Re: Conflating Gate-Keeping with Toll-Gating

From: Manfredi M.A. La Manna <>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 11:02:55 +0000

As a new comer to this forum, perhaps I am allowed to express my surprise
at the submission, refereeing, and publishing customs in disciplines other
than my own (economics) and at some of the "solutions" being proposed here.
Some questions/comments in random order:

1. what is the point of publishing in journals with high acceptance rates?
As a 100% acceptance rate is equivalent to vanity publishing, surely any
journal where the majority of submissions are published is not worth
submitting to.

2. in my discipline, editors and especially referees for top journals both
screen effectively (btw, top journals in economics reject 80-90% of
submissions) and add value to submissions. The problem is that the pool of
good editors and referees is definitely over-fished and as a result in the
last few years a bad situation (long refereeing lags) has become worse with
the time span from submission to first reports extending to many months
(even years!).

3. the suggestion ventilated by someone on the forum that papers posted on
the web could somehow be refereed by well-disposed readers, in economics is
simply preposterous;

4. I fail to comprehend the huge fuss being made regarding the alleged
advantage of preprints allowing authors to circumvent the restriction on
dissemination imposed by copyright law. All that is required is that
authors retain copyright of their own work and allow reproductions for all
non-commercial uses (e.g. classroom use, etc.).

5. My main objection to the largely spurious debate on gate-keeping and
toll-gating is that it does not address the practical problem faced by all
researchers (certainly in economics and very likely in many other, if not
all, disciplines): the stranglehold on the academic journal market by a
handful (if not fewer) of commercial publishers whose extortionately-priced
journals are often the only reputable home for specialist papers.

6. Members of this forum may be interested in the ELSSS project (ELectronic
Society for the Social Sciences - a non-profit-making organisation), aimed
at providing vigorous competition to the big commercial publishers on a
whole range of journals (details are available at ). Since its launch on November 13th 2000,
ELSSS has been extremely successful in attracting support from some of the
biggest name in economics (with about 1,000 positive responses so far),
extensive press coverage (including full articles in The Wall Street
Journal, The Independent, The Scotsman, THES, etc.), and support from
Libraries Associations both in the UK and in the US. Even though far less
expensive than their commercially-produced counterparts, the proposed ELSSS
journals aim at generating sufficient revenues to provide adequate rewards
to editors, referees, and authors. It is only by challenging the status quo
in academic publishing that the academic community can start the long
process that will eventually lead to some of the scenarios being discussed
in this forum.

7. At the risk of being provocative, it seems to me that colleagues in
other disciplines ought to analyse more seriously the academic journal
market place before launching into debates about the ideal system for the
production and diffusion of quality-controlled, peer-reviewed research

Manfredi La Manna

Dr Manfredi M.A. La Manna
Reader in Economics
Department of Economics
University of St Andrews
tel: +44 1334 462434
fax: +44 1334 462444
mobile: 07712 649094
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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