Peer-Review Costs, Rejection Rates and Journal Quality

From: Jim Till <>
Date: Sat, 15 Mar 2003 17:20:19 +0000

Found via Peter Suber's FOS News blog:

"Information Today has an interview with Pieter Bolman, Elsevier executive
and former CEO of such prestigious names in scholarly publishing as
Pergamon and Academic Press, on the merits of alternative scholarly
communications models".

See: <>
Information Today, Vol. 20 No. 3 - March 2003,
The Future of Journals, by Dick Kaser

An excerpt that caught my eye(s):

[Pieter Bolman]: "They [PLoS] charge $1,500 an article [in a page fee
charged to the author], and I think that's $1,500 per accepted article. So
say it costs the same as BioMed Central thinks it does. BioMed Central
charges $500, and they base that on a rejection rate of 50 percent, which
means every article costs $250 to put through the refereeing process and
produce. If you apply that same number to the PLoS, then their rejection
rate is going to be 83 percent. That strikes me as, first of all, pretty
elitist and sort of a drop on a hot plate. That will never become a large

My comment: If the APF (article processing fee) for any particular
open-access journal will, in the longer term, be determined mainly by that
journal's rejection rate, then might the APF come to be regarded as a
proxy for the quality of the journal? If this does happen, the rejection
rate might be a rather poor proxy for quality, because of evidence that
the rejection rate varies across journals in different research fields.

For example, SS&E (Social Science and Education) journals appear to have
higher rejection rates than LS (Life Science) journals, which, in turn,
appear to have higher rejection rates than E&M (Engineering and Materials
Science) journals. See three messages of mine, sent to this forum in early

1) Jan 27 2001: Re: ePrint Repositories [+ Peer Review]
<>: An excerpt
(about the results of an ALPSP research study): "I'm particularly
interested to know whether or not these results are consistent with those
reported by Zuckerman and Merton in 1971, They reported substantial
variation, with rejection rates of 20 to 40 percent in the physical
sciences, and 70 to 90 percent in the social sciences and humanities.
[See: Zuckerman HA, Merton RK. Patterns of evaluation in science:
Institutionalization, structure and functions of the referee system.
Minerva; 1971. 9:66-100]".

2) 30 Jan 2001: Re: ALPSP Research study on academic journal authors
An excerpt: "So, these data do seem to be consistent with the results
of the Zuckerman and Merton study (referred to in previous messages)."

3) Feb 15 2001: Re: Citation and Rejection Statistics for Eprints
An excerpt: "I'd agree that, in theoretical high-energy physics (where
rejection rates seem to be quite low), it's probably not easy for
'amateurs' to pretend that they can make a meaningful contribution to
superstring theory! In such a field, it may be more likely that there's a
'scholarly consensus' about what's garbage and what isn't".

Jim Till
University of Toronto
Received on Sat Mar 15 2003 - 17:20:19 GMT

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