Boycotting Paper Submissions To Non-Open-Access Journals

Very interesting discussion going on at Michael Eisen’s blogge about the proposal for scientists to boycott submitting their manuscripts to non-open-access journals in order to hasten the transition to author-pays open-access scientific publishing models.

My position is that those of us with tenured or otherwise secure jobbes are the ones who should be manning the barricades on this, not some poor fucken grad student, post-doc, or assistant professor trying to survive and make it to the next level.

And the way that we do this is not by telling one of these poor fuckes not to send their beautiful work to a particular prominent journal for political reasons. Rather, we fight tooth and nail on hiring, tenure/promotion, and grant review committees against the abdication of responsibility for judging the importance and interest of particular lines of research to non-scientist editors at legacy “high-impact” journals.

Do away with the stranglehold that non-OA journals have on “high impact” (other than PLoS Biology), and OA will flourish. Yes, one way to achieve this would be a widely-subscribed “boycott”, but I cannot in good conscience engage my trainees in a boycott when my colleagues down the hall and across town are not. Another way–and one that doesn’t require martyrs to the cause–is to change the metrics by which we judge the importance and interest of a scientist’s output.


  1. Arno says

    The call for boycotting originated in mathematics, where established academics would publish a significant number of their papers without more junior authors, hence, can boycott without harming the trainees.

  2. Alex says

    Though not glamour journals, in some fields there are open access journals one tier down that are as good as the other journals. Even in a good research group, not every paper will be a Glamour paper. For those papers that go one tier down, there’s no martyrdom in submitting to a good open access journal.

    Obviously this is very field-dependent, but my main professional society actually has 3 open access journals, and they are generally considered good places to send your work if it isn’t accepted in a Glamour journal.

    If your professional society doesn’t have a good open access journal, and you are involved in the society, push them to start one.

  3. says

    You can also refuse to review non-OA submissions. Your colleagues across town may be happy submitting to closed journals, but they won’t be as happy having their paper in limbo for six months while the editor tries to find acceptable reviewers.

    And you can to some degree avoid citing closed papers. Sure, the main papers are unavoidable of course, but in any paper a lot of the references are “yes, yes I know about this”-kind of things, where any one of a dozen or more papers would be equally acceptable as a reference. Make a point of picking OA sources for these and theimpact factors will start to shift.

    In fact, I’ve noticed that I do this already in practice. I do a fair bit of my writing at home, where I don’t have full library access, and when I look for sources it’s OA papers I can get and OA papers that tend to end up in my reference list. And it’s probably not just me either; this would explain why OA by itself is associated with more citations and higher impact than closed publications.

  4. mikka says

    You hit the nail on the head on the last sentence. Until we change the way we measure and assign credit, all we are doing is shifting the economics of our extremely weird dissemination/contribution system. The metrics will stay the same.
    I have no idea what the alternatives could be, though. Whoever does will def win an internet, in more ways than one.


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