A Lysistratan Scheme 

Lysistrata: Ah, but those are the very sheet-anchors of our salvation - those yellow tunics, those scents and slippers, those cosmetics and transparent robes.
Every year, I am asked to referee many more journal articles than I have time to handle adequately.  University libraries complain that the rapid escalation of journal prices and the proliferation of new journals makes it impossible for them to maintain adequate collections of  books and journals within their budgets.

I just don't see why I should supply free refereeing services to publishers that use monopoly pricing to gouge our university budgets.  I have resolved to stop refereeing papers for journals that charge library subscription rates greater than $1000 and to exercise preference for journals that charge less than $300. I do feel a professional obligation to review papers, but I can perform this obligation just as well by doing my refereeing for journals that are not exploiting university libraries.

Here is an updated  rogues' gallery of journals that cost libraries more than $1000 per year in 2002.  I have also collected a lot of  data about journal prices per page and per citation for a large selection of economics journals.

My new policy leaves plenty of options, for example:  the new Economics Bulletin (free access online),  the AEA  Journals ($150 per year for AER, JEL, and JEP),  Econometrica ($267), the Canadian Journal ($135), or the Journal of Political Economy ($207). On the other hand, I will not be refereeing  for the Journal of Economic Theory ($2070)Journal of Public Economics ($1647),  Economic Letters ($1696) or Public Choice ($1205 per year). [Prices quoted are for the year 2002.]

It seems to me that publishers who overprice their journals would  be up a creek if they lost the good will of the referees who provide them with free refereeing.  The gougers have lost mine, at least until they cut their prices.

I hope that many other scholars will take a similar view and will tell the editors and publishers of the overpriced journals about it.

A recent paper of mine, Free Labor for Costly Journals    explores this question  further.

Copyright © 2002 Ted Bergstrom