7 Easy Ways to Alienate Authors from Your Journal

Posted on 11 February 2017

Is your journal indexed by WoS, Scopus, and even Google Scholar? Does it have an Impact Factor greater than zero? Does it have a non-negative h5 index? You charge less than six thousand euros in author fees? You even grant a DOI for the papers? Then you must be attracting an overwhelming amount of submissions. Here are 7 tips to alienate authors and let their work rot on arXiv forever.

1. Make submitting a manuscript as difficult as possible

A good submission system has at least forty steps with nothing detected automatically. When I upload the LaTeX source of the manuscript, make sure that I have to select from a drop-down menu that it is LaTeX, and not Word. If this drop-down menu comes three steps later than the upload, your submission system is approaching the optimal level of complexity. It is also great if you do not accept BibTeX, it would be too convenient. Please restrict your figure file format to EPS and BMP. Hierarchical menus of publisher-specific keywords and descriptors will make authors scream in delight. Bonus point: do not use secure connection. Once I dared to point out that raw http is not quite secure, to which the publisher (one of the big ones) responded 'we understand your concerns, but the system is safe'. This was in 2014.

2. Ensure a slow and unfair peer-review process

It is critically important that a leading journal has a prolonged peer-review cycle, otherwise untenured scum would dare to submit their scribblings, hoping to score some brownie points with high-impact journal publications when applying for grants. The best examples are given by computer science journals that take at least a year to complete the first round of reviews. Editors should always base their decision on the three-liner rejection of the referee who did not bother to read the paper, as opposed to the five-page constructive comments given by the other referee.

3. Introduce N+1 errors in copy-editing

Nature Communications, widely known for its author-friendly publication fees, introduced well over a hundred errors in the copy-editing of a review paper of a colleague. This is not the only guilty journal: publication or subscription fees are excessive, yet copy-editing is outsourced to completely incompetent companies that have never seen a LaTeX source or a PDF file before. Instead of improving the quality of the paper, the process only yields dozens of work hours more for the authors.

4. Force authors to include their email address

There is no joy greater than receiving academic spam. If a human wants to contact you, he or she will be able to find your contact details anyway, but publishers love to broadcast your email address for every spammer to harvest it. Since I always complain about it, an unidentified editor found it funny to pass on my email address to some spammers, and now I am flooded by spam again after a few years of relative tranquility. I am indebted.

5. After acceptance, delay publication until the authors are long dead

This is an all-time favourite. The motivation stems from the observation that the death of a person can cause a temporary spike of interest in his or her work, and the publishers are betting on this.

6. Sign authors up to every single marketing email list

Elsevier is notorious for this. If you publish with them, you will spend the next one year unsubscribing from their various mailing lists. The process repeats with every single paper you publish in any of their journals. Frontiers took the abuse to the next level: they trick authors into joining their social network called Loop.

7. Charge at least three ways

Physical Review Letters pioneers this: they do not only charge membership fees for APS, they do not only charge subscription fees, recently they also added a publication fee. Suddenly Elsevier with its 40% profit margin seems like an angel and a saviour of science.

Tags: Academic publishing

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