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I have recently published an article in a "renowned" open access journal which cost us 2000 USD. I say 'renowned' - not to brag, but to highlight that the journal is not the kind of new age OA journal from which I would expect questionable practices.

Another group of researchers now started the process of submitting a comment to our article, to which we crafted a reply. After review, the journal now wants to charge them, as well as us another 2000 USD each for the publication of the comment/reply pair. This comes as an absolute surprise to me.

In my opinion, this practice is actively discouraging scientific exchange, and it seems simply excessive to ask for another 4000 USD. Furthermore, should the reply not be considered part of the comment, therefore, if anyone, the commenter should pay for the publication cost?

I am wondering if anyone has heard of something like this or has experience with publishing comments/replies in Open Access journals?

  • Have you tried just asking if they will waive the fees? – Nate Eldredge Jan 25 '17 at 19:20
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    Yes I did, and their reply was that they will not, because they are funded exclusively by publication charges. – G-wizard Jan 25 '17 at 19:24
  • Did you pay page charges for the original article? – Jon Custer Jan 25 '17 at 19:29
  • @JonCuster Do you mean a 'submission fee' charged prior to the start of peer review or if the charge was based on the number of pages? No to both. – G-wizard Jan 25 '17 at 20:02
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I think comments papers are an important (and sadly neglected) part of post-review quality control in academic publication. The fact that someone wants to write a comment paper is suggestive of a problem with the peer review of the paper in question, if only in that it left substantial questions unanswered (or unasked). As such the journal should not charge either party for the comment paper or the response, if only to show that the journal takes quality control seriously, even if they do make all their money from page fees, I think it is in their long term interest.

Writing comments papers should be incentivized, not discouraged by financial hurdles.

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    Yes, I agree with this. By charging equally for content which fixes/improves the content that has already been paid for and made open access, the journal creates the impression that it is more concerned with its financial success than the quality of its content. – Pete L. Clark Jan 26 '17 at 20:19
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In my opinion, this practice is actively discouraging scientific exchange, and it seems simply excessive to ask for another 4000 USD.

It sounds like the journal treats comments exactly the same as standard articles and applies the same blanket fee. Unless they claim / purport / promise to do otherwise, they must have the right to do this -- how could they not? And correspondingly you have the right to regard the practice as dodgy / greedy / actively discouraging scientific exchange and not to pay to publish your reply to the comment. In my opinion you should seriously consider this.

Furthermore, should the reply not be considered part of the comment, therefore, if anyone, the commenter should pay for the publication cost?

C'mon, show a little empathy. If you had written the comment you could have said "should the comment not be considered part of the article, therefore, if anyone, the original authors should pay for the publication cost?" The two sentiments make the same amount of sense to me.

Bottom line: don't pay $2000 to reply to a comment if you feel that you and the academic community are not getting $2000 worth of value. There are lots of venues to publish comments on journal articles, ranging from websites that seek to collect such things to your own homepage. A comment or a reply is probably not going to be viewed as a real publication, it's probably not going to be peer reviewed in the same way (or at all?), and so forth, so just because you want to pay to play ball with this "renowned" journal does not imply that you want to do this too. If you feel strongly enough, push back more than you have. Write to the authors of the comment and offer to host both their comment and your reply elsewhere, free of charge. Copy this correspondence to the journal editors, and lament the unfortunate nature of the situation. (Don't do this lightly, and understand that you may mildly annoy some of the editors by doing this. But that is also your right...)

Perhaps I should end by saying that I work in an academic field, mathematics, for which (i) the notion of authors paying to make articles open access is just starting to become a thing and (ii) journals virtually never publish comments to others' articles. Just FYI.

  • I think that's the core point in your reply: the original article, peer-review etc., may be worth the $2000. But the comment is not likely to be worth that much to whoever writes it. And that's the pressure point to be exerted on the journal. – Captain Emacs Jan 26 '17 at 6:08
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    I dont agree with you, commentary or discussion or reply, are regarded as paper and cited. – SSimon Jan 26 '17 at 13:03
  • Pete, some good points here. Re: the two sentiments. I partly agree, but there is still a difference. A comment to an article is almost always accompanied by a response, because it often contains some sort of critique. The comment therefore 'needs' a reply by the original author. An article on the other hand doesn't need a comment. Maybe commenter and replier should share the cost, and the journal should only charge one fee. After all, the peer-review of comment and reply is done simultanously by the same reviewer for both comment and reply, and is relatively short, due to little content. – G-wizard Jan 26 '17 at 15:20
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    "A comment or a reply is probably not going to be viewed as a real publication it's probably not going to be peer reviewed in the same way (or at all?)" if it is a decent journal, it will be. I've written a few comments papers, and they have all gone through a full peer review process. – Dikran Marsupial Jan 26 '17 at 18:17
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    tl;dr: Don't pay $2000 to publish anything if you feel that you and the academic community are not getting $2000 worth of value. – JeffE Jan 27 '17 at 16:54
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I don't know what field you're publishing in, but if it's life sciences/medical, you can conduct correspondence on PubMed Commons. Not as good as corresponding directly with the published article, but it's free and accessible to all users of the database.

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Was your journal listed on Beall's Predatory Publisher list (before it disappeared from the Internet, probably because of legal issues)? Do you regularly find good articles and good discussions in this journal? If not, you have probably been roped in to publishing in a predatory journal, and I would forget trying to have a discussion there. Amble over to PubPeer and put the comments from the other research group and your answers in over there. For the medical field, there are even browser plugins that alert to the fact that there is a PubPeer discussion available.

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