Survey Results

Survey Results: Experimental business model for a journal

From time to time we poll contributors to Elsevier journals  to get their opinion on a current issue.   In April we did a survey on an experimental business model for a journal  suffering from low-quality submissions. In the case of this journal, the  submissions often contained plagiarism, other ethical violations, or simply  lacked novelty, rigor, or motivation.  The  journal was striving for higher standards, but the overwhelming inflow of poor  submissions was putting a serious strain on the editorial process.

We were considering changing the business model for this  particular journal by switching from a subscription-based model to an open  access model, sustained by submission fees, rather than publication fees.  Our idea was that a submission fee would add  a barrier to submission and thereby increase the overall quality of manuscripts  received.  Authors whose papers were  accepted would receive reimbursement of their fee, and their articles would be  published open access at no cost to them.   Proceeds from the submission fees would be shared between Elsevier, to  cover costs of running the journal, and the Mathematical Sciences research  community.  If we decided to trial the  new model we would have posted a transparent balance sheet of the journal  operation at the end of each year.

Various survey questions were left open so that we could see  a broad range of free responses, and respondents took the time to give  thoughtful, complete answers.  The  reactions to the idea were mixed, to say the least, with some people initially  hesitant about the idea but then seeing the advantages, others wondering how  authors in certain regions could afford a submission fee, and others adamantly  against the idea.

The idea and results were presented to the Mathematical  Sciences Advisory Council and in the end we decided that there is not  sufficient support for the idea to pursue it.    However, we learned from the exercise and one item that stood out in the  survey responses is the issue of recognizing the contributions that referees  make to journals.  When asked how  proceeds of the submission fees should be used for the community, it was clear  that many people felt referees were underappreciated and under-recognized.  Though we won't be taking action on the new  business model, we will be taking this feedback into development of new  programs focused on referees later this year.

Download the survey results from here.