Sunday, September 2, 2012

Springer Plus?

A fellow smoker writes in with a question or two:
I recently received a rejection from a Springer Journal and then a few days later got the below email...I'd love to hear if anyone else has done this and/or thoughts on whether it would be beneficial, or not.
The e-mail our friend received:
Recently you submitted your manuscript to a Springer journal. At that time the Editor-in-chief indicated that your manuscript unfortunately could not be published in his journal, but he/she considered it very well suitable for publication in the new Open Access journal SpringerPlus: 
SpringerPlus accepts manuscripts from all disciplines of Science and publishes all that are scientifically sound. SpringerPlus will not reject a manuscript because it is out of scope or for its perceived importance, novelty or ability to attract citations and it will either accept your manuscript for publication or not, you will not be asked for additional research. You can find more information about the journal at 
Benefits of transferring your submission of this manuscript to SpringerPlus may include: 
• easier publication and dissemination of your work, saving time finding and submitting to an alternative publisher • faster publication, we will transfer your manuscript record and reviewer comments to the suggested journal for you; • reaching the right audience for your work. 
Please note: SpringerPlus articles are free to read, an Open Access article processing fee (APC) is charged to cover all the costs associated with the publication of your article. Your institute or funding body may be a member of SpringerOpen or BioMedCentral, covering for the fee entirely or in part. A full list of members can be found on the SpringerOpen website: Ability to pay the this charge does not affect editorial decisions, waivers can be requested and we routinely waive charges for authors who are unable to pay.
I'm not sure what to think about this. As suggested by the website, SpringerPlus does not seem to function like SSRN or Arvix: not just anyone can upload papers and the papers that are published have made it through peer-review. It's also open access (yay!) and there are fee waivers for publishing (ugh on the fee, but yay for the waiver). And, depending on how tenure requirements are interpreted by your institution, a peer-reviewed publication here probably counts towards tenure. You also don't need to complete any more research, which, if you're happy with the paper, is a positive. So far, so good. 

However, I think the downside probably has to do with audience. 16 papers have been published so far, all in the sciences. They do get a decent amount of hits - the most being 2797 Accesses for "Chronic traumatic encephalopathy: the dangers of getting 'dinged'" (a paper whose numbers are probably inflated by people interested in the long-term damages of playing football). But, I'm not sure how many professional philosophers are aware of SpringerPlus (I wasn't); so you might not find much of an audience. The audience you do find, because the journal is so new, might not be inclined to take a paper in SpringerPlus seriously (Why there and not somewhere more established? Is it a vanity press? Why are they in a rush to publish?). Though I would worry about perceptions, I resent having such worries. After all, I  hope that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So, maybe if you do publish there and can find a way to spread the word about the paper, it will find an audience. But, I'm skeptical that our fellow philosophers will take the paper as seriously as they would were it published in a "proper" philosophy journal. I reserve the right to be proven wrong on that front.

My not especially considered judgment: if you don't need the paper out immediately, can devote a bit more time to revising it and then waiting for another review, do that. If not, go with SpringerPlus and think about ways to direct people to your paper.

 -- Jaded, Ph.D.


Anonymous said...

It's a fucking scam, pure and simple.

More carefully: It's Springer's attempt to make money from the PloS One model and the public's confusion over real open access and "Gold" open access. I hope none of us will take anything published there seriously, or at least no more serious than anything published by, say, David Publishing (in journals such as US-China Law Review).

Anonymous said...

What is the distinction between real open access and "Gold" open access?

Anonymous said...

I have no opinion on "Springer Plus" but wanted to say God Bless You for using: "the proof of the pudding is in the eating" correctly.

It made my heart flutter a little bit.

DJ said...

I'm a mathematician, and Springer is the biggest math publisher, but I had never heard of Springerplus until now.

