Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Death of the Berkeley Electronic Press Journals

Maybe I'm the last one to figure it out, but the Berkeley Electronic Press journals have shut down and been sold for a year! I found it pretty hard to find information about this topic, so here is what I was able to find out. I discovered that Joshua Gans also made some great comments on his blog.

Background: Back in 1999 a bunch of professors got together and founded the "Berkeley Electronic Press". they had some really great ideas to try to combat some of the problems in the publishing industry.  The three most important ones that most economists bought into were:
1) a guaranteed fast decision on submitted articles, or your money back
2) much cheaper rates for University subscriptions
3) papers were published on a rolling basis, so as soon as a paper was accepted and formatted (by the author) the paper was put online-- no delay!

This is in a time when publishers were jacking up subscription fees to libraries to astronomical rates, and many journals were taking six months to a year before giving any feedback on submitted papers.  This kind of behavior can be deadly to an academic career, when tenure-track professors only have six years to not only get articles published, but also to demonstrate that they are being read by these papers getting cited.  However, if it takes three years before your article gets published, supposing that someone reads it right then, cites it and submits their paper to be published on the same day, it might take three years for that paper to get published.  This ridiculously slow process was supposed to be sped up because when you submitted a paper you had two choices:
A) pay a submission fee
B) agree to provide two reviews of papers that will be sent to you in the future very quickly; if you are slow, you get charged the fee

I am sure that most people who were involved with editing these journals, and most people who submitted papers to these journals did so because they bought into the idea that "we can do this better".  Also, this system made the research more widely available, since more libraries could afford to subscribe to the collection, and individuals could access the content for no monetary cost ( by filling out a nagging form).  I supported the enterprise, by submitting a paper there and having it rejected.  But the point is, they rejected it quickly!

I must be way behind the times, but I just discovered that the Berkeley Electronic Press sold their 60 journals (in September 2011) to a company called De Gruyter.  From all appearances, things don't seem to be going well since the transfer.  One year later, it it seems like many journals are not really publishing any more (For example, it appears that  BEJEAP has published ONE article since January, 2012... but it is hard to tell).  Also, there are some comments on their site, from people claiming that their submitted article has disappeared into the nether, or submission fees have been lost, or other complaints.  For example:

  • How can I get a response from the journal? I submitted my manuscript more than 5 months ago, sent two emails to the journal. Unfortunately, have not heard back. posted by: Zaz on 2012-08-18 07:00 PM (Europe/Berlin)

  • On RePEc the publisher for all of these journals is still listed as "Berkeley Electronic Press", e.g. see here. Also, the website seems to be very poorly organized, and very uninformative.  For example, I was looking at the "Journal Policies" for the B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, and it takes you to a generalized "Copyright Agreement".  When you go to submit an article, the submission system still refers to the "Berkeley Electronic Press" for some reason, and they still have the old language on the website: they are still pretending to give you the option between reviewing or paying a submission fee, but when it comes down to it, they demand $75 in cold, hard cash.  they also still have the language on the site guaranteeing:

    " you quality peer reviews, an editorial decision, and publication of accepted manuscripts within 70 days."

    Now, since I don't see articles being published for many, many months at a time, I'm not sure what this means.  Either they are not accepting any articles at all, or they are refunding a lot of submission fees, because one cannot accept and publish articles within 70 days, with gaps of 9 months.  After browsing around quite a long time on their website, it is very unclear what's going on. Note to  De Gruyter-- your websites are very hard to navigate and look like something that even I could throw together (see their home page to see what I mean, and compare it to something I DID throw together (but with loving care, I assure you!)).  If someone from the company wants to reply, I would love to hear what's really going on.

    In any case, the "BEPress" guys say that now they are focusing on "Open Access Services", whatever that means, and they still have their "SelectedWorks" pages, where I have a page.  See here for some less than clear information.  After spending some time trying to understand what happened and why, I am still very lost. Until something major happens, both of the journals under their new ownership, and the old BEPress guys are dead to me. I am also seriously considering shutting down my SelectedWorks page, because I really don't understand what it is at this point if it is not associated with economics journals anymore.  RePEc seems to be a much more useful network of sites.

    When it come to "Open Access Services", everyone should know about the Open Journal System (OJS), which is a free, open source journal management system that could be used for a pay journal, but seems to be used more for open access ones.  That is what I use for the regional science journal I co-edit. As a co-editor for an open access journal, one that charges NO fees to submitters, readers, libraries, or anyone else (see, I am very disturbed by the demise of the BEP journals. Dozens of journals that seemed to be fairly well-run, well respected, and committed to inexpensive access and efficient operation have been thrown into chaos.  Below are the names of some of the well-known journals that have been affected:

    Advances in Economic Analysis & Policy
    Advances in Macroeconomics
    Advances in Theoretical Economics
    Asian Journal of Comparative Law
    Asia-Pacific Journal of Risk and Insurance
    B. E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy
    B. E. Journal of Macroeconomics
    B. E. Journal of Theoretical Economics
    Basic Income Studies
    Business and Politics
    California Journal of Politics and Policy
    Capitalism and Society
    Contributions to Economic Analysis & Policy
    Contributions to Macroeconomics
    Contributions to Theoretical Economics
    Economists' Voice
    Forum for Health Economics & Policy
    Frontiers of Economic Analysis & Policy
    Frontiers of Macroeconomics
    Frontiers of Theoretical Economics
    Global Economy Journal
    Journal of Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization
    Journal of Business Valuation and Economic Loss Analysis
    Journal of Globalization and Development
    Journal of Industrial Organization Education
    Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports
    Journal of Time Series Econometrics
    Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy
    Poverty & Public Policy
    Review of Law & Economics
    Review of Marketing Science
    Review of Middle East Economics and Finance
    Review of Network Economics
    Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy
    Studies in Nonlinear Dynamics & Econometrics
    The B.E. Journals in Economic Analysis & Policy
    The B.E. Journals in Macroeconomics
    The B.E. Journals in Theoretical Economics
    Topics in Economic Analysis & Policy
    Topics in Macroeconomics  
    Topics in Theoretical Economics