Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Should retractions ever lead to refunds of page charges?

with 5 comments

Recently, a reader contacted us with an interesting scenario: He’d recently heard about an author who asked for a refund of his page charges after he had to retract a paper for an honest error.

The scenario raised questions we’d never considered before. On the one hand, page charges often cover work that was completed in order to publish the paper, such as typesetting, printing, and distribution. That work happened, regardless of whether or not the paper was eventually retracted. On the other hand, researchers often depend on grants to cover publication fees, and if a paper is retracted, they may not be able to charge the grant, leaving them out of pocket.

If there is a fundamental problem with the paper, which the journal could have caught during editing and peer review, does that leave the journal partly responsible to shoulder some of the cost? What about if the article was retracted due to a publishing error, such as the journal posting the wrong version, or the same version twice?

Note that page charges are distinct from Article Processing Charges (APCs), associated with open access journals. On that point, publishers such as Elsevier and BioMed Central have made their positions clear: No refunds of APCs after a paper is retracted.

So are there any situations in which retractions should prompt refunds of page charges? Tell us what you think, below.

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are there any situations in which retractions should prompt a refund in publishing fees?

Written by Alison McCook

March 28th, 2017 at 11:30 am

Comments
  • Carol Shoshkes Reiss March 28, 2017 at 11:40 am

    One author of a retracted paper asked for fees paid to be returned, but the published responded that the labor involved in Production and Publication had already been expended and needed to be covered.

    • Jonathan L. Seagull March 28, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      That’s a logical argument, and a reasonable response to author error, but not necessarily the most ethical possible response always.

  • Axel Berger March 28, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    If you ask an electrician to install a wall socket and afterwards find you specified the wrong place, would he refund you? Of course if the craftsman or journal made the mistake, it’s up to them to rectify it at their cost. Or what if it’s not a journal but a printer and on collecting the bound copies you notice you gave them the wrong file to print – would they refund you? I really, honestly don’t understand the question, it seems so utterly obvious to me.

  • Kenneth Pimple March 28, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    Honest mistake in publication: It’s the author’s mistake, it shouldn’t get a refund.

    Fabrication, plagiarism, or other-than-honest practices: The publisher might reasonably ask for a refund. Could the publishers sue the author?

    • Gary March 29, 2017 at 9:14 am

      Hmm interesting question – I would say not. As things currently stand the publisher gets paid regardless of the reasons for the retraction. If subscribers to a journal got a refund depending upon the number of retractions (per year) then they might have an argument to do this.

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