Archives de catégorie : édition électronique

Questions about the development of open access journals which charge authors

Two colleagues from British and German universities have recently invited me to become associate editor for a newly created section of Frontiers in Sustainable Cities, the academic journal they are involved in as scientific editors. I am greatly honoured of this invitation to contribute to the development of a subfield of research in which I have been involved for several years. I trust and respect greatly these colleagues and I have no doubt their work is a guarantee of high scientific standards and integrity in the peer reviewing process .

I know the European Union, as well as the French scientific funding agencies such as the French Agence nationale de la recherche or the CNRS, support the publication in open access journals. This policy, known as Plan S, was launched in 2018. Personally, I am also convinced that open access journals bring huge visibility and easier access to research. Nevertheless, I think that the Article Processing Charges (APC) mechanism1 raises several ethical and political issues. Therefore, I am uncomfortable to encourage publication in APC-led journals, and I fear I have to, at least temporarily, decline my two colleagues’ invitation.

I wrote this text in order to highlight this new trend and stir a collective discussion among my scientific community at Sciences Po, among the French academia and beyond (which is why I wrote it in English).

A system that increases inequalities

Obviously, the system creates a barrier for young researchers who do not hold stable or tenured positions and who do not have access to substantial research funds. I conduct my research in France, where academic precarity is widespread, and I know that APC would indeed exclude those young and promising researchers. Tenured researchers without (or with limited) research funding are actually also at risk of being excluded by the development of Author Processing Charges. APC journals come at a moment when the research units that are part of the universities (the so-called ‘laboratories‘) undergo increasing financial pressure and lose the small autonomy they had managed to keep. Consider for example a research unit where every year, around 100 articles, assuming 50% of them would be published in APC journals; publication fees would amount 50.000 € if we assume the APCs correspond to those billed by Frontiers in Sustainable Cities, which are not the highest, by far. These sums would have to be distracted from research, fieldtrips, conferences, salary or from library funding, who cannot stop their subscriptions to journals.

For me, encouraging APC would mean being part of a system that increases inequalities between established and aspiring researchers, between well-funded and not funded ones, and reinforce the hierarchy inside the academic world. With research funding characterized by a very high selection rate, and in substantial proportion determined by trendy topics and pre-existing researchers’ reputations, in the end, the probability that non-mainstream topics are ignored is high.  

A system that encourages the ‘Publish or Perish’ race

A second issue relates to current trends in academic publishing is the race to publish, the well-known “Publish or Perish” (PoP) dynamic. PoP is the result of the convergence of multiple factors, among others: researchers’ careers based on quantitative metrics; the funding of projects based on competition between researchers and between institutions; and the increasingly lower technological cost of publishing digitally. One of the consequences of the PoP “rule” is the increased pressure to submit articles to a limited number of well-established and highly recognized journals. As a result, the selection process has become very competitive, excluding a large number of good articles only because there is no room in these top-journals, and because editorial board members, reviewers and copy editors don’t have enough time to review, follow-up and edit so many articles. The development of digital platforms for academic publishing such as Frontiers fits in this general landscape. APC platforms and journals surf on this scarcity in academic journals, with demand increasing faster than offer. The recent shift of research funding agencies such as the UE (H2020, ERC) or national agencies towards open access publications, in the name of open science, has only stimulated this trend and increased market opportunities for APC journals. My accepting the invitation in this journal and proposing theme issues as suggested, would only feed these dynamics. Obviously, as a researcher and leader of collective research projects who needs to deliver research outputs in academic journals, possibly as theme issues, I feel that I could take advantage of this APC system. But I am also wary of fueling a move in a direction that I feel is insane.

Insane capitalistic accumulation at the expense of public money

A third issue relates to the political economy of the science publishing industry. For years, researchers have complained about the concentration of this industry and the enormous profits oligarchic corporations are ripping, due to their commercial practices with libraries, with oversold bouquets of journals and hardly justified price hikes. The move towards open access publication and the rise of the APC model (with article processing charges reaching up to 5000 € in some journals, and currently about 1000 € in the case of Frontiers in Sustainable Cities) is a new strategy those corporations are implementing in order to alleviate the risk that the open-access policy represents for them. APC are becoming a new source of profit for the publishing industry. This needs to be discussed in relation to two questions: are the prices of APCs fair? How does this new business model impact scientific integrity?