I can, however, guess at its purpose. The big commercial publishers, including Springer, are scared shitless at the thought of open access publishing. Fundamentally, publishing is just not that expensive or hard to do anymore. In order for the commercial publishers to protect their obscene profit margins, they have to lock out new entrants from entering the market. This is easy enough to do in the case of traditional publishers, since the playing field is more or less level, and it takes time to build up an academic reputation. But open access threatens to undo their lucrative monopoly.

The big problem with open access publishing is that there is no viable revenue model that comes anywhere close to replacing what the publishers earn today. For example, under the "author pays" model of open-access publishing, which is most prevalent, the author (who is, in essence, the supplier of the product) knows the price that he has to pay to publish an article. This is bad for the publishers because now the author has adequate information to make informed purchasing decisions and comparison shop. Some authors (horror of horrors) might even refuse to pay. In economics terminology, the "author pays" funding model leads to a competitive free market for journal articles, which is precisely what the publishers do NOT want. The publishers want to preserve their existing business model where the libraries pay for journals and the authors (i.e. suppliers) have no idea what prices are being charged.

One way that publishers are fighting back against the concept of open access is to pollute the journal pool with lower-tier open-access journals in an attempt to associate open-access publishing with low-quality articles. I suspect that this is the purpose of Springerplus. If the publishers succeed in destroying the reputation of open-access publishing, then thay'll have one less thing to worry about on the way to corporate profit nirvana.

Though I am a big fan of open-access publishing, I must admit that the publishers' campaign to undermine the reputation of open-access publishing is meeting with some success. As an individual academic, I would be very wary of publishing in such journals. They are not highly regarded by search committees or tenure committees, and even if the publication technically counts, it will be assigned low weight. The battle between publishers and academic researchers is far too big for any individual, especially pre-tenure, to take on and come out unscathed.

Anonymous said...


Ben said...

I think that a lot depends on your hopes for the paper. A commonly done thing is to start by sending the paper to the best journals you think it has a shot of acceptance in and then work your way down the rankings until it gets accepted somewhere.

Whether you should accept SpringerPlus or not presumably depends in part on how big a drop it is from the Springer journal originally submitted to. But if the aim is simply to get it accepted somewhere fast and without further work on it (and preferably open access), then there are now many open access philosophy journals. Almost all of these will probably be perceived, rightly or wrongly, as low quality, but no worse than SpringerPlus.

In short, if you just want to get the paper out, you may as well send it to one of these probably low quality philosophy journals. At least you may find somewhere that a) doesn't charge and b) is a dedicated philosophy journal.

If the paper's worthwhile though, then it's probably better (if you have the time) to put some more work into it and to keep trying established and well recognised philosophy journals.

Neil said...

I am an editor for a Springer journal. I was informed that I had the option of flagging contributions to my journal were rejected for reasons of fit (and not for reasons of quality) to Springer plus. Since this was the instruction, I think the suspicion that the aim is to publish low quality papers and thereby pollute the waters is unwarranted. I think the aim is simpler: make money. That said, I would not advise a philosopher or anyone else to publish there. If the reason your paper was rejected was bad fit and not low quality, find a journal that fits better. Inevitably Spingerplus will be seen as lower quality.

Anonymous said...

I think Ben and Neill have it right. I would add this, though. SpringerPlus has the one advantage over other open access publishing options that articles will likely remain available (i.e., the online version of "in print") indefinitely. Whatever its faults, Springer excels at keeping journals and books in print and electronically available. With other smaller open access journals, whatever the intention of their editors, you just don't know how long they'll be around. Although open access doesn't count for as much with search and tenure committees, if the article is itself of high quality, you will benefit from having interested parties able to access it easily at the click of a mouse without going through their institutional/library account (keeping in mind also that not all institutions subscribe to all philosophy journals, online or not).

zombie said...

I have no opinion on SpringerPlus. I will just relate an experience I had talking to a senior faculty member in my dept (who also happens to be on the tenure committee). He perceived open access journals to be the equivalent of a vanity press publication. This perception was based, he said, on the "author pays" aspect of OA.

