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Academic publishing are here to stay and keeping the discussions about already well voiced topics (ethics, open access charges, paying reviewers) aside, as an academic, what changes would you like to see in the manuscript submission and peer review process for major companies like Elsevier, Springer, Wiley, MDPI?

As a previous postdoc researcher, I think, submission of manuscript should be as straightforward as possible and review should be double blinded for all journals.

What are your thoughts? I am currently a scientific editor with a publishing house, so I am just interested to know if there's any pain points that I have not witnessed during my PhD and Postdoc experience.

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  • +1 , Wonderful question. Do something to encourage individuality of the researcher. May 27 at 12:18
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    Please note: scientific publishing will be seen as a business branch that has a profit return of ~30% or more theguardian.com/science/2017/jun/27/… good luck in changing the system from the inside: there are too many interests in keeping the status-quo (money for free for the management of the top publishers) and scientists are too gullyble to change the system (they would deserve an anthropological study ... of course to be published on Nature ;D )
    – EarlGrey
    May 27 at 13:22
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    I'd love to answer this question, but I'm wondering if I should, since it's arguably opinion-based or a shopping question.
    – Allure
    May 27 at 14:18

4 Answers 4

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Thanks for trying to do things right.

My primary complaint is the astronomical prices and extortionate business practices of some publishers. For example, The Cost of Knowledge is a boycott of Elsevier with over 20,000 participants (I am one), by researchers who object to their practices. I recommend that you read their statement of purpose, signed by world-famous mathematicians including multiple Fields medalists, and avoid the practices which they object to.

You mentioned MDPI. I reviewed a paper for them once, and I will never have anything to do with them again. They made ridiculous demands, such as a referee report within three days -- totally out of line with what is expected in mathematics. They also have spammed my inbox repeatedly. Please do not do this.

Another complaint is that copyediting can be terrible. There is nothing worse than to pour your heart and soul into a paper, submit it to an expensive journal, and watch it get mangled by careless journal staff.

You should keep in mind that academia varies more than you think it does; common publishing practice in one field will be totally unheard of in another. Researchers will not adapt to you; you will need to adapt your workflows to the customs and conventions of each field in which you intend to publish.

Finally, accept that as a publisher you will have little influence. For example double blind review is a very interesting idea, with very compelling arguments in its favor. Math doesn't currently use double blind review (with some exceptions), and there are significant drawbacks as well. If this changes, then it will be because prominent people from within the profession pushed for it. So by all means push for changes you would like to see, but push gently, and don't expect all of your initiatives to pan out.

Good luck to you!

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    +1, you preempted my answer with the last points. Double blind reviews are are not very useful if it is likely that the reviewer knows all 3 people interested in that specific problem personally and has already seen the arxiv-preprint. And don't get me started on all the times I see an ethics/data-collection statement in a pure math paper, because policy apparently trumps common sense...
    – mlk
    May 27 at 12:07
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They should accept .tex source file and provide a decent publishing experience or support, at minimum grammar&spelling checks as well as replotting figures if needed. Wtf do I pay thousands of €/£/$ to some company just to have them exploiting peer review for free and then providing (gated) access to a pdf file?

See one of the few smart pictures from PhDcomics, (Jorge Cham (c) 2009, Nature Vs. Science Pt. 2, 07/17/2009 PhD Comics, Piled Higher and Deeper Publishing, LLC, . republished by 2) (which otherwise is perpetuating PhDs exploitation by trivializing it).

In short: Do something tangible for the money you receive, instead of being a simple matchmaker between scientists and reviewers plus watermarking the document provided to you by the scientists or get ready for the moment community-efforts like volcanica or tectonika will bypass you.

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    Please note: scientific publishing will be seen as a company branch that has a profit return of ~30% or more theguardian.com/science/2017/jun/27/… good luck in changing the system from the inside: there are too many interests in keeping the status-quo (money for free for the management of the top publishers) and scientists are too gullyble to change the system (they would deserve an anthropological study ... of course to be published on Nature ;D )
    – EarlGrey
    May 27 at 13:20
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By vanishing.

For profit publishing has little left to offer researchers. We host files we review each others work. A publishing company only has a name, reputation, a scope, expectation of some quality and copyrights to the work it already holds. Most of those are parasitic and only serve the profit interests of the publishing company, not science.

Name, reputation and expectation of quality are simply branding choices that the company made. These days they only serve to rank papers by the money spent on them and by boards who don't want to think too much when deciding who to promote.

I don't want to talk about the ethics of holding copyrights to most likely publicly funded research works here but a company holding them forms an adversarial relationship with scientists. They can at best be decent about making the works available at low cost but nothing on that front won't improve by making the work public domain in the first place.

That leaves the scope and to a lesser extend expectation of quality. Which is useful for categorising work and making choices on what to read. With the advent of internet and ease of communication, post publication peer review, I think it is best for this to be handled by researchers and not publishers' advertising choices

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    I think this answer represents the view of many academics. Apologies if this is blunt, but the question reads to me like this: "Climate change is here to stay and keeping discussions about well-voiced topics (fossil fuels, methane, flourocarbons) aside, what changes would you like to see for major oil companies like Exxon, BP, Shell?" I would encourage someone who cares about the mission of academia to find a different way to support it than at a big publisher.
    – usul
    May 28 at 6:50
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My pain point is, as I experienced, many of the tedious, sincere but not-so-well-guided works are not really sufficient to publish ; but they totally rot in University closet. Either it is get to published, or a huge amount of intellectual and physical labour just rot without any credits.

I am looking for a new kind of publication article type; where students/ Early career researchers would be able to publish their partial work/ conference presentations/ dissertations, in order to get some intellectual property of their work. Preferably in form of blog or preprint or stack posts or threads/ science exhibition. But the world will thoroughly read and criticise/ collaborate/ feedback on that work. People all over the world from different expertise will be able to ask questions to the researcher directly.

I believe a major portion of research should happen on a very open way like people collaborate in Wikipedia or GitHub. May be it will not suffice to honor with a Ph.D or Post doctoral degree; but it will be more rewarding for enthusiasm, truth and small but sincere work.

This will give a scope to reseaech in spite of staying out of competition and careerism.

Another of my pain point is, choosing the exact journal is very difficult; and within same field of expertise, journals may have different specialisations and tastes. Now if a not-so-appropriate journal is chosen, a lot of time is wasted for both the researcher and the reviewer.

So journals should collaborate themselves and help forward the article to more appropriate journal.

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    Get rid of journals, there are already preprint server for what you are looking for , see eartharxiv.org/repository/list/soil-science as well as journals published by the European Geoscience Union that allow for an open public discussion (it sounds frightening, but it is the most transparent review you may get) geochronology.net/peer_review/interactive_review_process.html
    – EarlGrey
    May 27 at 12:30
  • Wonderful. Does people read and review these preprints?? May 27 at 12:31
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    the idea is that a preprint will then be published later. However, they provide a basis for discussion, for example putting them in CVs or to show someone "hey, I did this, have a look if it makes sense and if you are interested in potential collaboration"
    – EarlGrey
    May 27 at 12:33
  • I have recently seen there is a thing called BioArxiv but never seen people around me using them. May 27 at 12:33
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    1) you may have the wrong people around you 2) you may be one of the (many) triggers required to change the status-quo (or your effort may inspire at least someone else ... not all is in vain, you cannot shape the world alone, but the world is constantly shaped by the sum of every single decision take at every moment)
    – EarlGrey
    May 27 at 12:35

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