A few surveys have tried to estimate the sums spent on APC at the European level, for instance the OPENAPC project by Bielefeld University. Similar initiatives regarding the cost of publishing are scarce because the industry keeps doors closed in the face of outsiders. Such a survey was undertaken in France however. It shows that the median cost par page of Social Sciences and Humanities published article’s page stands at 66 €. For an average 10 pages article it makes around 660€, to be compared to the 970€ charged as APC in the journal I was invited to2. Is the difference the Frontiers’ profit margin? If so, then it’s a lot. Things are worse if you consider that APCs amount to 3800€ in the top-ranked journals, and up to 5000€ in some case (not SSH)3. Data from the OPENAPC project show an average APC at 1976€, and up to 7400€. According to my correspondent at Frontiers, “ we use our Market Intelligence team to ensure that our APCs are competitively priced’’. At the launching of the journal, APC may be ‘’competitive’’. But they may increase later. So APCs are not based on just taking into account the real cost plus a margin that is already big. They vary based on the dynamics of offer and demand across and within academic subfields in order to generate more profit. This means that APC journals are in fact speculating on their reputation to extract more profit from public money and researchers’ work without contributing themselves to adding value beyond the service of providing access and copy-editing.

Another way to increase the revenues of such journals is to publish as much articles as possible. This is their direct interest. Some APC journals (at least those labelled predatory journals or publishers according by Beall in 2012) have repeatedly been suspected of lowering the review process standards, since their business is based on publishing as much as possible . A clear and neat separation is needed between scientific editors and commercial management. I don’t say it’s the case of Frontiers, despite some rumours and individual claims found on internet. I trust my colleagues for not allowing this for the new section they are launching. To be fair, one must recognize the development of journals operating on this market also meets the interests of scholars throughout the world. To alleviate the risks associated with this double pressure, from some publishers and some authors, editorial boards have to implement a very strict monitoring of the review process, for instance regarding the not so rare practice of requesting that authors propose a few names of potential reviewers.

The development of such journal contributes to increase the shameful process by which an enormous amount of public money (profit rates are typically between 20-30%) ends up in their pocket while many universities and above all researchers, junior or senior, have their own pockets depleted, because of job policies in the academia and the increasing concentration of research funding.

Being part of the APC model means working for free for the profit of this industry: as an author, as an editor, and as a reviewer. The only reward is a bit of academic glory and the opportunity to have articles or theme issues published. One can object that this new world is not better, economically and financially speaking, than the existing world of journals run by the scientific publishing oligarchy. In my view, the advantage of the latter is at least that everyone can submit and publish an article with having to pay the APC. Clearly, we need other solutions.

Other solutions are available 

As I have mentioned above, I fully recognize that there is a serious need of new journals, in particular for emerging scientific fields, in order to ease the pressure on existing journals. However, there are many different editorial models and the APC “gold path” is not the only one. France is probably particularly lucky because the early mobilisation of researchers from social sciences and humanities, and the support of the CNRS and of several universities have allowed the rise of a publishing ecosystem making full use of digital technologies to support open-access journals. Hence most journals either remain under a classical subscriber system (but less expensive than in the anglophone publishing industry), or under a system, in which the cost of editorial staff and system maintenance is borne by the universities and the CNRS (the OpenEdition platform is a case in point, but there are other instances). Similar solutions, even if not as widespread as in France, also exist in other European countries and in South America . In my field of research, I think of ACME, a journal of critical geographies, and of Geographica Helvetica, where the cost are supported by several Swiss academic institutions, or the Italian journal of political sociology Partizipatione e Conflitto (PACO), just to name a few. These solutions rely on the strong involvement of academic communities and the support of the national and local academic institutions. Apparently, this kind of solutions are not as developed in the anglophone academic world. I wonder if this can be explained by the fact that researchers are more pressured to invest their time and energy to gain research contracts through competition, and are less available for community led journal projects, which require cooperative practices. It is true that researchers are not editors, publishers nor IT specialists and they should not waste time when efficient publishing solutions exist. However, the drive towards the APC journals bear with it many shortcomings. Collective, cooperative and at least more prudent attitudes are needed to avoid to spring in without further reflection.

