Skip to content

Publish or perish - at a price?

I'm a relativey recent arrival in academia, and the more I learn about it, the scarier the pressure to publish becomes. I recently submitted a paper to a journal and got rejected :-( But there was some useful feedback, and I was encouraged by some positive comments too - I think that I may have chosen the wrong journal. But it ain't easy to get it right.

Another thing I've noticed is how the pressure to have conferences and papers on one's resume creates something of an industry which works a bit like this: you pay to go to a conference, and the conference organisers arrange the venue and gather everyone together who've paid in order to present to each other. The organisers pocket the difference, and you get a paper 'published' in the proceedings, or at least you get to say you've presented at a conference.

This institutional pressure has the effect of encouraging certain practices such as recycling papers in different conferences (not forgetting to change the title); the setting up of ever more specialised conferences or journals - usually online ones; universities self-publishing books; and so on. One unfortunate practice a post-graduate student from a Malaysian university told me about was when a senior faculty member agrees to get the faculty to pay for a paper to be published, as long as his/her name was included as co-author.

Which takes me to one example, that spurred me to write this post
Fees and Charges: Authors are required to pay a $550 handling fee. Publication of an article in the International Journal of Sociology and Anthropology is not contingent upon the author's ability to pay the charges. Neither is acceptance to pay the handling fee a guarantee that the paper will be accepted for publication. Authors may still request (in advance) that the editorial office waive some of the handling fee under special circumstances. (IJSA)

Would you want to pay them? It strikes me that being paid to 'handle' submissions is a perfect way to set up conflicts of interest that will undermine the academic credibility of a journal.

I'm not arguing that we should restrict the proliferation of journals and conferences - especially regional ones that can hopefully bring more balance to the dominance of the richer countries in terms of framing academic discourse, and of course it takes money to maintain a journal or organise a conference. But perhaps, at least, there could be some kind of upfront declaration of monetary requirements in journals - the example above was buried at the bottom of the 'Instructions for Authors' and certainly is not mentioned in the 'About' section.