Archives de catégorie : ressources en ligne

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 []

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.

[Archives] Lettres d’information de l’Observatoire de recherche sur Beyrouth et la reconstruction

Le Centre d’études et de recherches sur le Moyen-Orient contemporain (CERMOC) a publié entre 1995 et 2001 14 numéros de la Lettre d’information de l’Observatoire de recherche sur Beyrouth et la reconstruction, détaillant les activités de ce programme de recherche. Outre des informations par nature éphémère, cette lettre comportait des études modestes mais riches d’informations et de résultats d’enquêtes, des comptes rendus d’activités et d’ouvrages, ainsi qu’une chronologie de la reconstruction de Beyrouth qui pourrait présenter une certaine utilité à des chercheurs intéressés par cette période.
L’IFPO, qui a pris la succession du CERMOC, n’a pas jugé utile de numériser cette série malgré mes suggestions en ce sens il y a quelques années. Il se trouve que j’ai dans mes archives quelques numéros en PDF (1 à 5, 10, 13 et 14). J’ai essayé de les déposer sur HAL-SHS mais ce ne serait éventuellement acceptable qu’en distinguant article par article.
J’ai donc déposé ces numéros sur Internet Archive. Voici le lien pour les numéros 1 à 5, vers le 1013 et le 14. Ci-dessous la table des matières du n°14 (2001) que j’avais coordonné.

Parution : Circulation des matières, économies de la circularité

J’ai le plaisir de signaler la parution du dernier numéro de Flux, consacré à Circulation des matières, économies de la circularité, que j’ai coordonné avec Romain Garcier et Laurence Rocher, dans la lignée de nos travaux au sein d’ACREOR qu’ils poursuivent avec bonheur au sein de l’Atelier Matières, énergie, déchets: flux et territoires de l’UMR 5600.
Voici le résumé du texte introductif et, ci-dessous, la table des matières.

Ce texte d’introduction au dossier de Flux 2017/2 (N° 108) questionne l’émergence de la thématique de la circularité des matières dans les politiques publiques urbaines contemporaines. Les articles ont en commun de porter une attention minutieuse à la matérialité des flux qui traversent et constituent la ville et aux objets sociaux qui la composent. Ils analysent les modalités et les conséquences de leur mise en circulation, ainsi que les régulations et les conflits qui l’accompagnent. Que l’ensemble des articles traite de pratiques et de politiques ancrées dans l’espace de la région de Lyon résulte moins d’une volonté monographique que d’une rencontre en partie fortuite. Mais cela souligne en tout cas l’importance d’une approche toujours attentive aux faits géographiques et aux effets de lieu dans la diversité de leurs échelles. Trois thématiques transversales sont présentes : d’abord, en identifiant de nouvelles ressources, les articles permettent de réfléchir à l’invention et à la construction de nouveaux circuits pour les matières. Ensuite, la régulation de ces circuits implique l’identification de nouveaux acteurs et la mise en place de nouvelles formes de relations avec les producteurs et gestionnaires des matières, formant donc l’espace d’une gouvernance renouvelée. Enfin, si ces circuits se structurent dans un espace qui est celui de la proximité géographique, ils s’inscrivent néanmoins dans une logique relationnelle qui ne cesse de questionner les normes et les échelles. Ce numéro permet ainsi de nuancer et de re-matérialiser les injonctions à faire advenir l’économie circulaire dans les villes.

Table des matières

Olivier Zeller, Structurations de l’espace fécal à Lyon au XVIIIe siècle

Aurélie DumainLaurence Rocher, Des pratiques citoyennes en régime industriel : les courts-circuits du compost

Pierre Desvaux, Économie circulaire acritique et condition post-politique : analyse de la valorisation des déchets en France

Romain J. GarcierFanny Verrax, Critiques mais non recyclées : expliquer les limites au recyclage des terres rares en Europe

Laëtitia Mongeard, De la démolition à la production de graves recyclées : analyse des logiques de proximité d’une filière dans l’agglomération lyonnaise

Luttes urbaines autour de l’électricité à Beyrouth

J’ai le plaisir de signaler la parution du livre Energy, Power and Protest on the Urban Grid. Geographies of the Electric City, dirigé par Andres Luque Ayala et Jonathan Silver, chez Routledge. On trouvera l’introduction et la table des matières en ligne sur Academia et voici la quatrième de couverture:

Providing a global overview of experiments around the transformation of cities’ electricity networks and the social struggles associated with this change, this book explores the centrality of electricity infrastructures in the urban configuration of social control, segregation, integration, resource access and poverty alleviation. Through multiple accounts from a range of global cities, this edited collection establishes an agenda that recognises the uneven, and often historical, geographies of urban electricity networks, prompting attempts to re-wire the infrastructure configurations of cities and predicating protest and resistance from residents and social movements alike. Through a robust theoretical engagement with established work around the politics of urban infrastructures, the book frames the transformation of electricity systems in the context of power and resistance across urban life, drawing links between environmental and social forms of sustainability. Such an agenda can provide both insight and inspiration in seeking to build fairer and more sustainable urban futures that bring electricity infrastructures to the fore of academic and policy attention.

Je publie dans ce livre un chapitre intitulé: Beirut, metropolis of darkness and the politics of urban electricity grids. En voici les premiers paragraphes à titre de résumé. Le fichier pour être lu sur ResearchGate, Academia ou Hal (en attente). Continuer la lecture

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

[Pour mémoire] Comptes rendus sur Concevoir et gérer les villes : milieux d’urbanistes du sud de la Méditerranée et travaux liés

couvSur le même modèle que les autres pages (1 & 2) de ce carnet qui gardent la trace des comptes rendus de mes ouvrages, voici quelques liens consacrés à notre livre Concevoir et gérer les villes: milieux d’urbanistes du sud de la Méditerranée, Paris, Anthropos-Economica, 2006, coord. par Taoufik Souami et moi-même. La présentation du livre et sa table des matières sont sur le site de l’IFPO.

Sa réception publique a été relativement limitée : j’ai identifié deux comptes-rendus, en plus d’un débat public, organisé par l’Association des professionnels pour le développement (ADP), et dont un compte-rendu a été conservé. Continuer la lecture

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