Who is served by for-profit gold open access publishing? A case study of Hindawi and Egypt

by: Jihane Salhab and Heather Morrison

Abstract

The highly successful Egypt-based open access publisher Hindawi is presented as a model of quality publishing and commercial success. However, this success is not accompanied by obvious benefits to Egypt’s own research and researchers. Even in the best-case scenario for academics in Egypt’s public university system, it would take three month’s salary for a full professor to pay the $1,500 USD OA APC of Hindawi’s high-end Disease Markers. Egypt’s largest public university, Cairo University, has no institutional repository. Fortunately for Egyptian researchers, there are open access journals that do not charge APCs, and not all open access repositories are institutional repositories. Open access may not be the most salient issue for Egyptian researchers at any rate. It is not clear that the pre-revolutionary state interference with research detailed in a 2005 Human Rights Watch report has been resolved, and the need to take on other work due to low salaries leaves many academics with little to no time to do research. In this instance, commercial success is not correlated with social benefit.

Details

Hindawi is an open access commercial publishing success story and an Egyptian business success story. Hindawi Publishing Corporation was founded by Ahmed Hindawi who, in an interview with Richard Poynder conducted in September 2012, confirmed a revenue of millions of dollars from APCs alone – a $3.3 net profit on $12 million in revenue, a 28% profit rate (Poynder, 2012). Hindawi is highly respected in open access publishing circles, and was an early leader in establishing the Open Access Scholarly Publishers’ Association (OASPA), an organization that takes quality in publishing seriously.

However, it seems highly unlikely that Egyptian researchers could afford to publish in the larger Hindawi journals. It would take three months’ salary for a full professor in today’s public university system to pay the $1,500 USD APC of Hindawi’s Disease Markers; this would take six months’ salary for a lecturer. This is the best-case scenario, assuming a university that has been able to implement the raise for academics decreed by Morsi in July 2012 to 3500 EGY monthly for a full professor ($579 USD) (1).

In addition to the financial factor, years of the pre-revolution regime’s interference with research subjects and methods formed a stagnant nature of contemporary scholarship where “the state restricts who can research what and severely punishes those who overstep their bounds” (Human Rights Watch, 46). Though there is a slight improvement after the revolution, still “economic, political, and physical insecurity in the country make it very difficult for serious changes to be made” (El-Awady, 2013).

There are other options for Egyptian researchers: the vast majority of open access journals do not charge article processing fees (Morrison et. al., 2015), there are subject as well as institutional open access repositories, and Egyptian researchers can read open access works of others. Still it might be reasonable to ask whether the most appropriate route to “open” in the short-term for researchers in Egypt involves opening up time to do the research through adequate salaries and opening up freedom to conduct and share research by building support for intellectual and academic freedom.

Note

1. In July 2012, more than a year after the revolution that ousted the Mubarak regime, elected president Morsi issued decree 84, amending the wages for academics that had not been changed since 1972. Published on July 14th in the Egyptian Official Journal (issue 28), Decree 84 (translated from Arabic by Jihane Salhab). lists the amendments of academics’ monthly wages as follows: 3500 EGY ($579 US) for professors, 3000 EGY ($497 US) for associate professors, 2500 EGY ($414 US) for lecturers, 1500 EGY ($248 US) for assistant lecturers and 1000EGY ($165 US) for teaching assistants respectively (using XE currency converter for that same date at a rate of $1=6.045 EGY). That raise was supposed to be only the first phase, but in February 2013 Egyptian minister of higher education Mas’ad confirmed in a statement that no other phases would follow (Bedewi, 2013).

References

Bedewi, M. (24 February 2013). Higher education: the country cannot endure the second phase of ‘academic wages.’ Al-Youm Al-Sabe’ [In Arabic]. Retrieved on 10 April 2015.

El-Awady, Nadia. (8 June 2013). Higher education still suffering after the revolution. University World News. Retrieved March 28, 2015 from http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20130606161959301

Human Rights Watch (2005). Reading between the “Red Lines”: the repression of academic freedom in Egyptian universities. Human Rights Watch, 17(6): 1-109. Retrieved February 17, 2015 from http://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/egypt0605/egypt0605.pdf

Morrison H, Salhab J, Calvé-Genest A, Horava T (2015). Open Access Article Processing Charges: DOAJ Survey May 2014. Publications 3(1):1-16. Retrieved April 10, 2015 from http://www.mdpi.com/2304-6775/3/1/1

Poynder, R. (2012).The OA interviews: Ahmed Hindawi, founder of Hindawi Publishing Corporation. Retrieved March 10, 2015 from http://www.richardpoynder.co.uk/Hindawi_Interview.pdf

This post is the first in a series analyzing the actual or potential impact of APCs.

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