Publishers do not manage peer-review, either. We do.
February 27, 2013
I was reading Stephen Curry’s excellent summary of Monday’s Royal Society’s conference on “Open access in the UK and what it means for scientific research”. One point that Stephen made is:
[David Willetts's] argument is that pursuance of green OA leads to an unstable situation in which the cancellation of subscriptions (because readers have free access) drains the system of the funds needed to manage peer review and other publishing costs.
As an analysis of the difficulties of Green OA, this is admirably precise. But my eye was caught by that phrase “funds needed to manage peer review and other publishing costs.”
I think we should make an effort to wean ourselves off the habit of talking about “managing peer review and other publishing costs”. We all recognise that publishers do not provide peer-review — we do. But it’s also true that publishers don’t manage peer-review, either. Once again, we do that, by acting as unpaid academic editors.
I know that this is not news. We all know this. But a habit of speech is affording publishers a degree of credit that their efforts don’t merit, and that clouds the debate. Let’s apportion credit where it belongs.
Of course there are still “other publishing costs”. These are real and not negligible (even though PeerJ’s financial model suggests they are much less than we have sometimes assumed). It’s right that we should acknowledge that there really are publishing costs; and that whatever financial model we end up will need to pay them somehow. But let’s make an effort to be more precise about what those publishing costs are. Managing peer-review is not one of them.