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Pay For Play, or Not?

The Scholarly Kitchen blog's Kent Anderson has been keeping an eye on publishing business models: he recently commented on a study that shows a pro-industry bias in publishing based on the pay-for-open-access model and he also recently took on PLoS One's author-pay model, and seemed to imply that the journal was sacrificing quality by publishing as many papers as possible to generate large amounts of revenue. When PLoS first came into existence, it offered the promise of a "radical, energized" group that could "reimagine scholarly communication," Anderson says, but as the grant money dried up and open-access publishing became prevalent, PLoS began building business models such as the author-pays model. In 2006, the publisher started PLoS One, characterized by Anderson as "financial salvation ... achieved via bulk publishing." The culture of "publish or perish" is also to blame, he says, as it has created a "predatory set of high-volume, author-pays journals that provide venues for weak studies with trumped up positive findings."

Anderson's criticisms have drawn ire from fellow bloggers. Cameron Neylon, at Science in the Open, says Anderson has some "serious misconceptions" about the publishing process at PLoS One. As an academic editor at PLoS One, Neylon says that the implication that the peer-review process has a "light touch" is "nonsense," and that this process is just as rigorous at PLoS One as anywhere else. "Let me put this as simply as possible. The decision whether to publish is mine as an Academic Editor and mine alone. I have never so much as discussed my decision on a paper with the professional staff at PLoS and I have never received any payment whatsoever from PLoS," he writes.

Mailund on the Internet's Thomas Mailund, agrees. As an unpaid PLoS One academic editor, he says he has no interest in making money for the journal. "If the author pays model was a scheme to earn money from papers that cannot be published elsewhere, it seems a bit dumb to leave the decision of whether a paper should be published with people who have nothing to gain from accepting papers over rejecting them," he says.

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