Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Here's a Journal I Won't Be Subscribing To

Today I received an invitation from Emerald Group Publishing to subscribe to the International Journal of Numerical Methods for Heat & Fluid Flow. I have to admit, the topic is quite far from my research interests, and so I wouldn't dream of subscribing to it just for that reason alone. But something about the solicitation made me want to look more closely.

The letter inviting me to subscribe was headed, in large-point type, "Subscribe today and receive £75 worth of Marriott Cheques!"

What kind of journal, I thought, would use such a blatant marketing ploy, offering me the equivalent of US $147 worth of hotel vouchers that, according to the flyer, "can be used for accommodation, dining, spa or golf, in any of over 2,600 luxurious Marriott Hotels world-wide!"? The flyer adds "Go on - treat yourself!"

The mystery was resolved when I consulted the cost of subscription. For volume 17, issues 1 to 8, I would have to pay US $9,899 for one year of this journal. I'm used to exorbitant subscription prices, but this is ridiculous. No wonder they can afford to give away $147, when they're charging nearly $10,000 a year.

Everyone who is involved in this journal, from the publishers to the editorial board, should be ashamed of themselves. There is simply no rationale for such a price, other than making bucketloads of cash. Professional societies publish analogous journals for as little as $200 a year, and there are many electronic journals offering analogous content entirely free.

I am particularly offended by the idea that by subscribing, I would receive hotel vouchers to "treat [myself]". I would venture to guess that most people who make the decision to subscribe are not paying out of their pocket, but rather using grant, university, or industry funds -- in which case providing the subscriber with personal benefits could be seen as unethical.

I encourage all academics to boycott journals like this one, sending their scholarly work to journals that charge sensible prices, particularly electronic journals with free access.

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