APS Officials Clarify Peer Review Process

Contrary to popular belief, peer review process isn’t free

The following letter was reprinted with permission by The New York Times, which published it on Jan. 23, 2012. The writers are, respectively, Editor in Chief and Treasurer-Publisher of the American Physical Society.

Scholarly publishing relies on peer review to validate and improve papers before publication, and peer review depends crucially on scientists’ willingness to provide expert advice without charge.

Nevertheless, Michael B. Eisen’s implication [New York Times, Jan. 10, 2012] that the peer review process is essentially free is not correct. The management of the peer review process for our 10 large journals requires 50 full-time professional editors with a Ph.D. in physics, and they must be compensated.

We need to sell low-cost subscriptions to pay for the peer review process and to publish excellent journals that serve the worldwide scientific community. We also have three journals whose costs are explicitly paid for by article-processing charges, and these journals are open access and freely available.

The American Physical Society feels strongly that the public should have access to all of the physics research that we publish. We allow public libraries access to every paper we have ever published, beginning in 1893, for free use by anyone in the library. The Library of Congress was the first of some 500 libraries to join this program.

Scientific societies play an important role as low-cost publishers. Although we do not support the Research Works Act, we know that the costs of the peer review process are not negligible and must be supported either by subscriptions or article charges.

Ridge, N.Y. 

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