A necessary debate inside scientific communities

At least, before accepting the invitation to become part of this editorial board, I wanted to share these arguments and raise a debate within the scientific community, at the level of my research unit and more broadly in the French academia and, why not, the European academia which is directly impacted by APC journals. and committed to take a stand. If we want to collectively keep the rein of our academic life and make the most efficient use of precious but scarce public funds, instead of moving individually to this new system without questioning it, I believe alternatives should be explored and, at least, that the choice of APCs should be collectively discussed4.

Frontiers‘ answers

Answer from the person in charge of recruiting Associate editors at Frontiers to my message stating I was going to decline their invitation, where I sketched the arguments further developed in this blog post.

The OA model introduces a gap between funded and non-funded researchers
We do charge Article Processing Charges (APCs), however this is the only sole source of revenue for us, all of which is reinvested back into our platform and open science services to allow more communities to benefit from high-quality open access. They also enable open access to all of our content, whereby all articles published are freely and permanently available for anyone to video, download and disseminate (under the CC-BY licence, where authors retain the copyright for articles). We also are passionate about providing assistance to authors who are unable to pay the article processing charges. A portion of the income we generate is distributed to our fee support programme, which you can find more information here.  We also have an institutional memberships programme where we work with universities, funding agencies and research consortia to find ways to remove some or all of the responsibility for APCs from individual authors. You can find out more information on this here. When we launch new journals, we use our Market Intelligence team to ensure that our APCs are competitively priced and are usually less than half the price of subscription publishers. 
Trend toward APC funded journals encourages the Publish or Perish race, and journals pushing for quantity rather than quality
At Frontiers, it is the active researchers from our editorial boards who make the content decisions. We do not set acceptance rates, instead, our acceptance and rejection criteria are clearly defined in our editorial guidelines and it is the responsibility of the editors and reviewers to ensure the highest quality research passes through peer review. Their names are published on the final article as a public endorsement of this. Our philosophy is to empower researchers in the publishing process and ensure editorial independence. Therefore, editorial decisions about the acceptance or rejection of articles within the peer review process are taken by our editorial board of subject-specific experts, whom we empower with cutting edge-technology and editorial support to make these decisions efficiently. We completely understand that academics will invest time into the reviewers and editors role, which is why we ensure they have plenty of support from our side from our dedicated peer review team and our internal checks team.
Notes _____________________
  1. this is a fee to be paid by authors once their manuscript has been review, revised and accepted. APC are the main revenue of those journals. In certain cases, there are waivers for these APC, when a scientific societies, or a university compensate for it, which allows the members of the society or the faculty of the university to be exempted from the fee []
  2. Contat, Odile, and Anne-Solweig Gremillet. 2015. ‘Publier : à quel prix ? Étude sur la structuration des coûts de publication pour les revues françaises en SHS’. Revue française des sciences de l’information et de la communication, no. 7 (July). []
  3. see a recent French survey by Leduc, Michèle, and Antoinette Molinié. 2020. « Les publications à l’heure de la science ouverte ». Paris: Comité d’éthique du CNRS []
  4. I would like to thank Tommaso Vitale and Miriam Perrier for their feedback and suggestions, as well as Pierre Mounier and Marin Dacos for pointing to surveys and resources documenting publishing practices []

Roundtable ‘Circulating online critical knowledge about the Middle East’

I am organising this roundtable at the GISMOM conference on the 4th of July, 16:30-18:30, Amphithéâtre 1 : 12 place du Panthéon, rez-de-chaussée aile Cujas.


