No free view? No review!

FAQ about the pledge

What is an "open access" venue?

The open access publishing model aims at making the output of research publicly available on the Internet. To qualify as open access, a venue must make its research articles freely available, without subscription fees, under a permissive license such as Creative Commons, without requiring the payment of extortionate article processing charges. For a more detailed definition of open access, see the Berlin declaration. You can also watch the introductory video from PhD comics.

Why does open access matter?

The current subscription-only publication model is problematic for several reasons:

Care to remind me about what peer review is, and how it works?

Sure. Peer review is the evaluation of academic research papers by other researchers, and nowadays it is the crucial way in which new knowledge is validated by research communities. In the communities that we know, here is the workflow:

Note that the publisher who owns the venue is essentially only involved in the last two steps: the authors of the article are not paid by the venue, and the reviewers who evaluate the article are not paid either by the venue. These researchers are instead paid through their salaries, which in many cases come from public funds: this raises a question of why it would be legitimate for them to spend their time working for the private benefit of for-profit publishers.

What about journals that pay reviewers or editors?

In some scientific communities, some scientists who serve as editors of journals or as sufficiently senior reviewers can be paid by publishers. However, we do not feel that the right model would be for publishers to pay reviewers more. Indeed, these payments will always be less than the profit margins of these journals, and they will not address the problem that the journals restrict access to the published research and own the journal's name and the copyright on articles. What is more, for researchers whose salary is paid by public funds, accepting payment from journals for work performed instead of their main job could be considered a conflict of interest.

Do you also boycott closed-access venues as authors?

Many of us also avoid submitting articles to closed-access venues. The reasons why this pledge focuses on reviewing are as follows:

If I decline to review for a venue, will it prevent me from publishing there?

For almost all venues that we know about, there is no formal requirement that authors who submit to the venue will also perform reviews for the venue. However, some communities feel an obligation of reciprocity, where by submitting to a venue, you undertake a moral commitment to help run the venue by performing reviews of your own.

This moral commitment is often unclear, and it is debatable. Ultimately, how you feel about this is a personal matter that depends on your community and preferences.

Of course, if you are uncomfortable declining review requests from venues where you have published or intend to continue publishing, you are always free to make exceptions, in particular by providing reviews in compensation for the reviews that you have received.

More generally, as with any kind of political stand, you may find that some of your colleagues disagree with your opinions, and in unhealthy communities they could try to make your life harder. If you are worried about this, please only take the pledge if you are at a stage of your career when you can afford it.

That would be fantastic! We hope such a public pledge will make it easier for the editor to understand your position, and to make them think about the issues with subscription venues.

How can I determine if a venue is open-access or not?

Many conferences and journals make it difficult to determine whether their contents can be accessed for free or not. Here are ways to find out:

What is meant by "charging authors unfair prices"? Which prices are fair?

Many publishers allow authors to publish in open access if they pay access processing charges (the so-called "gold open access" model). In our opinion, this is not a good model: the costs of publication (hosting and typesetting articles) should be covered by states, universities, and research institutions, and not by readers or authors. However, there are also some actors who end up charging authors prices that are arguably reasonable (e.g., charging them the cost of DOI registration or minimal editing work). In particular, it is hard to argue against this practice when these costs are part of a conference registration fee and are just a small part of the venue's expenses.

In our opinion, prices charged to authors are unfair when they are not commensurate to the actual costs of publishing the work. For instance, LIPIcs currently charges 60 EUR to publish a paper, whereas some commercial publishers charge several hundreds or even thousands of dollars for the main prices, so these inflated prices are definitely unfair. Charges are also unfair when they only apply to some articles and the venue is also making money by selling subscriptions (i.e., "hybrid" venues).

We reiterate that, in our opinion, charging authors to publish is fundamentally unfair no matter the amount; the wording of the pledge simply allows some wiggle room for now given that there are many publishers that charge reasonable amounts and are otherwise ethical. Of course, each signatory to the pledge may interpret this part of the pledge differently.

There are no reputable open-access venues in my community, what can I do?

If open-access venues are not common in your community yet, you can still decline to review for closed-access venues, and help your community in different ways. For instance, you can help by:

How will boycotting reviews make a difference?

It is true that unethical publishers will probably always be able to find reviewers, especially for the most prestigious venues. Nevertheless, we believe that good peer review is a vital part of the scientific process. Good peer review provides valuable and timely feedback to authors and facilitates the publication of good research. Hence, reducing the pool of reviewers for closed-access venues can make them less attractive and encourage authors to switch to open-access alternatives. What is more, by declining to perform reviews for closed-access venues, we free up time to work on more relevant venues, and diminish our involvement with outdated models. This also gives us an opportunity to bring up the issue to the editorial board of the editor requesting a review, and to start a conversation about publication models.

Is open access the only problem with academia?

No, there are many others, but you have to start somewhere to improve the system.

Are there other pledges similar to this one?

Yes, here are the ones we are aware of:

We also encourage you to support them.

Where has the pledge been covered?

If you would like to cover the initiative and need information or help from us, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

When was the pledge released?

The pledge was officially launched on May 18th, 2020. The organization behind it, CAPSH, exists since 2015.

Can I take my name off the pledge?

Simply contact us and we will remove it.