Why do they take so long?

4 05 2018

phd1This is probably more of an act of self-therapy on a Friday afternoon to alleviate some frustration, but it is an important issue all the same.

An Open Letter to academic publishers:

Why, oh why, do some of you take so bloody long to publish our papers online after acceptance?

I have been known to complain about how the general academic-publishing industry makes sickening amount of profit on the backs of our essentially free labour, and I suppose this is just another whinge along those lines. Should it take weeks to months to publish our papers online once they are accepted?

No. it shouldn’t.

I’m fully aware that most publishing companies these days outsource the actual publishing side of things to subcontracting agencies (and I’ve noticed more and more that these tend to be in developing nations, probably because the labour is cheaper), and that it can take someone some time to work through the backlog of Word or Latex documents and produce nice, polished PDFs.

However, even a non-publisher like me has enough nous to figure out how to upload a document to a server. Some publishers are timely in this sense and publish what are often referred to as ‘accepted’ manuscripts online soon after they are accepted (these essentially amount to a PDF made from a Word or Latex document, along with a watermark indicating its status, as well as a paywall for access). Then, after the authors correct the proofs , the pre-issue versions (also known as ‘early view’) of the papers appear online without ascribed volume and page numbers.

In my experience, however, the time it takes for any form of the accepted manuscript to appear online is unacceptably long (e.g., right now I have been waiting months for an accepted paper to appear online). A digital object identifier (DOI) can be ascribed almost immediately, so there is absolutely no excuse in these days of everything online that we have to wait even a few days for our hard-won articles to be viewable online (the cost to access these is another matter entirely).

And, if you as a publishing company charge us those outrageous open-access fees (typically in the thousands of dollars these days) and still delay putting our papers online, I waggle my disapproving finger at you with even greater vigour.

There is just no more excuse for this shitty service. Please lift your game.

On behalf of all frustrated publishing academics,

CJA Bradshaw


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