During the last ten years, online news websites, e-zines and other internet outlets have gained a strong visiblity and played an increased role in diffusing critical knowledge about the Middle East and North Africa. Critical here refers to approaches that challenge the mainstream media and governmental storytelling, by offering a multiplicity of angles and discourses, featuring neglegted groups such as youth, women, poor, migrants and above all informed by social sciences and fieldwork. The rise of these new actors lies at the crossroads of several transformations. The democratization of Internet, the relative lowering of technological hurdles (for instance related to the use of several languages), the rise of social networks have coincided with and facilated the rise of the revolts in the region. The platforms have surfed on the enthousiasm these revolts have spurred and allowed for alternative and critical analyses to gain more visibility. However, the rise of authoritarianism, the wars, the increased repression against the workers and the democratic movements, the massive displacements have prevented independent information sources to continue documenting the political transformations. Increasingly polarised social networks have blurred the available information and rendered fact-based analyses less audible. Academic debates seem to have fadded or at least experienced difficulties in reaching wider audience, possibly also because the political stances adopted by many researchers have cast doubts over the soundness of their judgements. Critical platforms have never been so much needed, but they struggle to exist in the face of competing discourses, and struggle to fund their activities and ensure their existence.

Two such online platforms come to mind and illustrate distinct choices. Jadaliyya was launched in 2010 by a team of academics based in American Universities, many of them originating from Arab countries. The platform developed as a decentralized collective of thematic pages. It featured very diverse contents, languages and formats, from text to voice and video, from online to paper. Orient XXI started in 2013 and is led by retired French and France-based Arab journalists with comprehensive experience in the region, and opens its space to academics. It also diversified the languages of publishing. The panel aims to present and assess these different experiences, advance elements of explanations about the convergence or divergence between them, and explore alternative and new approaches to broaden, expand and assert these experiences, for instance through collaboration, new formats, the opening of new debates, etc. Continuer la lecture

L’Atlas du Liban: les nouveaux défis est maintenant en ligne

J’ai le plaisir d’annoncer la publication en ligne de l’Atlas du Liban: les nouveaux défis (paru en 2016) que j’ai dirigé avec Ghaleb Faour et dont Mouin Hamzé est co-éditeur.

Il existe en version française et en version arabe, pour laquelle il faut particulièrement remercier Mohamed Dbiyat, son traducteur principal.

Pour en savoir plus, voir ce précédent billet.

Doper HAL face aux réseaux sociaux académiques

Je reviens avec un peu de retard sur mon intervention lors de la journée organisée le 18 décembre dernier par le CCSD et l’InSHS, consacrée aux 10 ans de HALSHS. En raison de mes états de service antérieurs sur la question, notamment lors d’une précédente journée en 2013, il m’avait été demandé de présenter quelques réflexions sur l’identité numérique du chercheur et en particulier la place que pouvait y tenir HAL. Les amateurs de vidéo peuvent regarder mon intervention, qui dure une dizaine de minutes. Pour les autres, je voudrais surtout insister sur deux points qui ne touchent guère à la question de l’identité numérique proprement dite, mais d’une part à une comparaison certes limitée mais instructive de la visibilité des travaux via HAL-SHS et quelques réseaux sociaux académiques, et d’autre part à une prise de position sur la manière d’encourager, fut-ce au détriment du droit des éditeurs, les dépôts en archives ouvertes. Continuer la lecture

L’imaginaire de Marseille: comptes rendus

Alors que j’étais tellement déçu du retard de la nouvelle édition de L’Imaginaire de Marseille, de Marcel Roncayolo, que j’ai attendue toute l’année 2013, et que j’ai annoncée à l’avance sur ce blog, j’ai finalement oublié de signaler sa parution effective, il y a maintenant un an. Le livre est librement accessible en ligne sur le site de la Bibliothèque idéale des Sciences sociales, dont le volet Géographie s’est d’ailleurs entretemps enrichi des Principes de géographie humaine de Vidal de la Blache.
Je profite de la parution d’un premier compte rendu (à ma connaissance) pour y consacrer ce billet. Voilà le compte rendu en question. Je posterai les (éventuels) suivants ici aussi.

