Adam Eyre-Walker is an accomplished evolutionary biologist, a breed of scientists out of favor in these days of NHGRI-dominated ENCODE big-data ‘science’. He did not receive any grant for about ten years and essentially self funds his science.
However, stating that is not enough for money-hungry open-access journal PLoS, whose CEO earns over 500K. The journal now wants him to send bank statements of personal accounts to prove that he is really poor.
Oh well. He should feel grateful that he is mistreated by a journal that considers increasing diversity among academic editors and advisory board members as the most important problem in the world. It could have been far worse (such as getting his work published somewhere else).
PUBLIC LIBRARY OF SCIENCE (PLOS) FEE WAIVERS
Public Library of Science (PLoS) fee waivers
Over the last few years Ive published quite a few papers in PLoS journals. In almost all cases I have been lucky enough to receive a complete or partial fee waiver because Ive had almost no grant support for the last ten years. I have been very grateful for this support. Unfortunately times have changed. Previously you simply had to assert that you did not have the funds to pay the publication charge and you were granted waiver. Now you to prove that you dont have the funds and this includes proving that you cannot personally pay the publication fee this requires you to submit back statements and explain where your money is being spent. I was quite shocked when I found this out recently (and if you dont believe me, see the attached email exchange below). Besides the obvious invasion of privacy, I have to ask myself whether the paper, which I want to publish, is worth the 650 ($1000) that I would need to get it into print (assuming of course that it gets accepted)? Why am I publishing it anyway? Is it to advance science or simply the careers of me and my co- authors? If it is the latter then it seems reasonable for me to pay, but if it is an attempt to advance science and knowledge then Im not so sure I should be paying. And yes, I could pay for this paper to be published, but I couldnt pay for every paper I write; this would amount to several thousand pounds/dollars a year, which would comprise a serious chunk of my salary. This policy, of expecting an author to pay, seems contrary to the original PLoS One policy of publishing all science and could distort the science that is being published.
Email exchange (I have removed the identity of my correspondee and replaced their name with PLOS):
Dear Dr. Eyre-Walker,
Thank you for submitting your manuscript to PLOS and applying for Publication Fee Assistance.
You indicated that you will be sending supporting financial documentation with your application. We have not yet received these supporting documents. Examples include grant award with budget information, signed letterhead from your institutional official with funding and budget details, expired grant award information, personal financial statements or other financial documentations that support your financial hardship explanations.
Please send them as soon as possible so we can append them to your application.
Should we receive insufficient evidence to verify demonstrated financial hardship, we will not be able to approve your PFA application. We will keep your application open until 1/2 Please send them as soon as possible to PFA@plos.org
I’m not sure what form this supporting information should take, given that I have no grants. The last time I was funded by a grant was 2009. Since then I have had two students funded by UK research councils and two Marie Curie fellows funded by the European Community, but I receive no funds outside those associated with these projects - the paper I have submitted to PLoS One was written with two undergraduate students. The only evidence I can offer of this lack of grants is the lack of grant acknowledgements in papers I have published in the last few years. A full list of my publications including PDFs can be found at http://www.lifesci.susx.ac.uk/home/Adam_Eyre- Walker/Website/Publications.html and my current CV, with a list of my past funding, is attached.
I fully appreciate that PLoS One needs money to function, and I am also very grateful for the complete and partial fee waivers that PLoS has given me in the past, but I simply have no funds.
Dear Dr. Eyre-Walker,
Thank you for submitting your manuscript to PLOS and applying for Publication Fee Assistance. We have received your signed self-attestation, but need additional supporting documentation to validate your financial hardship. Our former system of granting waivers has been replaced by a formal application process and we appreciate your assistance in demonstrating your financial hardship.
Please provide supporting financial documents (e.g. grant and remaining grant balances, bank statements) to help us determine your financial assistance. Send us your information by 1/2. Without financial documents, we can only extend you a 20% fee waiver. Please advise.
Should we receive insufficient evidence to verify demonstrated financial hardship, we will not be able to approve the PFA assistance amount requested. We appreciate your assistance in demonstrating your financial need.
I cannot provide a grant statement for a grant that ended over 5 years ago; the university changed their accounting system and terminated grants were not transferred. Furthermore, neither this grant, nor any other grant I have ever had, would provide support for this project, which is unrelated to any of my former research (except for one paper published by PLoS Biology, which was incidentally granted a full waiver).
You suggest that I should provide details of my personal financial position and from this I presume from this that if I am judged to be personally wealthy enough, then I will be required to pay the publication fee. Is this the case?
Thank you for your message. Yes, we do require that you send financial documentation of your hardship. Publication Fee Assistance program launched in April 2014 and is a new financial assistance program that replaces our old system of granting waivers with a formal application. We appreciate your help in demonstrating your financial situation so that we can ensure the assistance is granted to authors with a demonstrated need. Without financial documents, we can only extend you a 20% fee waiver. Please advise.
Me (I have merged two emails here):
Since my case seems to depend upon my own personal finances I was wondering if you could tell me how these are judged. How small does my bank balance have to be before I am judged to be personally unable to pay?
I was also wondering whether these policies regarding fee waivers are being applied universally across all PLoS journals, or whether each journal has its won policies.
We apply the same criteria for the PFA application across all journals. There is no minimum, however the purpose is for you to help us understand your financial hardship. Others have shown documentation on what they are making payments towards which puts a strain on their personal budget. Either is acceptable to help us demonstrate your financial need in greater detail.