Page Charges at A&A…

 

It was recently drawn to my attention that UK-based astronomers and astrophysicists now have to pay a charge of €100 per page (!) to publish in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics (usually known as A&A for short). See their page charges information for details.

Contrary to popular belief, A&A only waives page charges for authors from countries who are sponsors of A&A, not all countries who are members of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) project. Although the United Kingdom is a member of ESO, it is not and never has been a sponsor of A&A: see the list of sponsoring countries and their representatives here .

Until recently, however, UK authors did have their page charges waived on what seems to have been an ex gratia basis. For some reason, that exception has now apparently been removed.

UPDATE 1: It should have occurred to me that that this also applies to authors from Ireland.

UPDATE 2: Apparently the liability for page charges is determined by the nationality of the first author. I had previously thought that if any of the authors belonged to a sponsoring country then charges would be waived.

Meanwhile, the Open Journal of Astrophysics publishes entirely for free and we are committed to continuing that way. You know what to do.

31 Responses to “Page Charges at A&A…”

  1. Phillip Helbig Says:

    “Meanwhile, the Open Journal of Astrophysics publishes entirely for free and we are committed to continuing that way. You know what to do.”

    I have published there, and would like to publish there in the future but, for several reasons, like many others, I prefer to put stuff on arXiv only after acceptance. That in itself is no problem at all, which is how I did it, though I’m sure that the OJA could attract more authors if that possibility were more widely publicized. However, since there is no guarantee that arXiv will accept the paper in the proper category, until the OJA comes to some sort of formal agreement with arXiv that any paper accepted by the OJA automatically qualifies for the astro-ph category at arXiv, that is a risk which I am not willing to take. My view is that if a journal accepts my article, it is the journal’s responsibility to distribute it. That is, after all, one of the main points of a journal. I suspect that this aspect as well is holding back some authors from trying the OJA. Otherwise, the experience was very good, better than at most or perhaps even all other journals, so it is a shame that the OJA seems to want to exclude some of the community, or doesn’t think that it is worth the trouble to cater to them.

    If the OJA realizes that it is not just a formality to get an article accepted at arXiv in the proper (here: astro-ph) category, then many who prefer arXiv only after acceptance will be put off from trying the OJA. On the other hand, if the OJA thinks that it is only a formalty, then there is no reason not to come to some sort of formal and public agreement.

    • telescoper Says:

      Your comment makes it clear that it is not a question of the OJA ‘wanting to exclude some of the community’ but your decision to exclude yourself.

      OJA has no power to compel arXiv to accept submissions, nor would we want to. We see arXiv as the most important resource in Astrophysics and OJA is merely an overlay on top of arXiv.

      • Phillip Helbig Says:

        From discussions with colleagues I know that many prefer to put papers on arXiv only after acceptance. That is possible with the OJA and I encourage authors to make use of it, I just think that it should be more widely publicized.

        The more serious problem is the question what happens if the OJA accepts a paper and arXiv refuses to allow it in the appropriate (presumably astro-ph) category. In such a case it is arXiv—more precisely, an anonymous moderator (perhaps human, perhaps some sort of AI, or some combination)—that decides which papers appear in astro-ph and which don’t. So it is neither the author excluding himself nor the OJA excluding him, but rather arXiv doing so.

        I understand that arXiv is the most important resource in astrophysics, and I understand the concept of an overlay journal and think that it is a good idea in principle. In practice, the community has become dependent on a resource over which it has practically no control and is willing to allow anonymous moderators, responsible to no-one, to decide who is allowed to be part of the community and who isn’t. Disputes with referees can be taken up with the editor of the journal. If one doesn’t like one journal, one can publish in another. In practice, that allows everything which should be published to be published. However, like it or not, so many rely so much on arXiv that not having a paper there is the modern-day equivalent of excommunication. One of the attractions of arXiv is that it is a one-stop shop. By the same token, the decisions as to what is allowed to appear where should be transparent, but they are not. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

        Here is probably not the place to discuss this further. Colleagues who share my concerns and want to do something to improve matters are free to contact me via email.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        One may hope that the culture will change so that people submit to arXiv simultaneously with submission to a journal. The more ventures like OJA that succeed, the more this will happen. It is a matter for the individual how to proceed with any particular paper.

