The OSTP Nelson Memo’s Public Access policy guidance has caused quite a stir in scholarly communication circles. I am not surprised to be fielding calls from publishers interested in thinking through the implications at an executive and board level. Many are understandably concerned about how an accelerated US transition to open access will impact their revenue and bottom line. Yet several publishers, including the largest houses, believe they are prepared for this policy shift and that there is a sustainable path forward for them. I have also heard from many library leaders. Some are confident that they have the right frameworks already in place for their institutions. For others, even though the library community lobbied heavily for this very outcome through SPARC, there appears to be substantial uncertainty about how academia will adapt. How will academia handle the zero embargo?

Alfred Sisley, Allée of Chestnut Trees, 1878, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Fork in the Road

There is a fork in the road in terms of how publishers will respond to the individual funder policies that will result from the Nelson Memo. Publishers tend to assume that a green repository model without an embargo will result in massive subscription cancellations. As a result, forecasters are anticipating that publishers will have little choice but to steer OA models for federally funded research towards gold options such as through APCs and transformative agreements. Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe has termed this model “Green-via-Gold.” 

Green-via-Gold represents one tine in the fork in the road, but there is another. It is possible that some publishers will model out the value they offer beyond the Public Access option, whether it be through editorial review, formatting, linking, preservation, or any of a number of other services, and conclude that it is high enough that they can sustain their subscription revenue to an on-platform Version of Record even in the face of the zero-embargo model for a repository-based Author Accepted Manuscript. I do not anticipate this will be a widespread conclusion, but AAAS’s recent announcement that it will introduce a “green OA-zero day” model for taxpayer funded research for Science, as it did for the Plan S Rights Retention policy, suggests that at least this major not-for-profit publisher is prepared to take on this risk, at least for its primary journal with almost more than 100,000 individual subscribers. 

That said, I share with most observers the view that many publishers’ preferred model under these circumstances will be Green-via-Gold. While not all publishers are equally prepared, some have taken substantial steps in recent years to ready themselves for, if not actually lead, an accelerated transition to open. And, in response to various mandates and agreements, publishers have shown themselves perfectly willing to route manuscripts submitted through appropriate business model workflows, suggesting that they could do so for federally funded research in the US. Because US authors have strong affinity for traditional journal and publisher brands, as Christos Petrou recently demonstrated, Green-via-Gold will likely thereby take hold.

Thus, some of the largest and most globally diversified houses may have a path forward here, but many smaller publishers appear to face more substantial challenges. Whether smaller publishers will be able to develop sustainable models at their own scale, or find themselves driven into the arms of the largest houses, is an important question for another piece.

What Libraries Want and Expect

At the most basic level, the new policy guidance should provide the major expansion in open access that many US libraries have sought through advocacy and lobbying efforts via SPARC and other organizations. Following the OSTP announcement, SPARC in particular was very quick to celebrate the new policy, with executive director Heather Joseph calling it “an enormous leap forward.” Let’s now dig in more specifically to what libraries may hope for in a specific version of the zero-embargo model that will be established through the new policy guidance. 

A “green OA-zero day” model is in many ways the status quo model for a university library. If their approach to compliance for the 12-month embargo period in the Holdren Memo is any indication, most will likely continue to outsource, at least implicitly, compliance to publishers and their collective organizations like CHORUS. In this model, libraries can continue to subscribe and research articles are made freely available by the publishers (albeit as author accepted manuscripts and only for federally-funded content) from day one. There are no additional fees, payments remain on the “read” side and do not need to be reallocated across institutions, and there is no need to move money or track budgets differently within a given institution. The result is that the library has a simple choice, as indeed always it has had, between subscribing and not subscribing. Under this scenario, as the embargo drops to zero, many will continue to consult tools such as Unsub, likely using them to calculate that the resulting value of subscriptions has declined substantially.

The Green-via-Gold models, on the other hand, seem likely to require more proactive leadership from universities. They likely will require most research universities to undertake some or all of these imperatives: 

  • to ensure that grant applications include resources to support APCs even at the expense of other priorities; 
  • to adjust the nature of their business relationships with publishers, possibly through transformative agreements or other negotiated OA models; 
  • to budget additional resources, to support APCs and/or transformative agreements; and 
  • to ensure compliance with the new Public Access policies. 

