Taylor & Francis’s Really Bad Publishing Idea

Taylor & Francis’s Really Bad Publishing Idea

Every scholar, from the most junior to the most senior, has a horror story about the languorous pace of academic publishing. The journal that took six months to reject their article. The journal that took six months to ask them to revise and resubmit their article and then took another six months to reject the revisions. The journal that accepted their article — hooray! — but then took two years to publish it. And on. And on…

The good news? Taylor & Francis (T&F) has come up with an “accelerated publication” scheme that can ensure your article goes from submission to publication in as little as 3-5 weeks!

The bad news? Unless you come from the landed gentry, you will have to sell a kidney to afford said accelerated publication.

I’m kidding — kind of. Here is a diagram that shows the three “publication routes” T&F is now offering for a select number of journals:

The Proletarian Track takes up to 16 weeks from submission to publication. But it’s free! The Petit Bourgeois Track takes no more than 9 weeks. But it will cost you $3900/€3400/£3000 per article. And the Haute Bourgeois Track takes no more than 5 weeks. But it will cost you a mere $7000/€6200/£5500 per article.

Simply put, Taylor & Francis’s accelerated-publication scheme is a terrible idea. As innumerable people have pointed out on Twitter, the scheme will inevitably exacerbate all of the knowledge and professional inequality that already plagues academia. Well-funded scholars — those who will almost invariably be senior academics in the Global North, and thus disproportionately white and male — will be able to avail themselves of the Petit Bourgeois or Haute Bourgeois Tracks. Everyone else will be stuck with the much slower Proletarian Track. And that means, of course, that the work of senior white male academics in the Global North will appear much more quickly than the work of everyone else, making their work even more likely to be cited than it already is. (Given academic publishing’s well-known gender, racial, and geographic biases.)

But that is not all! Articles submitted on the Haute Bourgeois Track are also more likely to be accepted than articles submitted on the Proletarian Track — or even on the Petit Bourgeois Track. Why? Because of two interrelated aspects of T&F’s accelerated-publication scheme: (1) unlike reviewers on the more unwashed tracks, reviewers on the Haute Bourgeois Track get paid $150/€115/£90 for each review; and (2) “[a]uthors are only charged if their paper is accepted; there is no charge for using the service if the paper is rejected.” Scholars have been complaining for years (rightly) about not being paid for their work by publishers, so any reasonably self-interested scholar — or any non-self-interested scholar who still has to pay for daycare — will want to be a reviewer for the Haute Bourgeois Track. And what do you think will happen to a reviewer lucky enough to wrangle an invite if she suggests rejecting the Haute Bourgeois Track article, thereby not only depriving T&F of its $7000/€6200/£5500 payday but actually costing them money, because they will still have to pay the reviewer for her rejection? Do you think T&F will keep sending her articles, each time crossing their fingers in the hope she’ll like one of them enough to earn the fat $7000/€6200/£5500 fee?

Predictably, T&F answers “of course we will”:

Acceptance of articles in all journals offering Accelerated Publication is driven entirely by editorial considerations and independent peer review, ensuring the highest standards are maintained no matter the route to publication.

I will leave it to you, Beloved Reader, to decide which you trust more: Taylor & Francis or Capitalism.

Let me end with some bad news for Opinio Juris‘s readers: no matter how large your trust fund or lottery winnings, you cannot yet avail yourself of the Haute Bourgeois Track. As of now, T&F’s accelerated-publishing scheme applies only to 48 hard science journals, nearly all medical-related. Which, to be fair, does make at least some sense: speed of publication probably makes more difference in the hard sciences than in law and $7000/€6200/£5500 per article might be more affordable for most scientists than for most legal scholars.

But remember: Capitalism. Raise your hand if you think T&F won’t expand the Haute and Petit Bourgeois Tracks to other areas of scholarship if the current accelerated publication scheme proves sufficiently profitable. Anyone? Anyone?

So have no fear, Beloved Reader who can afford $7000/€6200/£5500 per article for accelerated publication. T&F publishes a variety of journals relevant to international law, such as the Journal of Legal History, the Australian Feminist Law Review, the Nordic Review of Human Rights, and Ocean Development & International Law. It’s just a matter of time before you can pay for the Haute Bourgeois Track’s almost guaranteed happy ending.

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