The field of science is under-funded but we follow a publication system that has two major (expensive) options for publishing:
- Paywall journals: Scientists do the science and write the papers (using mainly tax money). Scientists act as editors and reviewers check the quality (while paid with more tax money). Once years of work have gone into a paper the journal takes it without paying the authors, academic editors and/or reviewers a single cent and puts the paper behind a paywall. Now universities have to pay the journal huge amounts of money (exact numbers are usually not available due to NDAs) to access the paper to which the journal did not contribute anything (apart from minor formatting issues and putting a pdf on a webpage maybe).
- Open access journals: Same as above (scientists do all the work) but authors even pay the journal a substantial amount of money which can easily go up to 6000 USD in "respected" journals (I am not talking about predatory open-access journals here – the 6k is for example for the journals of the American Chemical Society which publishes a few of the leading journals in our field). For this amount of money the journals do the minor formatting issues mentioned above and upload a pdf on their webpage. There is just no relation between their fees and what they do for it. Here 60-100 USD would be more appropriate than 6000 USD.
Is this not fundamentally wrong that scientists do the work and journals skim off the profit? Why do scientists (and tax payers!) still put up with this?
I do understand that historically :
- Journals made sense as someone needed to print the articles into books to make them accessible to everybody and layouting might have been something non-trivial but nowadays this is not the case any-more.
- Scientists have brought themselves into a dead-lock due to a publish (in high impact and "respected" journals) or perish in which you have to publish in certain journals in order to be seen as a good scientist.
But would it not make much more sense to have tax-money funded web-portals that use editors and reviewers to assess quality of articles and make them available for download as journals do it currently? That would cost a fraction of the paywall and open access fees that journals make money from at the moment.
Why does science still stick with journals? My feeling is that the field of science does not need the journals at all anymore - what am I missing here? I have never really gotten a satisfactory answer from other scientists (mostly things like "this is how things are and we can not change them") therefore I am asking here ...
The question Why are journals used in modern scientific academic research? has a title that sounds similar but the question goes into Arxiv and the answer are in regard to this ("Arxiv is not peer reviewed") which is not the issue discussed here.