Sunday, May 20, 2007

Elsevier's Computer Science Review

Wolfgang Thomas recently pointed out to me a new Elsevier journal by the name of Computer Science Review. The aim of this journal is to publish research surveys and expository overviews in computer science and related fields. The reviews are aimed at a general computer science audience.

I was not aware of this new Elsevier journal, and my feeling is that its aim overlaps somewhat with that of the columns in the Bulletin of the EATCS. As one of the column editors, so far I have been extremely impressed by the willingness of the members of the concurrency theory community to contribute to the Bulletin. However, when I read at that

"Submissions are free of charge and recognizing the work involved in preparing a review article, Elsevier will pay authors for their contributions to Computer Science Review. This amount will be Euro 400 per accepted article for the authors; provided the article meets minimum length requirements (at least 20 typeset pages, preferably more). Book reviewers will be paid for comprehensive book review contributions - EUR 15 per typeset page, to a maximum of EUR 100." (The emphasis is mine.)

I cannot help but being worried about the future of the columns. Paying authors for their contributions to a journal is a remarkable development, and can even be seen as unfair competition :-) Sure, we are not talking about large sums of money, but I am not aware myself of any other journal in computer science that pays its contributors. Do you know of any journal that does so?

I wonder whether this move by Elsevier heralds a new era in which commercial publishers will reward authors, editors and referees financially. I am not sure that this would be a positive development myself. (Only once so far I have been "paid" for a journal review, and was very surprised when the cognizant editor offered to pay me. I received a 50-euro book voucher for reviewing a paper that had been awaiting a referee report for about three years and that, for some reason that I cannot understand yet, nobody wanted to evaluate.)

As Moshe Vardi often says, our currency is reputation, not money. Call me an idealist, but I'd like to keep things this way.

Comments on the issue of payment for journal papers, review articles and book reviews are most welcome. I'd really love to hear what you think about this new development.


GASARCH said...

This is a very odd development. We often
argue `since the authors,
referees, editors all do
the work for free you
should lower prices and
put it all online' The
INTENT of this argument is
NOT to be paid- its to
get lower prices and articles
on line. Buy doing this they satisfy the argument,
but not in the way we want. IF we then get into
`you are paying us but
still making lots of money yourself' then we are stuck with price
negotiations and lose
all moral leverage.

Luca Aceto said...


Thanks for your comments. I agree with you. Let me add that, as authors and editors, we would like to see that papers receive the widest possible dissemination in a timely manner. For this is bound to increase the impact of our work, and therefore our "reputation" in the scientific community. For many of us, this is the "payment" that we hope to receive for our work. (After all, our employers already pay us for doing our research.)

The time has come to ask ourselves seriously whether publishing papers in very expensive, albeit at times very prestigious, conferences and journals is a good way of ensuring the widest possible dissemination for our peer-reviewed work.

Did you see the Banff protocol? It is also interesting to notice that the cheapest journal amongst the 25 ones with the highest impact in maths listed here is Annals of Mathematics (.12 USD per page), which is run by Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study.