Is it really more expensive for a journal to be more selective?

A frequent point raised in the discussion about open access it that it would cost much more per published paper in more selective journals, for example in this Nature News Feature. I’ve never seen this broken down in detail, but the idea seems to be that all these rejections cost a lot, and the costs are then born by the few published paper.

Now as I understand it, Nature and Science reject a lot of papers without peer-review. My experience as a volontary editor at PLOS One is that rejecting without peer review very bad papers is not a lot of work. On the other hand, taking a borderline paper and improving it through rounds of reviewing-edition-revision is a lot of work. This is what a good lowly selective journal like PLOS One should be doing, and which super selective journals don’t even try to do.

Now it’s possible that the mega selective journals have other justified costs. And my evidence is only anectodal. But in my opinion the equivalence selectivity = high costs is not obvious, and should not be accepted without further justification.

What would be reasonably expected to cost more is employing professional editors. So free market, transparent prices, author pays, and let’s see who’s ready to pay for their added value please.

Also, writing News and stuff costs money. Well that’s magazine stuff. Let it stand on its own and people will pay for subscriptions to this if it’s worth it. But bundling the cost of journalism with that of science is not justified and blocks access to science.

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