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Recently, my girlfriend, who is a Ph.D. scholar in an institute in India, and currently awaiting her thesis submission, submitted an article to Hindawi.Ltd., in which she is the primary author and her guide is the corresponding author. There was an Article Publishing Charge (APC) of USD 775, that the concerned research group was supposed to settle, conditionally, once the article gets accepted.

The research article was accepted, and the research group was instructed to make the settlement for the APC. Instead of duly paying the APC, her professor totally ignored responding to the mail. Even though he was prompted, on multiple occasions, to either pay the amount or respond to the email, he simply postponed taking any step to address the issue. Emails kept coming regularly reminding the professor of strictly paying the APC, and seeking a valid explanation as to what blocks him from duly responding to the emails and initiating the payment process.

His stand/ opinion was that it could be due to a miscommunication between the team that manages the APC and that that is associated with publishing the article. In other words, the professor was looking forward to a possible scenario where there would be no longer any emails from the Publication house, or there would be a relaxation/ waiver in the APC, put forward by the Publishing group.

Recently, the research team received two emails, dated a week apart:

Email 1

Debt collection – Payment request

Total outstanding amount: USD 775

Dear Sir or Madam

As an international operating debt collection company, we have been instructed by our client Hindawi Ltd. The Atrium

to secure immediate settlement of this outstanding amount. Our client advised us that they have not received a satisfactory explanation for your non payment and we therefore require that you send your remittance until

15.09.2023

in USD to Hindawi, bank account no.

After receiving this email, the professor sent an email, apologizing to the publishing group for not duly responding and requesting the publishing group a waiver and not toss the article out.

He received the following response.

Email 2:

Thank you for your message. We suggest that the authors share the fee. Please make a payment directly to Hindawi and send a proof of payment. Otherwise it may cause problems to place future publications with Hindawi or Wiley. The publishing fee can not be waived. Your manuscript has been reviewed and published. The service has been provided and must be paid. We hold all below stated authors and Universities/Institutes liable for the claim. The debt collection procedure will be continued until receipt of payment.

Now, the professor is asking the first author (my gf) to help him make a decision and suggest a response that could reply to the recent email. She is currently on a fellowship and she is yet to receive the forthcoming installment (According to the funding agency she needs to wait for another three months).

Question

  1. What is the solution to this problem? Is there any way this problem can be settled?

  2. Is there any way the professor can avail of a waiver in the APC?

  3. Will it affect my girlfriend's future scientific career, in case she wants to continue in academia? Another article from the same group, co-authored by her is still under review, with Willy.

  4. What are the preventive measures she should take so that any consequences of the said issue do not befall her?

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    External links have a way of becoming obsolete. Please either copy the content of the second e-mail as you did for the first e-mail, or (better yet), summarize the second e-mail.
    – cag51
    Sep 18, 2023 at 15:04
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    Who signed what contract and with whom? What is the paper trail? Did your girlfriend sign the contract? Then she is responsible for paying, just as anyone is responsible for paying for any purchase one signed the contract for. Is there an email or better a formal contract where someone agrees and promises to reimburse her? Or did the professor sign the contract? In the latter case, his institution is likely bound to pay, because he signed in his capacity as an employee of the institution. In the end, you may need a lawyer to sort this out, unless you can settle with the publisher. Sep 18, 2023 at 16:43
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    @DaveLRenfro That's common in the Indian dialect of English. Sep 19, 2023 at 2:28
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    "paying the fee" doesn't seem to be in your mind as a possible solution. Any reason why?
    – justhalf
    Sep 19, 2023 at 4:03
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    @EarlGrey There are third-party debt collection agencies that work like that, acting on behalf of the original creditor, often on a contingency basis. Debt buying is only one business model.
    – Anyon
    Sep 19, 2023 at 19:07

5 Answers 5

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To think of this another way:

Your girlfriend and her advisor have contracted to purchase a product. That product is "publication".

Generally, if you contract to buy something or a service, obtain that thing, and then don't pay it, you owe a debt. Depending on the nature of the agreement and the place you live, there are different mechanisms that someone owed a debt can pursue to obtain what they are owed.

You do not, typically, purchase a thing, walk away with it, and then hope to negotiate the price later, at least not where I live.

It's really between your girlfriend/her advisor and the publisher to work out a suitable agreement. They might consider offering a smaller sum of money that they are willing to pay; maybe the journal will be happy to accept it to avoid further trouble. It may be possible to withdraw the submission and send the paper to a different publisher, though if it's already been accepted and a contract already signed, the publisher may not be happy with this because they are missing out on revenue. Otherwise, potential risks to your girlfriend depend entirely on the contract signed and who is named responsible.

If she is considered personally responsible for the debt by law, any consequences for being in debt may apply to her: these consequences will depend on local laws and I won't attempt to provide any advice on that. If the institution is considered responsible, it's up to the institution what the consequences are. Imagine you're the employee of a grocer and you promise on the store's behalf to purchase a truckload of rotten fruit. The store may be responsible for paying for the fruit, but if they're upset that you've made this agreement they could fire you from your fruit-purchasing job.

As far as the future if the debt remains unpaid, Hindawi/Wiley can certainly follow through on their policy that people who haven't paid for past articles can't publish future ones in their journals. That seems like quite a reasonable policy, isn't it? There are other publishers, though, and academic institutions are not likely to check whether applicants for jobs or educational programs have a dispute with some particular publisher.