      • Phillip Helbig Says:

        “One may hope that the culture will change so that people submit to arXiv simultaneously with submission to a journal.”

        There are several reasons why people put things on arXiv only after acceptance. Others put stuff on arXiv to (try to) establish priority and/or to get comments before submitting to a journal.

        It seems to me that submitting simultaneously would be the worst of both worlds.

      • telescoper Says:

        I think many people submit to arXiv for the simple reason that the arXiv is where things are read.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        We are in the early stages of a much needed transition and, although online is clearly the future (and honour to those working to further it), the new norm in the finer details is yet to emerge.

      • Phillip Helbig Says:

        “I think many people submit to arXiv for the simple reason that the arXiv is where things are read.”

        One can read things at arXiv only if they are there.

        Those who rely exclusively on arXiv get what they deserve.

      • Phillip Helbig Says:

        “Those who rely exclusively on arXiv get what they deserve.”

        Or maybe they don’t get what they don’t deserve.

      • Phillip Helbig Says:

        Your comment makes it clear that it is not a question of the OJA ‘wanting to exclude some of the community’ but your decision to exclude yourself.

        Neither. The problem is that arXiv decides, based on intransparent algorithms with lack of fairness and accountability, whom arXiv deems worthy and whom not, regardless of any other criteria which are usually used, with good reason, in academia.

  2. Rob Ivison Says:

    I’d never thought of ESO as a project. Doesn’t seem quite the right word for an organisation with such longevity, and with responsibility for VLT(I), ALMA (in partnership), ELT, etc.

    As surprised as you to hear about A&A page charges for UK astronomers.

    • telescoper Says:

      Couldn’t think of a better word at the time! Organisation?

    • Phillip Helbig Says:

      The money has to come from somewhere, so it seems fair to waive the page charges only for people from countries which support A&A. MNRAS has no page charges, but is presumably funded by subscriptions, but those are not limited to the UK (nor is RAS membership, as far as I know). Presumably there are subscription charges for A&A as well, and perhaps other sources of funding for MNRAS; I don’t know the breakdown of income and expenses for either journal. However, these are definitely not in the same category as overpriced and/or bundled Elsevier subscriptions. And ApJ has always had page charges, right?

    • Dave Carter Says:

      Project:

      “an individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim.”

      I think ESO meets this definition very well. And its not a negative, I don’t know why describing something as a project should be seen as a negative. Maybe it comes from the fact that the same word is also used to describe something very different in the USA.

  3. John Peacock Says:

    While I can understand Philip Helbig’s approach, I think it is now a minority attitude, and becoming rarer. I too used to post things only after acceptance, as a kind of backup to the journal, but now I see the journals as a backup to arXiv, which is the primary form of communication. Consequently in most cases I now post to arXiv and submit to a journal at the same time. The virtue in doing so is that, since your first posting is all that most people will ever read, there is an extra incentive to get things right first time – so you go the extra mile on small details where once you might have thought “well, let’s leave this till the referee has had their say”. Also, since so much refereeing is sufficiently poor that it just adds noise to the paper, I like the idea of there being a “director’s cut” version of the paper as I intended it to be.

    • Of all the papers I’ve been on — and that’s quite a lot — I’d say about 10% have been submitted to arxiv on submission, and the rest have waited to acceptance. And my students, postdocs and junior colleagues are still holding off till acceptance on the whole. There is a real difference in cultures in different parts of the community, which doesn’t seem to be recognised by everyone.

      • telescoper Says:

        In my experience it seems that theorists are more likely to go the former route than observers.

    • Phillip Helbig Says:

      “While I can understand Philip Helbig’s approach, I think it is now a minority attitude, and becoming rarer.”

      Could be. Then again, I’m often in a minority and usually comfortable with that.

      I don’t know if it’s still the case there, or how common it is or was elsewhere, but when I was at Jodrell Bank there was an institute policy to put stuff on arXiv only after acceptance, though the Director was allowed to grant exceptions for special cases.