Leaders at several US libraries have been leading a push for transformative agreements. They have faced substantial complexities, including the prospect of higher aggregate costs and logistical challenges as a result of bringing existing APCs under the umbrella of the agreement. And their efforts have not been uniformly well received among their peers. It will be interesting to see if these agreements develop to provide greater coverage for federally funded research without unduly driving up costs by supporting open access for other research outputs. 

It will be no surprise that many library leaders will instead prefer the “green OA — zero day” option facilitated by the publishers directly. And indeed, what I am hearing from library leaders at a number of major research universities is that they expect publishers to offer such “green OA — zero day” models as a result of the Nelson Memo. They do not anticipate their researchers being steered, or perhaps forced, into Green-via-Gold models and are not preparing to support researchers should this happen. 

Looking Ahead

The coming years will show an array of solutions both from publishers and from libraries about how to address the policy mandates being introduced, including some that are more nuanced and indeed more creative than the simple distinction presented above. 

Publishers that introduce a “green OA — zero day” model will surely be praised by libraries and universities. For many, this model will result in renewed pressure on subscription price, potentially including outright cancellations. But because only a subset of articles in most fields is federally funded, and only a minority in many journals, a policy like this one may offer a workable starting point for a transition for many publishers. 

The trickier question is how the market will develop in cases where publishers encourage, or perhaps require, authors of manuscripts that received federal funding to associate themselves with a transformative agreement or commit to an APC. Will universities and their libraries that have heretofore not done so prepare themselves to support their authors under these circumstances? Or will they develop alternative infrastructure or protocols that allow their authors to avoid such publishers? 

One interesting point of leverage that publishers may have is the ability to facilitate — or withhold — compliance management for institutions. As mentioned above, publishers have taken this burden on themselves up until this point. Some observers expect publishers may take on compliance responsibility for data deposit as well. If publishers opt out of facilitating compliance for subscription articles, libraries may find themselves asked to take on this burden without having the systems, workflows, staffing, or budget to do so. Or, if publishers charge for deposit as a service, will authors or institutions find themselves paying publishers, albeit not for publishing per se but for policy compliance? At least for some institutions, could such directions provide some additional rationale to support, even if grudgingly, a Green-via-Gold model?

I have yet to see guidance, either from SPARC or elsewhere in the library community, providing an indication of how the academic sector, and its libraries, will likely proceed. But universities with substantial amounts of federally funded research will find themselves forced to engage many of these questions one way or the other in the years to come.

Roger C. Schonfeld

Roger C. Schonfeld

Roger C. Schonfeld is the vice president of organizational strategy for ITHAKA and of Ithaka S+R’s libraries, scholarly communication, and museums program. Roger leads a team of subject matter and methodological experts and analysts who conduct research and provide advisory services to drive evidence-based innovation and leadership among libraries, publishers, and museums to foster research, learning, and preservation. He serves as a Board Member for the Center for Research Libraries. Previously, Roger was a research associate at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


21 Thoughts on "How Will Academia Handle the Zero Embargo?"

Thanks for this excellent review. Best wishes from Berlin.
Arnoud de Kemp preparing for APE 2023.

What is striking in Roger’s text is that it privileges the survival of publishers over the well-being of research production. Once again, I ask: what counts more? Publishing? Or research?

If we start from the research perspective, publishing becomes an integral part of it (as does communication) and the costs of research (in this extended sense) have clear sources of support: funding agencies, be they public or charities.

Libraries also provide funds to the publishing part of research. For this reason, they can begin to provide many if not most of the publishing functions. They can easily provide registration and preservation – that is the essence of their work! Dissemination is really little more than the sum of access plus identification. That too, libraries can do. In other words, repositories plus adequate indexing services plus added services such as an extended vision of the Notify project developed by COAR can take care of dissemination. But to do so, libraries must free themselves from the competitive mindset that stands over their institutions, at l;east to the extent of not treating it as the overarching element of their essence.

