Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Electronic journals

Yesterday I sent a technical paper, co-written with Martin Byford, on Addictive Drug Use in a Long-Run Economic Model, to the Berkeley Electronic Press (BEP). This is not an attempt to (more than usually) spruik my work but I do want to comment on the submission process and destination which are interesting.

The BEP publishes a range of high quality economics journals including The B.E. Journals in Economic Analysis & Policy , The B.E. Journals in Macroeconomics, The B.E. Journals in Theoretical Economics , Business and Politics , The Economists' Voice , Forum for Health Economics & Policy , Global Economy Journal , Journal of Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization , Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy , Review of Law & Economics , Review of Marketing Science , Studies in Nonlinear Dynamics & Econometrics . The papers here are very good – to get an idea click on The Economist’s Voice – it includes work by Posner, Heal, Kotlikoff, Stiglitz and Bernanke - big names in economics. I hope my contribution doesn’t face this sort of competition!

The submission fee was $75US and the deal is that must either pay $350US or agree to referee two papers myself (and to be fined if I default!) to get reports from two referees. For that BEP promise to provide me with an editorial decision within 70 days – not bad when the standard average waiting time to publication in academic journals is 3 years: here. Moreover, even though I had never submitted to BEP before, the whole process of submitting, paying the fee and making minor editorial changes in response to prompts took only 20 minutes.

While not free, subscription to these journals costs a fraction of costs of subscribing to a printed journal. Submission costs are about on par with many other journals.

Let’s get some perspective on publication costs. As BEP point out there is a cost crisis in most university libraries stemming from the monopoly pricing power, based on reputation and prestige, of large ‘for-profit’ publishing houses. For-profit publishers in economics charge around 83 cents per page of a journal article whereas not-for-profit publishers associated with universities charge around 17 cents per page: See here for data. BEP costs 36 cents.

I don’t know if my submission will be successful or not – I have received enough rejections to be somewhat philosophic. But it seems to me that groups such as BEP constitute the future of academic publishing and I am happy to support them. With the authors they currently attract, myself modestly excluded, they already provide strong competition for greedy monopolists such as Elsevier. Good.


conrad said...

Its good that some online journals have got off the ground in economics. In my field, I can think of none, despite the fact that no-one actually reads the paper versions of the journals anyway. Perhaps they should just tell people they print them.

The idea of a reviewing contract sounds good too (particularily for those of us that get endless requests), although the problem with it is that if you get poor submissions, then you are also are going to have poor reviewers too, which isn't ideal for top journals.

Lucy Tartan said...

I like hearing about these initiatives. The only serious drawback with electronic journals is that for many of them, once you stop paying the yearly subscription, you also lose access to the archives, whereas obviously you get to keep the print journals. If that can be got around somehow, say if readers are permitted to download issues to their own archives, then the e-journals will easily get the upper hand.