To pay or not to pay for publishing

What is this of paying for publishing articles? The intention of this entry is to introduce the subject so that the reader gets a deep and contextual view of the matter and then he or she can draw his or her own conclusions. The scientific journals are mostly shortfall products, economically speaking, supported by institutions that understand that the magazines provide other important intangibles. Only the best magazines of the world have their accounts sort out and even offer benefits. Traditionally, their main source of direct income has been subscriptions and payment for access to articles on Internet based on financing to fund lost of their respective publishing entities.

Therefore, there were and are personal and corporate subscriptions that mainly finance magazines. In fact, in origin, the most part of the subscriptions were personal, until the photocopier was invented (the first crisis of the scientific publishing model). Since this fateful day, they are mainly the universities and research centers that, through their subscriptions, finance magazines with two key limitations, economic and spatial.

But came the fateful Internet and with it came new models that would do nothing to return to be equal. In first place, it is incorporated the use of the electronic mail, accelerating and cheapen the process of shipping and communication with the authors. And the community saw that it was good. Subsequently, magazines give the integral jump to digital format and, little by little, the electronic model starts to complicate and to become expensive, as well as to demand more and more advanced knowledge. In this context emerges a global movement that, without resolving the main crux of the matter, the financing of the magazines, demands the Open Access to scientific productions, or said in other words, requests in justice that the magazines, in favor of the advance of humanity, renounce to their main source of income and put in open their work through the Internet.

The friends of the “all the aloof must be free” they forget that things cost, we can cut costs at the expense of academic interest of the members of the scientific staff of a magazine (editors, reviewers), but it is very difficult to convince to the professionals of the magazine (editors, computer experts, etc.) that work free of charge, unless these roles are poorly assimilated by academics. In this context emerges a new journal-funding model, the one of paying for publishing, that some sell as the solution to the financing of journals and Open Access.

On the basis that someone must assume the costs of editing and that the authors are very interested parts (researchers are both readers and evaluators) intends that the authors who in addition to nourishing the content of magazines feed them with own funds or funding of projects. The author will work well allocating in his projects an amount for the publication of the results. Moreover, paying for publishing may also have its advantages. The system allows to grow in a climbing way, which means that the magazines suit their energies to real needs, allowing them to grow without accumulating fatigue or, said another way, a magazine may edit and publish the number of articles that it wants without limiting to a permanent number as it has a variable budget that adjusts to its needs as this is variable in relation to the number of accepted papers. Also those evaluative and edition processes accelerate, as paying by publishing usually guarantee the professionalization of the services.

Under this new model, there is a development of a few serious magazines, supported by prestigious institutions such as the Public Library of Science (PLOS family). Also, many magazines begin to incorporate an option to “release” the access to the articles prior payment of the author, that is to say, the journals renounce to get paid for the access to an article because the author previously has been paid by it, looking for a greater broadcasting. However, this population of journals is almost anecdotal if compared quantitatively with the population of fraudulent magazines (Predator), which, taking advantage of this model (around 17,000), try to get paid for non-existent evaluation processes. Therefore, publishing in journals that charge for publishing is as eating mushrooms, an option with many risks, unless you have with certain knowledge of the area.

Also it is needed to indicate that traditional magazines, that have been seen pushed to follow the Open Access model, are asking to their authors to collaborate in the costs of edition. These magazines are safe options, remote to the ones of Predator, since during years have demonstrated not having economic interests and is the current situation and the increase of the expenses of constant edition (each year is created an option of payment that improves the features of the web of the magazine) what has led to request the help of the authors to pay part of the process, magazines of the quality of Prisma Social, Revista Latina de Comunicación Social or Icono 14. Normally small and well justified quantities.

Let’s recap and summarize. 1. There are magazines that make that the costs of edition are paid by the authors, and this is a licit model, however, due to the massive phenomenon of the Predator magazines, the greater part of the magazines that get paid for publishing are fraudulent. 2. Paying for publishing allows content to be open access, but prevents researchers without resources to publish in these journals unless they are “scholarships holders” by the same (Plos One has a help policy). 3. The best scientific journals do not tend to be in Open Access or charge to their authors, this of paying for publishing is a rare practice in the magazines of elite, that is spreading to the mediocre journals and which is mostly in the fraudulent journals.

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