The problem is that the journal – a relic from the print age – has become a kind of “boundary object” where its role for evaluation of research has become the structuring element of the journal economic market, the structuring element of the university job market, and the structuring element of decision-making in grant allocations. It has even become an important element in the wielding of powers by senior researchers and in the structuring of competition between countries.

But this is not what research needs. Research needs tools for optimal communication between all researchers, and tools to provide bearings for navigating the enormous mass of scholarly publishing. Presently, the latter function is accomplished through journal rankings because it serves the alignment of economic concerns – the (coyly termed) “sustainability” issue of publishers – with intellectual valuation – the “quality”, or is it “excellence” – of research results.

Decoupling publishing and communicating from valuation is the first task. The OSTP memo jolts the whole fabric of the present system and it offers an opportunity to seek the reform scholarly publishing and communication at its most fundamental level.

Remember that when print started, defending the sustainability of scriptoria was not a very good strategy! Pace Trithemius, Starting from the premise of print-age legacies, such as journal publishers, and their survival or their “sustainability” in the fast expanding digital sphere, is not a promising strategy.

Hi Jean-Claude, Thank you for your comment. I always appreciate your perspective and share your goals broadly speaking. I believe it is important to analyze not only what we would like to have happen, but also some of the scenarios and impediments of what actually may happen. My intention for this piece (and indeed most of my writing) is the latter. Warmly, Roger

Thank you for your reply, Roger. The problem with it is that you contrast your “may happen” scenarios to what you present as “what we would like to happen” dreams. However, both sides incorporate possible and even likely scenarios. The point of scenarios is that they can reflect both anxieties and wishes.

In my particular case, what I would like to see happen is beginning to happen. The OSTP memo is a proof of this, and the rise of important projects such as the Notify project of COAR (and I could list more) shows that some likely scenarios are developing, and they are beginning to converge by stressing that publication functions for researchers are more important than publishers.

If publishers opt out of compliance responsibility and that burden falls instead to academic institutions, I’m not convinced it will be libraries who have to assume that burden, at least at larger schools. Most large research institutions have an Office of Research and/or an Office of Grants and Contracts. Whatever that unit is called at a given institution, they are already tracking which researchers at their institution are receiving federal grant dollars, the agency the grant comes from, the dollar amount, the length of the grant, etc. At least SOME of those offices also track publishing output that is associated with each of those grants. I think large research institutions will quickly find that those offices are better positioned to monitor (and potentially enforce) compliance than are those institutions’ libraries.

Hi Mel, This is an excellent point, and I agree completely. Research offices and libraries are in discussion about this issue at a number of major research universities as we speak.

“Publishers tend to assume that a green repository model without an embargo will result in massive subscription cancellations.”

Is there any evidence to support this or is it just an assumption? If the latter, it would seem quite defeatist from a publisher’s point of view.

If a publisher is confident that the value they add to an article post-acceptance is worth the fee that they charge for the Version of Record, why should they feel threatened by a supposedly vastly inferior version of the work (the accepted manuscript) being available for free in a repository?

Is there any evidence to support this or is it just an assumption? If the latter, it would seem quite defeatist from a publisher’s point of view.

There are a lot of testimonials on the website for Unsub from libraries that have been able to cancel subscriptions through the use of the tool to identify freely available copies of articles from journals:
Also, SPARC runs an ongoing tally of dropped subscriptions as well:

If a publisher is confident that the value they add to an article post-acceptance is worth the fee that they charge for the Version of Record, why should they feel threatened by a supposedly vastly inferior version of the work (the accepted manuscript) being available for free in a repository?

The problem with this argument is that it ignores the value the publisher adds up to the point of acceptance. For most journals, this is where the most work, and the most expense comes into play. For most, subscriptions are meant to cover those pre-acceptance costs as well as further value adds that come later in the process. There are costs and value added post acceptance, and this varies. For a humanities journal, for example, significant amounts of revision take place post acceptance, and for some scientific journals, things like statistical review and editing happen post acceptance. But in general, these are lesser value adds, and incur lesser costs. The more fair comparison would be to the authors original version (AOV) before any peer review has taken place.