Which is just to say that it is not unlikely that OA publications will not be taken seriously by many P&T committees. (This might be less true in the sciences, where, I think, the OA model is more prevalent.)

Neil said...

Zombie: your colleague sees publications in Philosopher's Imprint as vanity publications? Sounds to me like your colleague needs remedial education.

Max Haring said...

Hello and thank you for discussing SpringerPlus!

Please allow me to explain SpringerPlus. As a major academic publisher we see that many manuscripts are rejected every day for reasons other than the quality of the science itself, for instance because the subject does not fit the journal’s scope or because the ‘importance’ of the results are not in line with its expectations. We also know that most if not all authors confronted with a rejection for these reasons will resubmit somewhere – that means going through another cumbersome submission and review process that may take up months.

This is why we launched SpringerPlus earlier this year: SpringerPlus is designed to take over these manuscripts and provide quick review and efficient publication for all scientists who submitted to a Springer journal. Transfers to SpringerPlus are offered only by the editor-in-chief of the original journal, who in doing so acknowledges the quality in the manuscript –transfers are not offered by default.

All articles published in SpringerPlus are peer-reviewed by our board of active academics, and the editorial procedure is fully separated from the ability to pay the fee: SpringerPlus absolutely does not do vanity publishing. SpringerPlus is open for research from all disciplines, we will not ask for additional work and we will not reject certain manuscripts as a strategy to raise its impact (factor). I know the fees can be an issue, but as we only launched earlier this year we often waive fees to encourage authors to publish with us. Also, many institutes and funders have grants available for OA publication.

Btw, Open Access means that the copyright of the article stays with the authors and that the full-text article and all associated files are published online without subscription barriers, free to read for all. In general we see OA articles are downloaded (and cited) more often than traditional articles.

With best regards,
Max Haring, PhD
Executive editor for SpringerPlus

Richard said...

In the natural sciences, putting a paper in PLoS One is considered to be perfectly credible. Like SpringerPlus, it's open access and takes papers that are methodologically sound but have struggled to find a taker elsewhere. Although a paper's being published there will generally raise an eyebrow (why did it end up there? what's wrong with it?), in practice publication there isn't generally seen to be inferior - perhaps because everyone recognises that good papers don't always get the reviewers they deserve. In fact, PLoS One publishes a lot of good papers and has a very respectable impact factor - higher, than a lot of the journals that are considered to be more prestigious.

Despite this, I would still be wary of putting a philosophy paper in SpringerPlus. There isn't currently an analogous model in the humanities journals, and so I suspect that it will take a while before even a credible operation gets a reputation to match. Moreover, there's not much to be gained by putting a philosophy paper in a journal that will be read mainly by scientists (unless the paper is very sciency). As the Springer editor said, it would probably be better to look for a different philosophy journal first.

Anonymous said...

A question and a comment --

1. Question: How much is SpringerPlus charging authors? (Is it ridiculous/ impossible for anyone who doesn't have $3,000 sitting around?)

2. @zombie: Many open-access journals, such as the aforementioned Philosopher's Imprint and the more niche Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy, charge authors nothing. So 'open access' does not entail 'author pays'.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so not only are we not receiving any monetary compensation for contributing to our field but now we have to pay for the privilege of having others read our work? I understand that our work generally isn't in that high demand, but can we draw the line somewhere?

Anonymous said...

In the rush to support open-access, we have played right into the hands of corporations like Springer. The recent British legislation amounts to little more than a transfer of money away from libraries and to the publishers.

Far from being scared of the prospect of open access, they'll do very well in the transition to open-access.

As a community, our response has been to support initiatives like Phil Imprint. Fair enough. But Phil Imprint has published around 100 papers in 11 years. This is not a model that offers an alternative for our community. Phil Imprint is very nice and publishes excellent philosophy, but has published in 11 years what Phil Studies or Synthese publishes in 7 or 8 months.

We need an open access solution that supports very large scale philosophy publishing. Editing a big journal is a huge job that comes with lots of criticism and very limited praise. You're not going to find many of us who are competent, professional, and willing to do it without some measure of prestige or cash associated with the task.