Another answer has suggested not publishing with Hindawi; I think that's a reasonable course of action, but possibly too late in this case. One should consider their choice of venue before submitting, not after acceptance, and that choice should include considering the reputation of the publisher and any costs involved with publication.

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  • My read of the question is said girlfriend has no such contract. It would appear the advisor agreed to it but I can't be quite sure.
    – Joshua
    Sep 19, 2023 at 18:10
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    I guess where you live isn't New York then.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 20, 2023 at 15:14
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I doubt that the author is responsible for the payment, but the institute is, as the letter stipulates. The institute might, unfairly, try to withhold it from her but that would be a travesty, IMO.

I doubt that a waiver is possible at this point and should have been requested much earlier.

I don't see how this will affect a career long term. It is a purely financial situation, not an academic one.

But, either the professor should make good or she should take it to higher authority at the institute. I would try to avoid making it a complaint against the professor (just as self protection), but indicate that funds need to be found. The reputation of the institute is on the line here. Let the dean, or whoever, put pressure where it needs to be put, but let them know of the situation and the need for resolution.

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In my opinion, Hindawi is a predatory company.

Do not pay the money, withdraw the paper, and submit somewhere reputable.

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    If it has been published it may be too late. Another publisher might not be interested.
    – Buffy
    Sep 18, 2023 at 15:17
  • -1 Hindawi is not a company, and if you knew who actually owns Hindawi I somehow don't think you'd still call them predatory.
    – Allure
    Sep 19, 2023 at 0:52
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    @Allure "purchased in 2021 by John Wiley & Sons" according to Wikipedia. That is too recent to matter. Wikipedia gives extensive reasons to believe they are a low quality publisher. Sep 19, 2023 at 2:22
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    @Allure Hindawi is a (subsidiary?) company in the UK: find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/… Sep 19, 2023 at 2:25
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    @Deipatrous Although not dissenting from the thrust of your comment, this Scot would point out that the UK has only existed for 3 centuries. Sep 19, 2023 at 6:43
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Disputes like this are why OA publishers will generally issue a "APC confirmation" before accepting an article, and will not accept the article before the APC is confirmed. The fact that the dispute got where it is suggests that someone confirmed the APC, and then let the paper get published anyway in spite of repeated reminders to pay the APC (as opposed to notifying the journal office to halt publication).

I hope you can see why this is abusive, dishonest, and will get your girlfriend (+ her professor) blacklisted by the publisher.

Don't confirm the APC, for any reason, unless you are intending to pay the stated amount.

What is the solution to this problem? Is there any way this problem can be settled?

Paying Hindawi is the easiest solution. Where the funds for that are going to come from, I don't know. Any other alternative would depend on the goodwill of Hindawi.

Is there any way the professor can avail of a waiver in the APC?

Not unless the journal office approves it, which in turn will require goodwill from them. Your girlfriend & her professor have acted sufficiently dishonestly that they are likely to have no goodwill. Any waiver would therefore be very pragmatic, depending on factors such as:

  1. Are papers by this author likely to be highly cited and therefore increase our impact factor?
  2. Is this author a Big Name?
  3. Does this author submit a lot of papers to our journal?  

Will it affect my girlfriend's future scientific career, in case she wants to continue in academia? Another article from the same group, co-authored by her is still under review, with Willy.

Academics are likely to not care. Disputes with a publisher are not academic in nature. Wiley however might blacklist. If they do, you can expect the other article (and all future ones) to be automatically rejected.

What are the preventive measures she should take so that any consequences of the said issue do not befall her?

See the bold highlight above. The journal sends APC confirmations to avoid issues like this one. If your girlfriend cannot or does not intend to pay the APC, she needs to tell the journal office before the manuscript is accepted. The journal will probably hold off on acceptance while they sort out the APC, and they will only accept once there's a mutually-acceptable APC.

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  • She will be completing her PhD in the near future. I am curious if any of her articles will get rejected by Wiley when she tries to communicate with different institution credentials (different institute email IDs, etc. from her post-doc) Sep 19, 2023 at 2:31
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    @VijithKumarV it's possible and depends on whether Wiley is paying attention. If they can tell that it's the same person, they should in theory block your girlfriend even with the new institution credentials, but it's possible they will not realize it's the same person (even if the name is the same, there are many namesakes in the world). If you marry and she changes her last name to yours, that would add an extra layer which Wiley would have to check through.
    – Allure
    Sep 19, 2023 at 2:38
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Institutions are responsible for paying the publication fees (they are as responsbile as providing desks, chairs, pens, papers to their employee). Every institutions is proud of showing on their homepage how much they are "world-leading institutions publishing breakthrough research in repsected international journals". It is time to put their money where their mouth is.

Paying publication fees out of one own pockets is not unheard of, but it is as well extremely unfair.

From the debt collection email, it seems to me it is an empty threat, however your relative other can try to squeeze out from all this simply answering to the editor that they have to deal directly with the institute administration, addressing the bill to them and putting it at the attention of "your professor xyz".

Institutions are huge bureaucratic entitities: their administration is better at dealing with other huge bureacrutic entities (publishers) than any researcher...

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    I do not think institutions habitually or automatically pay APC’s. It could be a policy of the institution , but it is not a policy of all institutions (at least not in North America). I suspect this very much depends on the funding source of the research project, and how this is managed by institutions. Sep 19, 2023 at 11:36

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