So I think it’s reasonable for a publisher to be concerned that the majority of their work and costs are being asked to be given away for free, with the minority of work and value add left as the only thing one is able to charge for.

“The problem with this argument is that it ignores the value the publisher adds up to the point of acceptance. For most journals, this is where the most work, and the most expense comes into play.”

The value added up to the point of acceptance is supported mainly by other researchers accepting to do the reviewing for a publisher.

As for publishers concerned about “giving away” their work and costs, how about researchers who are simply giving away the results of their hard work?

With all due respect to the work done by peer reviewers, I think this is a gross oversimplification of the submission to acceptance process. While researchers do indeed provide the important peer reviews (and in some cases receive remuneration for it), there are costs incurred by the journals throughout the process. This starts at submission, where the submission system itself must be paid for and maintained. Most such systems charge a per-submission cost, and one must dedicate staff time to the customization of the system to each individual journal, troubleshooting, and ongoing development. Manuscripts go through a variety quality assurance checks throughout the process, from initial checklists to things like plagiarism checking, image integrity checking, compliance with COI requirements, CONSORT requirements, inclusion of data accession numbers, inclusion of data availability statements, inclusion of accurate funding information, ORCID iD’s, etc., etc. Someone has to do all of those checks and work with authors to get them done.

Then the editor in chief or associate editors have to read the papers and determine whether they are suitable for going out for peer review. Those are usually paid positions, with each receiving an honorarium appropriate to their field. Then peer reviewers have to be selected and invited (which often takes multiple rounds of invitations). Someone has to do that work. Then there’s the tracking of the responses and the inevitable reminder notices. Then once in, the (paid) editors have to interpret and synthesize those reviews into a decision, often for revision, and the process starts over again. And then there’s the letters, the rejection and acceptance letters that have to be written, again, variable among journals but still time and effort consuming.

Note that these things have to be done not just for accepted articles but for all submissions. And we know that if these things are just left to the community at large, they won’t happen (go count the number of preprints with no significant reviews on any preprint server). And this gets to the central conflict many publishers are facing — contradictory requirements to cut costs while at the same time, improving services and quality control.

As for publishers concerned about “giving away” their work and costs, how about researchers who are simply giving away the results of their hard work?

There are interesting arguments for and against paying peer reviewers. Some would argue that this work is included in their salaries (and in rare cases is explicitly included in their job descriptions). Others see it as a form of giving back to the community for the work others do on their own papers. Others feel it should be paid labor. But as was pointed out by Alison Mudditt and Tim Vines, doing so would further increase the costs in the system by significant amounts (approximately $4000 per article ).

I am really amazed that the difficulty of assessing the content and quality of a submitted article can even be compared to the “submission system”, “quality assurance checks” such as plagiarism, inclusion of “accurate funding information”… etc. As for the editors and members of editorial boards who do the first cut, in the immense majority of journals, are unpaid researchers themselves. I have never been paid for the few editorial duties I have been honoured to carry out in my career.

If editors are paid researchers, this opens up a new can of worms: how do you make sure that their researcher perspective is not being influenced by the financial concerns of the managing side of the journal? And why is it that most publishers keep silent about paying for editors? This is a most interesting admission here, and data about this would be most welcomed.

Yes, there are costs to communicating and publishing. No one denies this. However, placing this at the center of the research process is a little bit strange to me. In other words, dear Mr. Crotty, the financial comfort of publishers comes before the good health of the research system – an intriguing conceit…

As for the reviewing work, I certainly do not subscribe to having reviewers paid, but finding ways to integrate reviewers as possible co-authors of the publishable pieces, especially if they have corrected mistakes or made useful suggestions to be added to the publication, would help realign the processes of communication with those of publication.

Finally, all of this can be distributed differently as publishing functions, and publishers as monolithic institutions are not necessarily needed for the carrying out of many of these tasks.

In conclusion, what counts more? Research? Or the publisher? The answer is pretty obvious, it seems to me.

