How Much Does It Cost To Publish in Science

Just writing a good research paper for a scientific journal is often enough to get published. Publishing one’s article often involves considerable monetary expenses as well. There are certain misconceptions about publishing that need to be clarified on the matter of author charges; (a) not all well-reputed peer-reviewed journals publish good quality articles for free and (b) any journal asking for an article processing charge is not necessarily a fraud or predatory journal.

Asking authors for certain charges for publication is a common practice that depends on the various business models followed by different journals, which in turn determines how they monetize the entire process. Depending on the business models, there are numerous forms of charges or levies that different journals impose on authors.

Well established traditional journals that have a substantive subscription base or a well-endowed trust to back their activities often do not charge fees from authors. But that too is not a set norm as many of them may charge some or nominal charges nonetheless. Some journals today do not charge money for the digital versions of the articles but request contribution to cover printing charges and distribution. Open access journals, which are often digital-only, may also charge fees to cover for peer-review and other administrative or operational expenses. There are different business models even for open access journals where some maybe subscription-based while others giving free access to anyone. Depending on the mode of access, the article processing charges may vary.

In most cases, good academic institutions are subscribers of good journals or have a membership or other such arrangements, such that any author from these institutions offering a research paper or review article for publication get institutional monetary support. This may be in the form of discount rates or even nominal expense coverage/grants for publication. Did you know that 21.8% of respondents in the USA prefer shopping on Amazon over other websites? Check out this article for coupons and discounts on your favorite products.

Some of the typical forms of charges associated with publishing in a scientific journal are:

Submission fee: many peer-reviewed journals levy a submission fee at the time of the review article submission. While authors may find this practice to be restrictive, some journals levy it only to keep spamming or substandard submissions at bay.

Membership fee: some journals seek to develop long-term relationships with authors and charge a membership fee. This covers charges for a specified number of articles over some specified time. Some also seek authors to do peer-review for other articles in exchange for getting their articles reviewed. The charges may depend on the type of engagement.

Publication fees: this is the most commonly understood charge, also known as author publishing charges or article processing charges (both read as APC), that covers the actual cost of publication.

A peer-reviewed article may charge all or a combination of these charges for a research paper. Thus, you may be charged a subscription fee during submission, and only have to pay a publication fee if your articles qualify for publication after peer review.

Peer Review Mechanism

Many of us have often come across the terms “peer review”, “peer-reviewed journal” or “peer-reviewed paper” at some or the other point of time. But, how many of us know what exactly the term “peer review” refers to or what the “peer review process” is all about? Let us discuss this key aspect of the research process.

According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), peer review is the critical assessment of manuscripts submitted to journals by experts who are not part of the editorial staff. Peer review, which is also known as refereeing, has become an inevitable part of the quality control process, which determines whether a paper is worth publishing/funding or not.

The origin of peer review often dates back to 18th century Britain. However, it became a key part of the research process only in the second half of the 20th century, triggered by the growth of scholarly research. As the reviewers are specialized in the same field as the author, they are considered to be the author’s peers; hence, it was coined as “peer review”.

Peer Review Process

The author submits the paper to the respective journal. The Journal Editor forwards that paper to experts (reviewers) in the relevant field. These reviewers thoroughly analyze the quality of the paper, validity of the data and methods used, and the accuracy of the results. They provide their judgment on the paper whether: there is scope for improvement, it is ok as it is, or it is not worth publishing. If there are changes to be made in the paper, the reviewers list in their comments the particular areas that have scope for improvement. Then the paper is returned to the Journal Editor who sends it to the author with the appropriate decision: accepted as it is; accepted with revisions; or rejected. Accordingly, the author makes the changes and resubmits to the same journal, or resubmits to another journal.

Types of Peer Review

Peer review can be classified into three types based on the levels of transparency:

Single-blind review: In this case, the author’s identity is known to the reviewers, but not vice versa.

Double-blind review: In this case, the identities of the author and reviewers are hidden from each other.

Open peer review: Here, the author’s and reviewers’ identities are known to each other.

At present, the peer review process is implemented by a majority of scientific journals. It helps to prevent falsified work from being published. Its importance has become such that, most research are not considered to be serious stuff unless they have been validated by peer review. A peer-reviewed paper that is accepted for publication is looked upon as a work of quality. But, this process has its own disadvantages. It is an extremely time-consuming process. The long wait can be extremely frustrating for the researcher and can even jeopardize his academic progress. Moreover, sometimes the element of bias creeps into the peer review process. The reviewers’ judgment might be influenced by their own perception of things, the identity of the author, and at times, even the country of origin of the author.