culturedigitally.org/2015/05/media-scholarship-needs-updating-iterative-article-editions-for-a-sped-up-world/).

‘We failed to anticipate how successful APCs would become’

Alison Mudditt, CEO of PLOS, in an [interview with The Scholarly Kitchen](https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2023/03/20/chefs-de-cuisine-perspectives-from-publishings-top-table-alison-mudditt/) about a year ago:

> Back when PLOS launched and focused on the biomedical sciences, charging authors a fee to publish seemed fair and reasonable. Fast forward twenty years and it’s clear that we failed to anticipate how successful APCs would become and how some publishers would exploit this space. So, we’re on a journey at PLOS to move away from APCs entirely but it feels as if much of the industry is heading in the opposite direction with a headlong rush into “transformative” agreements. I can’t see any way in which this won’t continue to disenfranchise researchers in lower- and middle-income countries and so I hope that, as an industry, we can do better.

It’s good to see that PLOS is committed to [repairing](https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2023/03/20/chefs-de-cuisine-perspectives-from-publishings-top-table-alison-mudditt/) a system—author charges—that the nonprofit helped establish. PLOS was the [second publisher, and the first nonprofit, to adopt the APC model](https://items.ssrc.org/parameters/the-library-solution-how-academic-libraries-could-end-the-apc-scourge/) at the turn of the millennium—and the organization chose a fatefully high charge ($1500) that would, in the next couple of years, pave the way for Springer-style $3000 usury.

‘The game of academic publishing’

Nathalie Ann Köbli and colleagues, [writing for *Frontiers in Communication*](https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcomm.2024.1323867/full) on gamification of social scientists’ publishing:

> Quantifying publication outcomes to assess and financially incentivize research performance results in a highly competitive playing field where access to goods and services is denied to those who play the game poorly. The pressure to publish leads to unethical behavior and predatory publishing which are two side-effects of gamified practices. The reviewed literature also shows unequal starting conditions in terms of gender and language inequalities, as well as the dominance of the Global North. We conclude that the gamification of publication practices in the Social Sciences leads to stressful and dreadful environments.

It’s an excellent, sobering [review](https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcomm.2024.1323867/full), one that traces the gamified incentives to the university-market nexus. If anything, the authors’ core point—that publishing is miserable for everyone, and worse still for those on the academic periphery—could be deepened with a nod to author-excluding APCs.

Jeff Pooley is affiliated professor of media & communication at Muhlenberg College, lecturer at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, director of mediastudies.press, and fellow at Knowledge Futures.

pooley@muhlenberg.edu | jeff.pooley@asc.upenn.edu
press@mediastudies.press | jeff@knowledgefutures.org

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