As I seem to have inadvertantly stirred up a hornet's nest,
I would at least like to get my two cents in....
First, I think it is unfair to single out Elsevier as a purveyor
of high cost journals. Many other publishing houses are just
as guilty - Parasitology (Camb. U. Press), Para. Immunol.
(Blackwell), Exper. Parasitol. (Academic Press) and Int. J.
Parasitol. (Pergamon) are hardly inexpensive ($460-611).
And when one take into consideration number of pages....
Note also that the personal subscription rate for MBP (which
has no page charges) is less than the cost of publishing a two
page paper in AJTMH, an eight page paper in J. Parasitol.
(non-member) or a four page paper in J Euk Micro (non-member).
Secondly, while page charges have not entered into my own
decisions of where to publish, this may not be the case for
researchers in Eastern Europe and the developing world. They
are likely discouraged from publishing in society journals
through this fact alone when subscription is not an option in
any case. Researchers in those countries make good use of
abstract services and reprint request cards, if the numbers
I receive from those locales are any indication.
Thirdly, Rich Clopton says that highest citation rate should not
be a critical issue for scientific publication. This is true.
However, it is indicative of where the best work is being sent.
Although I have published in both society and commercial
journals, I choose where to send my manuscript based on where
the most appropriate audience is. The increasing specialization
of science means that my own work, which is mostly molecular,
reaches the most appropriate audience not in a general parasitology
journal but in a more specialized journal. Indeed I have had
manuscripts returned with the suggestion that they be sent to a
more specialized publication.
Fourthly, I quite frankly prefer the format of certain journals over
that of others and certain journals do a better job of reproducing
DNA gels than others - a significant consideration in my case.
Finally, not all society journals are doomed. Last time I checked,
Science (the AAAS publication) and the various ASM publications
were all doing well despite competition from commercial journals.
What is the difference? One is that many smaller societies appear
to be less stringent in their review processes than commercial
journals in the same field. This lowers the overall standard of their
publications and starts a vicious circle of decline - I certainly do
want to publish in a mediocre journal. The quality control rests with
the editorial boards. If they decide to publish in the society journal
themselves and to be more exacting in their standards, the decline
will reverse itself. Only 16 of the 30 names on the front of J
had publications in that journal in 1992. There is a good reason why
tenure/promotion committees look at where faculty publish - they are
relying on the peer review system to evaluate the quality of their
faculty's publications. Quality is the overriding reason why I choose
to publish in a certain journal, not page charges, not society
affiliation, not longevity.
C. Graham Clark, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases,
National Institutes of Health,
Bethesda, MD 20892
e-mail: cge at cu.nih.gov