Academic journals are screwed up

From other threads, I’ve seen quite a few people who are in grad school or engaging in research. I’m a researcher at a university engaged in a bunch of different projects related to simulation (medical and driving). Every time I try to submit a paper to a journal I hate it. The formatting requirements are all different, word counts are very small for some journals, and it takes forever for me to get the reviews back. Then, when you get the reviews, the reviewers either don’t seem to have read all of your manuscript or they give contradictory advice.

Anyway, here’s a thread for people to complain about academic journals. I think they, in general, are way too expensive for the amount of service that they provide to the academic community. I would love to hear other people’s experience with them.


Preprints will save us all.

Don’t even get me started on how the whole publishing industry is a racket and how open access is the only ethical choice but also very expensive


I’ve only ever gotten one of my things published and it was surprisingly low hassle. Everywhere else you have to jump through all these hoops to get it ready and they turn it down and you’ve wasted hours.

I wish you could just send them content and if they like the content and want to publish it then you have to format it. But so much of academia is jumping through hoops just because the people who got to the top had to jump through hoops so they think you should do the same.

And then if you do get published, your article is stuck behind some paygate that only libraries can afford to buy into meaning the only people reading your article are other academics, probably students, and it’s just this elite, gated pool of knowledge. I hate that.

My eventual dream is just to compile my academic writings into books of related subjects and self-publish so I can put it out my way and not have to deal with the hassle of academic publishing. And the stuff I can’t put into one of these books I’ll just publish online for free on my own site.

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I think the idea of peer review is extremely important, but the way it is set up right now doesn’t work well for anyone. Academics write manuscripts (unpaid by journals), different academics review those manuscripts (unpaid by journals), and then academic institutions pay journals quite a lot of money to license the right to read the published articles. In open access journals, the writer pays the journal thousands of dollars to ask other academics to review the writer’s work for free. I agree that preprints are great, but they don’t completely solve the problem.

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So much this. The scale of the scam is staggering - stealing labour from reviewers/editors and the content from researchers and all for a system that runs purely on inertia and reputation. (We) Academics often think of smarts as being able to solve the problems of the world but the reality check is just looking at how peer-reviewer research is published - we can’t even take that back from profiteers.

Most German universities are currently fighting it out with Elsevier, good on them! It really is a terrible system, especially as most research funding here comes from the state, even so, the public (who paid for the research) does not get access to the results. I have to admit that I was lucky so far, in that my publications were either in open access journals or in edited volumes (which also takes forever, but as the editors know me personally, I feel like the process is much nicer). So, I have not had any issues, other than the typical delay and delay and delay, but if you have ever had to edit a volume or journal yourself, I think that makes you a lot more understanding of the delays. Academics generally appear to have a very hard time to meet any deadline.

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I’ve generally had pretty positive interactions with journals, but I think that is some combination of dumb luck and privilege. My gut reaction to moving to a world without journals (just “preprints”) is initially that peer review is too important to outright give up on, but on the other hand the peer review offered by journals is so very flawed that I’m not sure it is adding much.

Peer review adds much. I’ve had great suggestions come back from reviewers that have improved my papers and my supervisors honed their skills (and so could help with writing our papers) because they are also involved as reviewers for various journals and conferences.

But none of that is paid for by the publishers. That entire ecosystem of management and review is unpaid work done based on this structure of reputations that somehow we gave to the publications rather than to the peer reviewers who make the engine work. Throwing out the publishers doesn’t mean the end of peer review, it means the end of our unpaid work being held to ransom and our institutions forced to pay to access our own collective work.

I’ll also note, in relation to the above comment about state funding (and demanding a change) that it’s not just preprints that are forcing this change - for example, the full and final text of the article must be deposited in a freely accessible online repository and without restriction on non-commercial re-use within 6 months (a year at the most) for UK funding (about a third of UK research degrees are funded by research councils, as is much of the research outside of PhDs). These conditions are being made to ensure state funding forces a change in the access to peer reviewed research. The other push (which is referenced above about Elsevier/Germany) is to simply stop paying for access - make a national/international scale push to say no, to devalue those publishers who enforce a strict paywall and will not offer a preferential rate or work to eventually open the archives they control of the work they never paid for but managed to claim copyright over.