Ergo to Start Charging Submission Fee


“Effective immediately, Ergo is implementing a manuscript submission fee of $20. Authors will be able to opt out of the fee if they are unable to afford it.”

That’s from an announcement from the managing editors of Ergo, an open access academic philosophy journal, in which they discuss the growth of the journal, what is involved in running it, and its future plans.

In deciding to charge a submission fee, Ergo joins Philosophers’ Imprint, another open access academic philosophy journal (it asks that submissions be accompanied by a donation of $10.00 to help defray costs).

The editors’ statement is below.


Letter from the Editors

by Ben Bradley (Syracuse University), Kevan Edwards (Syracuse University), Nicholas Jones (University of Birmingham), Nin Kirkham (University of Western Australia), Anne Schwenkenbecher (Murdoch University), Alastair Wilson (University of Birmingham)

The six of us took over the editorship of Ergo in mid-2019, marking the first editorial handover in Ergo’s brief history. We salute Jonathan Weisberg and Franz Huber for their outstanding work in creating the journal and building it into a premier philosophical venue. Ergo has evolved in important ways over the last several years, as we’ll explain, but first we are introducing the biggest change yet.

The New Policy: A Submission Fee

Effective immediately, Ergo is implementing a manuscript submission fee of $20. Authors will be able to opt out of the fee if they are unable to afford it. We also plan to implement an institutional donation option that would allow members of participating departments to opt out of the fee. The fee will not apply to revise-and-resubmits. Submission fees will be paid to Syracuse University and will be used only to cover journal operations. Ergo will continue to be free for everyone to read, and this will always be the case.

Here is a bit of background to explain why this is necessary. Ergo’s expenses in 2018 totaled close to $13,000. This included $2,588 for typesetting, $2,892 for publishing, and $7,229 for copyediting. Those numbers increased significantly in 2019 (though the precise numbers are difficult to calculate due to the change in editorship and institutional affiliation). Since early 2019 we have attempted to raise funds from institutions and foundations. We did manage to secure vital funding from Syracuse University that has enabled the journal to stay afloat for a year, but those funds are not renewable. We will continue to try to find a long-term funding solution for Ergo, and if we succeed, the submission fee could be only temporary; but in the current funding climate we are not optimistic about a quick solution.

The Growth of Ergo

Ergo’s financial situation is a product of its success. In 2013, Ergo’s first year of operation, decisions were reached on 141 submissions, of which nine were published. By 2019 those numbers had increased to 806 decisions and 44 accepted manuscripts. This is a testament to the work of Jonathan, Franz, and the rest of the editorial team in building Ergo’s reputation.

As the number of submissions has grown, our stable of editors has grown to meet the workload. We have added 33 new area editors in the last year, in twelve subfields, and currently have a total of 89.

When Ergo first began, submissions were dominated by epistemology, and to a lesser extent metaphysics, language, mind and ethics. Over six years the submission pool has broadened. We now publish a significant number of papers in areas not well-represented in other highly-regarded journals, such as aesthetics and feminist philosophy. We have received so many submissions in these areas that we now have four aesthetics editors and three in feminist philosophy. Philosophy of race, philosophy of religion, political philosophy, and ancient philosophy have also seen notable increases. The biggest increase of all has been in ethics, where we received an astounding 170 submissions in 2019. We now have 19 ethics editors to handle this workload.

Through these changes Ergo has remained very efficient. The average decision time in 2019 was 23 days, and the average time to decision for papers that were externally refereed was 53 days. All of these statistics and more are publicly available in the journal’s statistics section.

Future Plans

We maintain our commitment to Ergo’s founding principles: publishing high-quality, open access philosophy from as broad a spectrum of philosophers as possible, keeping our process as transparent as possible, and evaluating manuscripts efficiently.

While Ergo’s scope has increased over the years, there are areas we have not covered well. In particular, we receive few submissions in Chinese philosophy, Indian philosophy, African philosophy, indigenous philosophy, and philosophy of disability, just to name a few. In order to encourage submissions in these areas we plan to add more area editors in the near future.