Douay, Nicolas, ‘Marcel Roncayolo, L’imaginaire de Marseille. Port, ville, pôle’, Territoire en mouvement Revue de géographie et aménagement. 2015

Thibault Bechini, « Marcel Roncayolo, L’imaginaire de Marseille. Port, ville, pôle », Lectures [En ligne], Les comptes rendus, 2015, mis en ligne le 13 janvier 2015.

Du livre scientifique comme business et du scientifique comme vache-à-lait

Le 21 septembre dernier, je reçois l’email suivant:

natural gasDear Dr. Verdeil,

I hope to find you well.

I would like to inform you that, based on your publishing history, you are invited to contribute a chapter to a new book project under the working title “Natural Gas“. This book will be published by InTech Open Access publisher, under the editorship of Dr. Santosh Mohanty.

The book will be an Open Access publication made available through InTech’s reading platform and indexed in scientific databases.

To learn more about the project (suggested topics, deadlines and the publishing process) and to register your participation, please visit:

Please notice that an Article Processing Charge of 670 euro will be applied to cover the Open Access publishing process expenses.

We hope that you will be able to join this project and I will be happy to help with any questions you might have.


Edi Lipovic
Publishing Process Manager

Je regarde: voici les indications

About the book

This book will be a self-contained collection of scholarly papers targeting an audience of practicing researchers, academics, PhD students and other scientists.

The contents of the book will be written by multiple authors and edited by experts in the field.


The authors are given the liberty of choosing a topic which best suits their current research efforts. In other words, we do not limit you in terms of the topic but encourage you to present your work. Later, when all chapter proposals are collected, the editor will give a more general direction of the book and decide on its scope.

Types of papers

We accept theoretical and applied scientific papers which can be presented as original research papers and review papers. The required length of the full chapters is 16-26 pages.

On le voit, aucun propos scientifique, le “scientific editor” n’a strictement rien à voir avec mon champ scientifique. Mais j’ai publié récemment un article sur le développement urbain et les réseaux de gaz naturel dans trois villes du sud de la Méditerranée, et un robot a du ainsi m’identifier. Et en plus il faudrait réagir très vite, un résumé pour le 12 octobre!

Je ne répond même pas. Mais voilà que ce matin, relance:

[CFP] Followup: Natural Gas

Dear Dr. Verdeil,

I would like to remind you that you have been invited to contribute a chapter to a new book project under the working title “Natural Gas“.

Ma réponse:

“Dear Sir

I don’t pay for being published in a book that seems to have to other rationale than making authors pay and fill the pocket of the publishers (and the editors?).

This is not science, this is just fraud.”

Il me répond:

Dear Dr. Verdeil,

I am sorry to hear that you feel that way.

Nevertheless thank you for your reply.

I wish you luck in your future career.

Deux auteurs sont censés avoir déjà annoncé leur intention de contribuer: un Colombien et un Iranien. Peut être leurs crédits de recherche sont ils abondants?

Il y a quelques semaines, via Twitter, un universitaire anglais ou américain racontait qu’il avait ainsi été sollicité par un éditeur inconnu de lui pour proposer un livre sur n’importe quel sujet. Le job de cet interlocuteur consistait à faire publier un nombre élevé de livres y compris les plus improbables, étant certain que dans le lot il s’en vendrait assez pour rentabiliser le coût d’impression… Si quelqu’un retrouve la référence, je serai ravi de la rajouter.

L’édition “universitaire” devient folle. On ne s’étonne plus que dans l’opinion des hommes et des femmes politiques, l’université ne sert à rien. En tout cas, vaut-elle ce qu’elle coûte dans ce genre de cas? Pourtant c’est peut être bon pour la croissance, celle de la Croatie dans ce cas, à moins que les bénéfices soient exfiltrés au Liechtenstein.

A côté de cela, je vois paraître un livre qui a l’air très intéressant chez Routledge (The Routledge Handbook of the History of the Middle East Mandates), mais il est vendu 225$! Vivement que les auteurs mettent leurs papiers en archives ouvertes. Mais au fond, a-t-on encore besoin des éditeurs dans ces cas là? C’est juste du racket.