A large-scale open-access project could be launched by the APA, but beyond that option, not clear to me how we could get past the first-mover advantage that the corporations have on large-scale, high-prestige publishing.

Kenny said...

Given that the defining features of SpringerPlus in terms of content (as opposed to economics or mechanics of open access and such) are that peer review is applied to verify correctness, but not to verify fit or importance or intrinsic interest. Therefore, the assumption that many people will have on seeing that something is there is that this is an article that is either not important enough for any other journal, or not interesting enough for any other journal, or doesn't fit any other journal. The first two possibilities will be taken as strong negatives by committees that care about quality of one's work. So to convince people that your article there is interesting and important, you'll have to convince them that it really doesn't fit anywhere else. And that might be a hard sell.

So it seems to me that a reasonable strategy would be to write up minor things that might have been blog posts or discussion notes, and send them there, but to save your more interesting and important papers for journals that screen on interest and import, so that committees don't have to do that work themselves.

Anonymous said...

Kenny says:

"So it seems to me that a reasonable strategy would be to write up minor things that might have been blog posts or discussion notes, and send them there..."

But we can't send things to SpringerPlus, can we? We'd have to send those minor things to normal journals and hope the editor in chief recommends SpringerPlus, right? And that doesn't seem terribly likely if it's truly a minor thing, on a par with a blog post.

Anonymous said...

Nevermind, the website of SpringerPlus indicates you can submit directly, without the recommendation of a journal editor. That was silly of me.


Max Haring said...

“But we can't send things to SpringerPlus, can we?”
You absolutely can, please see for more information. In fact, we receive about 1/3rd of our submissions directly through our submission system.

“…an article that is either not important enough for any other journal..”
Please note that in many journals ‘importance’ equals the ability to attract citations (and thus raise the impact factor). A perfectly sound study covering a subject or model that not commonly studied, is unlikely to be highly cited. Many journals will reject such a study based on the fear that publication would harm their impact factor. SpringerPlus is different: we review only for scientific quality, not for the ability to attract citations.

Anonymous said...

A related question: suppose you have great pubs in good journals (good specialist + top-10 general journals), but you have also occasionally published in venues that are regarded as undesirable (journals with a reputation for publishing uneven work - I'm not naming any names). This happened when you were in grad school, and did not know about journals and their reputations.
Is it OK to take those publications out of your CV when applying for jobs, given they might hinder rather than help? (you could call it "selected publications")?

Anonymous said...

Max Haring: I see how this can work for scientific work, such as the PloSONE model. It seems like a good initiative. However, I'm skeptical about whether or not this is a strategy that is open to philosophers (which is what this forum is about). Of course, you have mavericks in philosophy too and they get a hard time published. But the reason they are rejected (if they turn out to be good out later on and not just plain bonkers) is that the referees and/or editor don't recognize their philosophical import. I can't imagine someone like Sosa saying "Well, this paper here is not going to be cited much, I'm not going to accept it".

Anonymous said...

How about a post promoting Cullison's journal survey!

(I am not Cullison, just someone who thinks it is a good idea.

zombie said...

2:04. Sure. But of course, anyone can look you up and see your other pubs if they want to.

Anonymous said...

Check out the APA update:

The site looks nice and, surprisingly, job seekers will be able to post their CVs...

Anonymous said...

I think this whole issue is a red Haring.

Ben said...

It looks like Springer aren't the only ones; I just received this today:

"Publish in SAGE Open, SAGE's groundbreaking, open-access publication of peer-reviewed, original research and review articles, spanning the full spectrum of the social and behavioral sciences and the humanities. More than 1,000 manuscripts have been submitted in the last year.

Submit your manuscript through SAGE track, SAGE's web-based peer review and submission system, powered by ScholarOne Manuscripts™. Submitting your manuscript is free. Only if your manuscript is accepted will you pay the author acceptance fee of $395 (discounted from the regular price of $695)."