First of all, it’s dear “Dr.” Crotty, but I appreciate the sentiment.

Assessing the quality and content of an article is exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about. Peer reviewers submit reviews, but the journal editors make the final assessment and decision. And do you not see things like COI disclosure, plagiarism checking, image integrity, and following essential community standards to be part of assessing the content and quality of a submitted article? Do you expect peer reviewers to do such things?

Editors are regularly paid honoraria, although the practice varies among fields and journals. This is not any sort of secret. Sometimes an editor’s university will require a “buy-out” for the time they spend working on the journal, sometimes the journal just needs to compensate the editor for their time (and consider what a top surgeon for example, earns hourly, a rate that no surgery journal can really match but at least some token payment is offered). There are also many journals with professional editors. The Nature journals, Cell journals, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press journals, many society journals, etc. Many of the PLOS journals have salaried editors (

Most reputable publishers, however, build a firewall between the editors and the financial operations of the journal. This maintains editorial independence, and an editor’s payment is not dependent in any way on the journal’s financial performance.

All that said, it’s less a question of putting publishers’ interests and health above that of anyone else in the system. There is work that needs to be done for the system to function. Someone has to do it. An imperfect but functioning system is better than one that doesn’t work at all, and given that the policy discussed here (US OSTP) is based around the publication of research articles, then there needs to be some route to making that practice sustainable and functional. New ways of communicating research are certainly welcome. If you can create something new that works better, that would be great, and the community would flock to it. Until that exists, there needs to be some functional system in place.

Danny, in addition to what David already mentioned, I think one part of your statement above is incorrect, namely “a supposedly vastly inferior version of the work (the accepted manuscript)”. The author’s accepted manuscript is the POST-peer reviewed version, not a pre-peer review initial submission. As a result, the post-peer reviewed version may be almost identical in content (although not in format/layout) to the VOR, meaning it definitely should not be “vastly inferior” to the VOR.

Hello Mel,

I’m actually in agreement with you re: the difference between the AM and VoR, which is why I described it as ‘supposedly’ inferior; this was a nod to publisher statements (both public and private) that attempt to discourage green OA in order to drive authors towards gold OA, which when it comes to the larger commercial publishers, almost always incurs an APC and therefore protects/enhances revenue.

What I was trying to point out (perhaps not very well in hindsight) was the contradiction between publisher concern around subs cancellations as a result of green OA whilst at the same time dismissing or downplaying the value of an AM.

Thanks David, that’s a helpful response. I accept your general point that at present publishers incur certain costs for which they deserve to be reimbursed though I’d counter it with some further comments.

Firstly, if publishers were more transparent about their operating costs and the proportion of a subscription/APC that pays for the various pre- or post-acceptance costs, researchers and institutions would perhaps be more sympathetic (or not, depending on what the data shows). As it stands publishers seem very resistant to this, as seen with the relative lack of engagement with cOAlition S’ Price and Service Transparency Frameworks and subsequent Journal Comparison Service from some commercial publishers.

The second point is that if most of a publisher’s costs are incurred during submission/acceptance, why is payment requested for access to the VoR? You state “subscriptions are meant to cover those pre-acceptance costs.” So readers retrospectively pay for costs incurred by the publisher as a result of submissions from authors. Obviously not everything will be accepted by the journal, so readers are also retrospectively paying for costs incurred by the publisher in rejecting an article that said reader/payer will never see and therefore derive no benefit from. This seems back to front.

One of the intentions of the OA movement is to address this problem and transition from payment for access to content and towards payment for publishing services, but most publishers are wedded to the notion of payment for access to content, essentially charging for dissemination which is increasingly something that researchers and institutions are able to take care of themselves, as per Jean Claude’s comments above, particularly on COAR Notify.

Do we not need a radical rethink of the role of the publisher, if in fact their main service to research is not in publishing/disseminating a VoR but in the work done during submission and acceptance? Should they not be charging reasonable and transparent fees for these publishing services at the point of delivery, with authors then retaining copyright and being free to disseminate their work post-peer review however they see fit, e.g. in an institutional/subject repository?