We will also continue our efforts to find a stable funding source for Ergo that would allow us to return to a policy of free submissions. In our view, the cost of running academic journals should be borne not by authors, but by academic institutions. A system where colleges and universities support journals directly, without for-profit publishing companies, would be better and less expensive for authors, readers, and libraries.

Acknowledgements

Warm thanks to all of our talented and hardworking area editors, who donate their time and energy to making Ergo a success. Thanks to the hundreds of philosophers who submit your work to us, and to the referees who spend many hours evaluating that work and in many cases helping authors to improve it. Thanks to Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Syracuse University Libraries, and the Syracuse University Philosophy Department for keeping Ergo operational over the past year. Thanks to Amanda Page, Lydia Wasylenko, Sarah Workman and Christina Docteur for their assistance with funding efforts. Thanks to our amazing copyeditor, Robert Mason, and to Michigan Publishing, who have been extremely responsive and easy to work with. Finally, thanks to Jonathan and Franz for developing this unique journal and entrusting it to us.

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AD
7 months ago

Website still needs updating. It still says ‘submission and publication are free’.Report

Al Wilson
Reply to  AD
7 months ago

Yep, this is pending. The submission site is however updated with the new fee system and is open for submissions: https://ergosubmissions.org/Report

DA
DA
7 months ago

I wonder about the wisdom of making the fee twice what Phil Imprint’s is. Report

Al Wilson
Reply to  DA
7 months ago

Phil. Imprint’s fee has varied and was $20 until quite recently. At Ergo we likewise hope to be able to reduce the fee once the journal is financially secure. Our aim is that in the long run the journal will be largely or wholly funded through our institutional submission fee waiver scheme: https://ergosubmissions.org/subscribeReport

DA
DA
Reply to  Al Wilson
7 months ago

That’s true – my point wasn’t that $20 was too expensive (it seems like a legitimate enough way to recoup necessary costs). My point was rather that being the second journal to introduce a fee creates a market, in which comparative price is a thing people will think about when deciding where to submit. I like Ergo, but is submitting to them worth twice as much as submitting to phil imprint? I’m less sure about that. Obviously the idea of moving towards a institution subscription model is a great one, but until that happens ergo will price itself as twice the price of phil imprint, and that seems like a difficult situation. Report

Plops
Plops
Reply to  DA
7 months ago

I think getting enough submissions is the least thing Ergo is worried about. They are getting saturated with manuscripts, just like every other journal is. If they get slightly fewer submissions than PI, I am sure that they will view this as not a bad thing given the circumstances.

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DA
DA
Reply to  Plops
7 months ago

Right – I’m sure it will be a good way to reduce volume of submissions, and that could be a very good thing! But let’s be clear about where those submissions are going to come from, given that there is (as of now) a market. My guess is they will come from: people who value submitting to ergo significantly more than they value submitting to phil imprint, and people who are wealthy enough to see no difference between $10 and $20. The point I was trying to make (admittedly not very clearly) is that this marketisation of journal submissions is ugly. I don’t think these thoughts about comparative price should be part of the decision about where to submit a paper. One way to avoid it is charging the same fee as other journals that charge fee (and if $20 is what it must be, that could mean having a conversation with phil imprint and seeing if they can ask more). As a comparison, universities in the UK started charging fees fairly recently. One problem was how to avoid this ugly introduction of market comparisons into what was previously not a market, and many would think ought not be a market. The solution: the vast majority of universities charged the same fee. One advantage of this is that although fees suck, at least students are now free to decide where would be best for them on purely educational grounds, with financial considerations taking a back seat (instead, it’s just one decision – university or not). Of course, it could be that Ergo disagree with me here, and think that journal submission should be a market. If so, I’d be interested to hear more.Report

Plops
Plops
Reply to  DA
7 months ago

Just to be clear, I am 100% confident that Ergo selected a 20$ fee (rather than some smaller number) solely because they think it is the smallest fee that is reasonable to charge given the extant circumstances.
Report

Ben Bradley
Ben Bradley
Reply to  DA
7 months ago

We settled on $20 primarily because this was the amount such that if most contributors paid it, and we kept our acceptance rate constant, our expenses would be covered.Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
7 months ago

Ergo has been so much better than any other journal, by an order of magnitude, even when they’ve rejected my papers, that I’ll be happy to chip in next time I submit.

