Angèle Bénard-Sankaran
Dec 19, 2019 · 4min read


A few months ago, I received an email from a scientific journal “Infection, Genetics and Evolution” belonging to the by-now infamous publisher group Elsevier. This email contained a personal invitation to review a manuscript within the remit of my scientific expertise, which had been submitted to publication . After enquiring if this journal was planning to publish this manuscript in Open Access, I decided to turn down their offer and replied to them as follow:

Dear Sir, Madam,

I received your proposal to review the manuscript entitled “xxx” by xxxx.

While I appreciate that you reached out to me for my scientific expertise, I feel a moral obligation to refuse your offer as your journal does not support and privilege an open access business model.

Although I am not minimizing the cost of editing and publication that editors sustain, I oppose to the double cost burden that researchers face when trying to publish their scientific results and/or access scientific literature. The same scientific literature that they have solely generated through a laborious and lengthy process from grant writing to data generation and up to peer review.

Furthermore, I believe that ultimately tax payer citizen’s trust is being abused in this process. In fact, public research funding raised from citizen tax contribution is fuelling a system generating private profit that does not benefit the researcher community. Researchers are excluded from this system despite being the main content providers and despite being professionally and financially entirely dependent of it.

I would like to point out to you some resources that could be useful to you for exploring alternative open access or not-for-profit publishing business model.

Alternative Open Access Publishing Models (EU reports)

Non-profit publishing: open access and the end of copyright transfer

Challenging the Current Business Models in Academic Publishing: Accelerators and Obstacles to the Open Access Transition (Science Europe)

Should academic journals adopt non-profit publishing models?

Converting Scholarly Journals to Open Access: A Review of Approaches and Experiences.

Income models for open access: an overview of current practice

Transitioning Your Journal from Subscription to Open Access Open Access

I will therefore offer graciously reviewing comments and suggestions directly to the authors of the manuscript to potentially improve their manuscript. I will also encourage them to seek a financially reasonable mean to publish their work in open access.

Best regards,

Angèle Bénard, PhD, MBA

I acknowledge that I am currently in a privileged position where my career development does not depend anymore on impact factor and publication record. I also would like to emphasize that these types of action should, by no mean, disadvantage scientific authors and their career development. In fact, I do recognize how the constructive feedback I have received from reviewers of the articles I co-authored helped me becoming a better scientist.

However, I am sharing publicly my answer to this request to show that we, researchers, are an integral part of a publishing system in which we can find leverage points of influence. Feel free to copy and use this answer as a template if you wish to reply in a similar way to such a request.

At ISA, we are advocating regularly for Open Access publications as well as Open Science and we strive to help scientists implementing this strategical institutional objective in their daily work.

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