It is a truth universally acknowledged that journals fail to add significant value in a way that justifies their high prices (we write, typeset, referee, edit, and they do basically nothing except charge an arm and a leg for it). However, I think it is underappreciated the ways in which some journals actually take away value. Typically by wasting our time with bad interfaces or imposing unreasonable typesetting/file format requirements. I’m in the middle of a particularly hellacious experience with the Journal of Functional Analysis (whose support staff have been unhelpful on top of incompetent) but I’ve also run into similar inconveniences with IMRN (where at least the support staff was helpful in getting around the problems).
Suppose we lived in a world where journals did the following
- Took submissions of papers by receiving their arXiv ID number.
- Refereed them and had the authors make necessary changes.
- Slapped the journal’s logo on the paper and called it accepted.
That to me is the baseline of how things should work (and is roughly how things do work at many journals: ANT/G&T/AGT obviously, but also CMP/JAMS/Acta were more or less similar). Anything else the journals do beyond that should add value rather than remove it. Here are ways that journals often remove value:
- Requiring additional typsetting work prior to submission. I’m happy to do a little bit of grunt work on an accepted paper, but it’s very frustrating to struggle to just submit a paper. ArXiv or PDF should be good enough for submission.
- Having difficult to use and poorly engineered submission systems. (E.g. JFA has no way of allowing you to delete multiple files you’ve uploaded. So if you upload 200 images and then need to change them because their system failed to compile you need to remove each file manually.)
- Having unnecessarily strict file format requirements (e.g. JFA doesn’t want .png, and IMRN wasn’t able to deal with TikZ).
- Having strange limitations on how files can be uploaded, in particular not allowing subfolders (JFA and IMRN) or only allowing particular sorts of zip formats (IMRN).
- Inserting the evil “et al.” into citations.
- Update: Introducing mathematical errors during copy-editing
Any other important ways that journals remove value that I’m missing?
UPDATE This post has been attracting an extraordinary amount of spam. (See post above.) I (DES) have changed the title to see if that helps.