Thank you so much for your kind welcome to your manuscriptcentral website. I don’t recall applying for membership and it’s a special privilege given that I have had no previous contact with your journal. I would be delighted to give you all my contact details and to sum up my research interests in 4 to 5 keywords there, as you suggest. And yes of course I would be delighted to change that temporary password immediately.
Thank you again for your kindness: I am flattered.
Dear Messrs. Taylor and Francis
Thank you for your second communication, just received, asking me to review an article submitted to your fine journal. I have completed all the details you asked for on your website. However I didn’t find the place there where I need to complete my bank details for this work. Perhaps the payment goes to my department or to my university? If that is the case I will ask them to contact you so that you can transfer the payment to the appropriate account.
Dear Messrs. Taylor and Francis
Oh I see. This work is to be undertaken gratis. Perhaps then in recompense I (or my university) will be offered at least a reduction in the £1,788 fee (plus tax) charged for “gold” open access article publication? I have read that the fee needs to be so high partly because of the peer review process which ensures the quality of your esteemed journals.
I would imagine that the work will take me around 2 hours, so a reduction of, let’s say, £100 per review, would seem an extremely reasonable estimate.
Is that agreeable?
Dear Messrs. Taylor and Francis
Thank you. I see, so there is no recompense for the work at all and no waivers for reviewers of gold open access fees. As I understand it you do not pay authors or their institutions for the research work encapsulated in articles that you publish in your journals, nor do you recompense them for signing to you their copyright in the articles. I assume then you gentlemen are engaged in this work for charitable purposes; perhaps to promote knowledge distribution?
Dear Informa PLC
I understand from Messrs Taylor and Francis that their publishing work is part of your group. They have directed my query about charitable status to you.
Before I agree to begin the two hours pro bono work they have asked me to undertake, I would be grateful if you would enlighten me as to the work of your group.
Dear Informa PLC
I am astonished that all these familiar names have been acquired by you: Carfax; Routledge; Lawrence Erlbaum; Parthenon; David Fulton and so many others. You certainly seem to be very significant in the publishing industry. Messrs. Taylor and Francis alone publish approximately 1,000 journals and 2,000 book titles each year and your group has around 1,700 journals and a total of 93,000 titles all told. That is astonishingly prolific.
You are a force indeed in the academic publishing world. But you still haven’t answered my question about your charitable status.
I have just discovered the following about the work of your group and about scholarly journal publishing:
· Though your head office is in London you are incorporated in Jersey and domiciled in Switzerland, in the most tax-efficient canton. Some authors talk about tax avoidance (Harvie et al 2012). I couldn’t possibly comment.
· Academic publishing is an oligopoly with only 5 other big players, 3 of whom are even bigger than you. They have each been acquiring smaller companies for years. That process towards monopolisation continues.
· You and those other companies derive many millions of pounds annually from university journal subscriptions, despite not having paid those same universities for their academics’ time in producing the content. This is largely tax-payers’ money, though tax payers are prevented by your paywalls from accessing those journals.
· Non-disclosure clauses in subscription contracts mean that the exact amounts paid for these subscriptions are secret. They differ from journal to journal and university to university. Freedom of information requests, university financial reports and publishers' own annual reports give some indication of the huge size of the overall figures involved however.
· Subscription prices are increasing by around 13% each year, and libraries usually have to subscribe to ‘bundles’ of journals, many of which they do not require.
· Operating profit margins in the academic publishing oligopoly run at between 30-40%, which is far above most industries. If scholarly journal publishing is considered separately from other activities the figures for profitability increase – to as much as 70%. The gross profit margin on John Wiley’s scholarly publications for year ending April 2014 was 73% (John Wiley, 2014, p. 30). This level of profit is not surprising given the zero cost of the raw material and much of the labour force. Informa declared a 2013 adjusted operating profit from academic publishing at £130.9m on adjusted revenue of £367.1m (about 36% profit margin, after adjustments) with dividends to shareholders increased to nearly 19 pence per share. These revenue and profit figures increased by 7% and 4% respectively 2012 - 2013. This excludes revenues and profits from your global events and business intelligence operations. The adjusted operating profit of the whole group was £335.3m, and on this you paid just £71.6m in taxes of different sorts to different authorities globally in 2013. This is a tax rate of just over 21%.
I agree with Beverungen et al, (2012, p. 936) that the political economy of academic publishing involves a “double, or even triple, appropriation of public resources”. I began my correspondence “with the impression that academic journal publishing is a benign, almost idyllic, sector of society, in which commercial publishers coexist peaceably with learned societies, working harmoniously to increase the sum of human knowledge” (Harvie et al, 2013, p. 235), just as the Finch report describes (Finch Report, 2012, p. 90). I end it with a very different view.
Therefore I am unwilling to complete the article review you requested until you offer your reviewers or their employers adequate compensation for this work. Clearly you, and the other large academic publishers (Reed Elsevier, John Wiley, Springer S&BM) can easily afford to do so.
(Websites last accessed 18.5.2015)
Altbach, P. G. and Rapple, B., 2012. Anarchy, commercialism, and “publish or perish”. International Higher Education 67, 5-7. https://www.revistaensinosuperior.gr.unicamp.br/edicoes/ihe/IHE67original.pdf
Beverungen, A., Bohm, S., Land, C., 2012. The poverty of journal publishing. Organization 19, 929–938. doi:10.1177/1350508412448858
Brook, M., 2014 The cost of academic publishing. Open Access Working Group. http://access.okfn.org/2014/04/24/the-cost-of-academic-publishing/
Finch Report, 2012. Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: How to expand access to research publications. http://www.researchinfonet.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Finch-Group-report-FINAL-VERSION.pdf
Harvie, D., Lightfoot, G., Lilley, S., Weir, K., 2012. What are we to do with feral publishers? Organization 19, 905–914. doi:10.1177/1350508412448859
Harvie, D., Lightfoot, G., Lilley, S., Weir, K., 2013. Publisher, be damned! From price gouging to the open road. Prometheus 31, 229–239. doi:10.1080/08109028.2014.891710
Informa PLC, 2013. Annual report 2013. http://www.informa.com/documents/investor%20relations/annual%20report%202013/informa%20plc%20annual%20report%20accounts%202013.pdf
John Wiley, 2014. Annual report for fiscal year ending April 2014. http://www.wiley.com/legacy/about/corpnews/fy14_10kFINAL.pdf
Reed Elsevier (Part of the RELX group) Annual reports. http://www.elsevier.com/about/annual-reports
Springer Science & Business Media, 2012. General overview and financial performance. http://static.springer.com/sgw/documents/1412702/application/pdf/Annual_Report_2012_01.pdf
SV-POW!, 2012. The obscene profits of commercial scholarly publishers. http://svpow.com/2012/01/13/the-obscene-profits-of-commercial-scholarly-publishers/