I’m not sure it’s a rethinking of the role of the publisher, but perhaps more a better understanding of just what it is that publishers do. Scholarly publishing is, and has long been, a service industry (we had this conversation about it back in 2012: ). Publishers provide a variety of services to authors that they need. Under the subscription model, the author opts not to pay for those services, and instead, shifts the costs to a large number of subscribers. Under author-pays OA models, this becomes a direct transaction, and the costs are concentrated down on a small number of authors. It’s the same set of services being performed, but as you note, it’s a question of who pays for them. The subscription model, being indirect and not charging the author for the services they’re receiving, creates some confusion about the industry, but at its core, it has always been about services.

Another important point you make is that in either model, curation is generally valued by the community, so someone has to pay for all of the submissions that are rejected from the journal and not published (readers in the subscription model, authors in the Gold OA model). Some of this has shifted in recent years as publishers have built cascade programs among families of journals, so rejected articles do eventually find a home and bring in revenue to cover their costs. But like you, I’ve always found this phenomenon problematic, particularly since there is a clear solution to the problem available, submission fees. I wrote about this back in 2016 (, and Tim Vines has more recently done the math and suggested it again ( Like the subscription model, it spreads costs more broadly, so more people pay smaller amounts, rather than a small group of authors paying larger amounts. But submission fees (with the exception of some fields) are largely rejected by the research community, for reasons I’ve never understood.

As far as transparency, it’s another area where I’m not sure I understand the need for it. Prices are not based on costs, they’re based on value. When you go to a grocery store, do you need to know how much the flour and the gas used to power the oven cost to decide which loaf of bread to buy? Or are you more interested in taste and nutrition? Would you opt to pay the same price for less healthy, less delicious bread if you knew the manufacturer’s costs were higher than those of the healthy bread and they were making less of a profit margin? Basing prices on costs creates perverted incentives for businesses — if I become really efficient and lower my costs, then even if I maintain the same profit margin, I earn less money. If I am inefficient and increase my costs, then I earn more money at the same profit margin.

First of all Prof. Dr. Dr. Guédon will apologize for not giving Dr. Crotty his due title.

Point 1: “Peer reviewers submit reviews, but the journal editors make the final assessment and decision.”

Indeed, but the hard work, the real intellectual assessment, is done by the reviewer, not the editor, even though many journals use templates that encourage various forms of sloth (and reduce costs). If reviewers are so little appreciated by editors, it may explain the difficulty of finding peer reviewers. And if editors, often selected by publishers, and paid by publishers make the final decisions, how does that affect the decisions? For example, is an article chosen only for its intrinsic quality, or it is also because the topic is likely to improve the impact factor of the journal?

Point 2: “Editors are regularly paid honoraria, although the practice varies among fields and journals. This is not any sort of secret.”

Not any sort of a secret? The issue has long been debated, even disputed, and the data is extremely scant. Can you publish reliable data about this claim? For example from OUP? Is this another example of the publishers’ lack of transparency? This discussion is becoming funnier and funnier, my dear Dr. Crotty.

Point 3: “Most reputable publishers, however, build a firewall between the editors and the financial operations of the journal.”

I wonder how some “reputable” publishers can remain reputable and have no firewalls between editors and the financial operations of the journal. I wonder how that works, but this will intensify my mirth.

As for the “reputable” publishers that do have firewalls, where can we check what they are? What are these firewalls? How credible, reliable, etc. are they? I would love to see clear presentations of the firewalls in each journal site. This, it seems to me, would appear to be a minimal and elementary requirement. If people remain obsessed with journal rankings, firewalls should obviously enter the equation.

And what of the occasional rebellions of editors against the financial decisions of the publishers? What about Lingua vs. Glossa, or the Journal of Informetrics vs Quantitative Science Studies. I believe Lettie Y Conrad began a discussion of this issue in the Scholarly Kitchen back in February 2019. Let me quote her briefly here: “Journal editors often sit at the intersection of research and publishing, and have to navigate differing perceptions of ownership in the journals that they manage.” The language is diplomatic but it does not require much thinking to see the deep tensions that underpin it.

