This proposal reflects a broader problem in academia: exploitation of, and even mandating, free labour for career advancement. Publishing is only one example, extending beyond the peer review process. Of course, reviewers should be paid for their expertise, as should authors. No journals pay authors for creating the product they sell. Book publishing is similarly exploitative: royalties are trivial and typically only paid after publishers recover their costs, a process hindered by publishers’ unwillingness to market books. No other industry requires professionals to donate products or time to profit a different organisation.
Open access journals further this exploitation, requiring authors to pay for publication, ostensibly enabling access for academics in poorer countries. The same mechanism, however, excludes scholars from poorer countries, as well as retired academics, independent scholars, students, and new graduates, who probably do not have departmental resources necessary for open access publication.
Exploiting free labour is pervasive in academia, from publication to conference organisation. There are constant demands on academics and staff to donate time and expertise, to say nothing of exploiting students and postdoctoral researchers. Frequent volunteering demands independent financial resources, thereby perpetuating inequities.
Journal editors, publishers, and leaders of academic institutions need to provide equitable conditions and compensation. Lines on a curriculum vitae are not remuneration. Journals, publishers, and academic institutions no longer hold the monopoly on information dissemination; without fair practices, they might be bypassed completely.
We declare no competing interests. BC is formerly professor at: the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the Department of Nursing, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada; the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada; and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the School of Psychology, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Should peer reviewers be paid to review academic papers?.
Lancet. 2022; 3991601
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