Thursday, June 28, 2012

What the Fudge?

Ran into an interesting journal business model this week. The American Journal of Agricultural Economics charges a page fee for accepted manuscripts. Not a submission fee for all manuscripts. Not an excess page charge for articles longer than some set limit.

Here's what their webpage says (way down at the bottom of "instructions to authors)":

"Major support for this journal comes from page charges of $40 per printed page for papers published, or a fraction thereof payable by the supporting institution or granting agency."

So a 20 journal page article will set you back $800. Weird but probably do-able.

But here's what their letter a couple days ago to Mrs. Angus said:

"Please be aware that AJAE levies page charges for accepted manuscripts in the amount of $95 per published page, and you should apprise any co-authors of your joint responsibility for this obligation in the event that your manuscript is accepted."

 That's $1900 for a 20 page paper.

People, that is some serious jack.

For those of you wondering why Mrs. Angus has any truck with the AJAE, she was working with a grad student from Ghana who was interested in tropical agriculture and they ended up with a joint paper. It cited a lot of AJAE pieces, so there it went (without them having read the fine print on the website, let alone them guessing the > 100% increase in fees the journal has levied).

If you were running a journal and wanted to use your fee structures to maximize the average quality of a submission, what would you do?

Is average quality of submission even the correct maximand? If not, what is?


Marc said...


It is indeed a bit of an odd model for economics, and it certainly can come in as a bit of a surprise when you get a manuscript accepted for the first time at AJAE. But note that other journals do this. PLoS ONE is a great example. See here, under "Publication Charges":

That's right: $1350 to publish an accepted article.

As you note, AJAE does not have a submission fee, and honestly, I'd rather pay once an article gets accepted than pay upon submission and not get a refund even when desk rejected (like a regional general economics journal that shall remain nameless does -- or at least did a few years ago).

Marc said...

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, maybe I should add that I am an associate editor at AJAE.

Angus said...

Thanks for your comments, Marc. Could you also comment on what goal the journal is trying to achieve with this policy? On first glance to me, it seems like it would weaken the submission pool.

By the way, I agree that journals that charge a submission fee should refund at least 50% of the fee it they desk reject a paper.

Gerardo said...

Have you considered changing the font size or making the margins wider?

You might also change all the "and"s to semicolons and creating a bunch of acronyms

Gerardo said...

I imagine they are getting together a pool of money to pay the referees -- "if you referee this paper, you are automatically eligible for an Amazon gift card"

Marc said...


I unfortunately can't comment, since I don't know why that policy is in place. It was adopted long before I became associate editor, and I never thought of asking why it's there.

If I recall correctly, my coauthor picked up the page fees when I got my first article accepted there, in 2005, so the system has been in place since at least then.

I'm not sure this weakens the quality of submissions. Presumably, your reasoning is "no entry barrier, tons of frivolous submissions." In most cases, a $100-odd submission fee is picked up by one's department or research account, so it's not like people directly take the hit. It's never stopped me from submitting anywhere, and I don't know that it's ever stopped anyone I know. So my guess is it wouldn't alter quality in a statistically significant way.

That said, if a journal moved to finance-type submission fees (I hear some finance journals charge $500), then I think it'd make a difference. But anything in the $100-$200 range probably won't make a difference.

Anonymous said...

Page charges also help keep the journal subscription cost low. In contrast, consider Elsevier or Taylor & Francis journals: no page charges, but outrageous institutional subscription costs.

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