Point 4: “There is work that needs to be done for the system to function. Someone has to do it. An imperfect but functioning system is better than one that doesn’t work at all, and given that the policy discussed here (US OSTP) is based around the publication of research articles, then there needs to be some route to making that practice sustainable and functional.”

Yes, there is a lot of work to be done and the continuing entanglement of profit seeking with scholarly publishing and communication is the first priority. Removing all pretense of evaluation through journal rankings will contribute to weakening the entanglement of profit with evaluation. Once this is done, communication and publishing need to realign together. The present alignment of the journal market with the forum of ideas is perverting the production of knowledge. Using words like “sustainable” as fig leaves for profit will not convince anyone. Meanwhile, Latin America continues to show to way to the world.

Yes someone, or rather a number of cooperating actors, must make the system work, and, as the money originates with funding agencies and libraries, I would suggest they quickly get together and work out the parameters of a new and better system. Such a meeting should involve the funding agencies of China, India, African countries, and Latin American countries without forgetting South-East Asia, of course.

Knowledge is simply too important to be left in the dominant hands of publishers, especially profit-obsessed (aka sustainable) publishers.

Can you publish reliable data about this claim?

You may be unfamiliar with the practice, but it is commonplace. One of the most common questions I received as a publisher (and continue to receive as a consultant) is “how much should I pay my editor?” Clarke & Esposito has been doing a benchmarking exercise that includes this information across a range of fields, however this is a service we charge for.

For non-profits and research societies, however, you can look up salaries paid via their public 990 forms via I just looked up eLife and in 2019, they paid their Editor in Chief $112,500, a significant decrease from the $219,300 their editor was paid in 2017. I’m sure there’s plenty of information you can mine there.

Thank you. I wish we could also have those figures for the commercial outfits.

I’m kinda late to this party, but hopefully not too late to pitch in a with an observation or two. Firstly, the OSTP memorandum invites Federal agencies to come up with plans to make “peer-reviewed scholarly publications” publicly accessible (it doesn’t actually use the term ‘open access”). This opens the door to models other than the various hues of OA. Secondly, there is no stipulation that the ‘scholarly publication’ be a journal article or book chapter. The only requirement, it seems to me, is that the publication be peer-reviewed, freely available, accessible etc. Again, the door is open to models other than the various hues of OA. OSTP requires each agency to come up with plans. I guess one plan could be for an agency to create its own peer-review management system and repository. This might be a cheaper option than paying APCs. Better still, they would be in control over things like branding, timing and impact measurement. Or maybe they could issue a call-for-tender for peer-review management, repository, and impact measurement services? I bet that would cost less than $3k per publication, especially if they banded together. I guess the central point I’m stumbling to make is that OSTP isn’t requiring Agencies to find a solution within the existing paradigm. After all, research doesn’t HAVE to be published in a journal or book. Ask the World Bank or OECD or IPCC (and please don’t say their publications aren’t peer-reviewed, they are, often in a manner that’s more stringent than any journal). Of course, we all know the driver for why academics want to be published in a journal – career advancement. But is it right that Federal Agencies overpay for ‘publishing services’ because universities have chosen to outsource their hiring/promotion processes to journal ranking systems? I’m with Monsieur Prof. Dr. Dr. Guédon on decoupling. I’ve long felt that one of the problems of both APC and subscription models is that they bundle a collection of distinct services for authors, readers, their respective employers, librarians, and funders into a package that one actor (usually a librarian or a funder) gets lumbered with paying for while everyone else gets a free ride. (Some may remember I wrote about this in 2017: ) I think what OSTP is doing, probably unconsciously, is inviting us to re-think the scholarly publishing process. Splitting peer-review from dissemination could be a good first step. And if I was running a Federal Agency, I think I might be beating a path across DC to the World Bank to learn how they publish (because, whisper it quietly, their OKR – Open Knowledge Repository – is really very good).

Very insightful, Toby. I agree with your reasoning. And I acknowledge your priority on the decoupling idea. I should have noted it.

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