      “Also, since so much refereeing is sufficiently poor that it just adds noise to the paper, I like the idea of there being a “director’s cut” version of the paper as I intended it to be.”

      I agree that refereeing sometimes adds noise. On the other hand, sometimes the referees do make useful comments. One could have the best of both worlds by incorporating the referee’s comments only if they are good, posting that to arXiv, and the version including all the required changes to the journal.

      Yes, some people do rely exclusively on arXiv. Sometimes there are substantial and important changes which appear in the journal, but arXiv is not updated. Even if it is, it might not be clear whether the version on arXiv is definitive. It can cut the other way as well: since often only the first version is read, people might think that it isn’t worth the trouble to put a revised version on arXiv.

      Of course, for various reasons, not everything is at arXiv, but if one relies exclusively on arXiv, then one neither knows nor cares what else is out there.

  4. John Peacock Says:

    The “first author determines page charges” rule will be interesting when it comes to consortium papers. The Planck papers were alphabetical, as will be the Flagship Euclid papers. So if Dr Aardvark turns out to be a Brit, will A&A really charge full whack for all the Euclid papers?

    • telescoper Says:

      I must admit I always thought the rule was that the waiver applied if any of the authors were from sponsoring countries…

      But then I have never published in A&A so wouldn’t really care.

    • Phillip Helbig Says:

      The “first author determines page charges” rule will be interesting when it comes to consortium papers.

      No big deal since with that many authors it would be only a few pennies each. 😐

  5. Shantanu Says:

    Dear Philip,
    I agree with Peter and John. Many people submit to Arxiv first to get feedback from arxiv readers. OJA is tailor-made for such people. Also I am told that people like Ed Witten and Maldacena only post on arXiv. Also I have seen shoddy refereeing for many papers, which were posted after acceptance and then the authors refused to make any changes pointing out that the papers are already accepted.

    • Phillip Helbig Says:

      “Also I am told that people like Ed Witten and Maldacena only post on arXiv.”

      Assuming that that’s true, that’s like saying that because Queen Elizabeth doesn’t carry any money with her, then that would be a good idea for me as well. 😐

  6. John Peacock Says:

    Peter. Further on your initial news, the page you link to giving the “new” policy dates from 2004. Is there anything more recent than this, or did your informant perhaps not read the date? I had a 2019 A&A paper led by an Edinburgh student and we didn’t have to pay page charges, so any change in policy would have to be quite recent.

    • telescoper Says:

      I was contacted in the last week by three different authors (two in UK, one in Ireland) saying that the policy has changed, which is why I wrote the post.

      I’ve never published in A&A so wouldn’t know directly about previous practice. It’s just possible the date of May 2004 given on that webpage is incorrect though. Perhaps it’s May 4th 2020 not May 2004?

  7. Phillip Helbig Says:

    Until recently, however, UK authors did have their page charges waived on what seems to have been an ex gratia basis. For some reason, that exception has now apparently been removed.”

    The reason for the previous exemption and for the change are both clearly stated at https://www.aanda.org/for-authors/author-information/page-charges where one can read

    Authors working in countries that do not sponsor A&A pay page charges at the rate of 100 euros per page (excluding appendices). Page charges are not requested if the first author is affiliated with one of the countries that sponsor A&A.

    In the past, this policy was not applied to papers received from a number of countries that suffer economic hardship. Because of the increased expenses caused by changing the A&A editorial system and by introducing newservices, this liberal policy is no longer possible. Therefore, the A&A Board of Directors have decided during its annual meeting on May 8th, 2004, that the page charge policy should now be strictly enforced. (my emphasis)

  8. Phillip Helbig Says:

    “Apparently the liability for page charges is determined by the nationality of the first author. I had previously thought that if any of the authors belonged to a sponsoring country then charges would be waived.”

    I think that in the past it was enough if any author was from a sponsoring country. I remember a talk by a UK astronomer where someone asked what his co-author had contributed and the reply was that the presence of the second author (who was from a sponsoring country) allowed the page charges to be waived. Probably the policy was not applied consistently, and people moving between institutes, having more than one affiliation, etc. also confuses things.

    Similar, some co-authors provide access to ESO time.

  9. I have now decided to stop reviewing for A&A

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