L’epub, nouveau format pour les revues électroniques. Quelques conséquences pratiques

Le format epub est présenté aujourd’hui comme la meilleure solution pour l’édition électronique, à la fois en raison de ses caractéristiques techniques (notamment le caractère reflowable / reconfigurable du texte qui n’est pas asservi à un seul type d’écran) mais aussi politiques et institutionnelles. L’epub est en effet un standard ouvert, neutre, qui n’est pas verrouillé, contrairement aux formats propriétaires comme le format mobi utilisé par Amazon. Mais contrairement aux livres, où les formats mobi et epub ont pratiquement complètement détrôné le PDF, les articles de la plupart des revues électroniques scientifiques restent encore aujourd’hui pratiquement uniquement disponibles  en PDF, et souvent (de plus en plus) en html. Rappelons que le principal problème du PDF vient de sa mise en page figée, non reconfigurable en fonction de la taille et de la forme de l’écran. Bien que mis au point par Adobe à l’origine, il n’est pas propriétaire et est devenu un standard. Continuer la lecture

Les réseaux sociaux scientifiques : visibilité et open access dans Arabesques

Mon billet publié à la suite de la journée des CoRIST en novembre dernier avait attiré l’attention et suscité des commentaires et reprises/retweets relativement nombreux. A la demande de l’agence bibliographique de l’enseignement supérieure (ABES), j’en ai tiré une nouvelle version un peu plus resserrée et plus précise sur certains points, pour son magazine Arabesques (n°74, avril-juin 2014). L’ensemble du dossier “Paysages et réseaux de l’IST en mouvement” est à télécharger librement (l’article seul est sur Hal). Merci à Béatrice Pédot pour son travail éditorial.


Selon une enquête récente du CNRS, les chercheurs font un usage massif des réseaux sociaux qui sont intégrés au coeur de leurs pratiques professionnelles. Ces réseaux permettent une meilleure visibilité des travaux et démultiplient les possibilités d’identifier les ressources dont les scientifiques ont besoin pour poursuivre et étendre leur activité.

Les réseaux sociaux scientifiques, la visibilité et l’open access

J’ai participé, le 19 novembre, à la journée d’étude des correspondants IST (CorIST) de l’InSHS. Je n’ai pu assister qu’à une partie de la journée mais ce que j’ai pu voir, notamment la table-ronde sur Wikipédia comme outil de la valorisation de la recherche, était intéressant et fera j’espère l’objet d’un compte rendu. On trouvera un cadrage des thèmes traités ici, ainsi qu’un compte-rendu de chaque intervention ici.

J’intervenais pour ma part dans une table ronde sur les réseaux sociaux scientifiques et leurs usages par les chercheurs. Au-delà du constat d’un usage intensif de ces outils il est vrai très divers, deux enjeux transversaux apparaissent. Les réseaux transforment et à priori améliorent la visibilité des chercheurs ainsi que celle des travaux dont ils ont besoin pour poursuivre et étendre leur activité. A travers cet enjeu de la visibilité, c’est aussi celle de l’accès libre aux publications qui est en voie de transformation, non sans contradiction avec les politiques poursuivies par nos tutelles pour développer l’Open Access notamment par le biais de Hal. Continuer la lecture

Une page Cities sur Jadaliyya


Depuis trois ans, Jadaliyya s’est imposé comme un site de référence sur l’actualité du monde arabe (et de sa marge turque). Mêlant journalisme d’investigation, textes de diffusion de travaux scientifiques, prises de position politiques et sociales, il émane des interactions d’un collectif divers largement composé de personnes originaires de la région ou y vivant. Au départ écrit en anglais et arabe, il s’ouvre aujourd’hui à d’autres langues, notamment le turc et le français.
Je suis heureux d’annoncer le lancement, ce 30 septembre, d’une page Cities, animée par une équipe éditoriale qui se compose de Mona Harb (rédactrice en chef), Hiba Bou Akar, Farah Nakib,Farha Ghannam, Ozan Karaman et moi-même. Voici les objectifs de la page. Continuer la lecture