One thing I wonder is if Ergo, Phil Imprint, JESP and other open access journals could pool some of their resources to reduce costs. Perhaps that is already being done or not feasible, given how on the nose my suggestion is. Report

Ben Bradley
Ben Bradley
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
7 months ago

Thanks Nicolas!
On the resource-pooling idea: the thing is, we pay for copyediting, typesetting and such by the page or by the hour. I’m guessing other journals do too. The hourly rate wouldn’t go down if we joined forces. We have kicked around schemes that involve getting us all together to attract resources from institutions, and I still hope that might work one day. (One grant I applied for but didn’t get involved such a scheme.)Report

Doug Albers
Doug Albers
7 months ago

Can u still submit for just a buck like you can at Phil Imprint if you don’t wanna pay the 20? I always just submit 1 dollar to Phil Imprint and they look at my papers anyway, hopefully Ergo will do the same. (Tho Phil Imprint always rejects, maybe because I pay so little?? )Report

Unsuccessful
Unsuccessful
4 months ago

The $20 fee is understandable and those in a position to pay it should be happy to do so. However, the payment system needs to be implemented much better, as I learned when I unsuccessfully attempted to submit a paper to Ergo. I was redirected to the Syracuse donations portal and asked to pay the $20 as a donation to the university. This indirect form of payment doesn’t record in the official receipt that the donation is paying a journal submission fee and thus makes it difficult for me to use funding that I have to later claim back the fee. Also, the donations portal required me to fill in various personal information that is irrelevant to this transaction and which I would have preferred not to give. Finally, after all that, the donations portal repeatedly rejected my payment, seemingly because it couldn’t recognize my non-US billing address. So I gave up. Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
4 months ago

It is, prima facie, pretty dodgy that the Ergo payment is being handled as a ‘donation’. Syracuse presumably wants to do this because donations have certain tax advantages. But a donation is a freely made contribution to a worthy institution; it is not a payment for services rendered. I’m insufficiently familiar with US charity law to know if this is illegal (it would be legally questionable, at best, in the UK) but it’s at the least ethically dubious.

… or at least: that’s how it looks from this account. If Ergo has an exculpatory description, I’d be interested to hear it.Report

Ben Bradley
Ben Bradley
4 months ago

David Wallace: you are correct to raise this issue, and I should have come back around here to update things a while ago. It is in fact a donation, and the language on the Ergo site reflects that (after some early confusion about what we could and could not do). It is not a payment.

A bit of background: for some reason, credit card payments can be made only to gift accounts. So in order for us to charge a fee for manuscript submissions, we would have to send an invoice to each submitter, and they would have to send us a check in the mail. Obviously, that would be terrible; nobody is going to write a check. So taking donations is the only option available to us. But as you say, David, donations are freely made; we do not (and cannot) make consideration of a manuscript contingent on a donation. This is now clearly stated on the submission site. I feel pretty confident that we are running a legal operation here, as we have cleared the language with the financial folks at Syracuse.

We are fortunate that a great majority of submitters have elected to donate. As long as that continues, we can sustain the journal indefinitely. We’ve also gotten support from several institutions, and if we could get a bunch more, we would stop asking for individual donations altogether. Information about institutional donations can be found here: https://ergosubmissions.org/subscribe. Report

Ben Bradley
Ben Bradley
4 months ago

Unsuccessful: I’m so sorry to hear about that! The current setup is not what we would like it to be. At this point, donations have to go through the SU Philosophy Department’s gift fund. In the near future we hope and expect to have an Ergo gift fund, which will make things easier in certain respects. I have no idea why the portal would not recognize your non-US address; I know it does recognize some non-US addresses. Anyway: if you want to submit, you can do so without making a donation (see above), so I hope you’ll consider doing that!Report