Glam cost

Sep 24 2015 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Academics, Careerism, Fixing the NIH

How much do you think it costs to generate the manuscript that is accepted for publication at your average Glam journal?

How do you align this with your views on fair distribution of research funding?

52 responses so far

  • Zen Faulkes says:

    "Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief of Nature, estimates his journal's internal costs at £20,000–30,000 ($30,000–40,000) per paper." - http://www.nature.com/news/open-access-the-true-cost-of-science-publishing-1.12676

    I don't have any particular notions about how this affects my ideas about funding distribution.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I was asking about the costs to do the work.

  • J Navajas says:

    I read somewhere that is in the range of the million dollars. But I guess if you do a lot of Genomics it would scalage up to 2-3M.

  • chemstructbio says:

    Are we talking strictly supplies/reagent/etc. and personnel costs? Or equipment as well—and if equipment, total cost of equipment or some fraction of it since the equipment is likely used for other projects?

    In any case, it’s not surprising that the answer is a rather large number, as *these days* these journals require MOAR of everything.

  • MoBio says:

    $1 million at least in my experience...of course not typically from one lab

  • Zen Faulkes says:

    Ooops. I got it now. Sorry.

    I'm guessing that this post was inspired by this tweet from Steve Ramirez, which estimated the cost of one paper at $2.75 million?

    https://twitter.com/okaysteve/status/647055296414617600

    Steve's blog post might help provide context for that estimate:

    https://okaysteve.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/activating-memories-with-light-how-our-paper-came-to-be/#more-524

    I still don't have strong thoughts on how this affects my idea of what is "fair" research, though.

  • physioprof says:

    Five years of one lead post-doc salary + fringe + indirect costs is half a million dollars alone. Figure 20% of PI salary is at least another quarter of a million dollars. Next you add on salary costs for other contributors, animal costs, reagents, equipment expenses, services, etc. Gotta be at least one million dollars.

    It is interesting to compare this to typical "productivity" discussion of R01 renewal applications in study section.

  • bacillus says:

    ~ 20K /author ( i.e. $1-2M /paper)

  • Established PI says:

    It's hard to put a real number on this if the project benefited from a lot of expensive equipment, either in the PIs lab or institution, that facilitated the work. In terms of salary (other than mine), supplies and fees, my recent experience has been a cost anywhere from $200 - $600K spread over 2-4 years, but that is leaving out the cost of several expensive instruments (cost range $250K - $1M), other than those found in fee-based core facilities, that we had access to and were a big help. Someone with the same money but without the equipment would have had a harder time and either might not have been able to get the same results or might have gotten scooped.

  • kalevala says:

    I wouldn't be surprised if the average cost of a glam paper was the same as that of a non-glam, but well regarded "society journal" paper. If you consider that there are many pubs that were planned for glam, but didn't make the cut (but still cost the same), and that there are also many Cinderella stories that started out as non-glam (in scope and budget) but hit the C/S/N jackpot.

  • qaz says:

    Do you count the costs of all the experiments that you did that didn't work? We are exploring, not demonstrating.

    Also, do you count all the time we spent preparing to get struck by lightning? (The most expensive part of a modern fighter jet is the pilot.)

    In the end it greatly depends on the type of project. I've seen glamour mag papers that cost a few hundred bucks (such as a computational paper that I know was due to the author being in the right place at the right time to recognize a connection) and glamour mag papers that cost billions (think discovery of the Higgs Boson by the ATLAS, CERN, and LHC teams).

  • kalevala says:

    And it's not like vendors will give you a discount or like postdocs will work for less if you tell 'em you're planning on publishing in a non-glam venue. If anything, there might be cost *savings* if you dangle that glam carrot...

  • Ola says:

    I'd say the $1m figure that several have mentioned seems about right, but the standard deviation is probably enormous.

    The other way to calculate this (Datahound?) would be to divide the total $DCs of NIH grants by the total impact factor of the publications they generate, to come up with a value system based on $ per IF point. Assuming a modular R01 had a single C/N/S paper or a few of lower IF papers during its 4 year life cycle, for a total of say 30 IF points, that would suggest about $30k of direct costs per IF point.

    Using that metric, a glam pub (>25 IF) would be about $750k and an IF~5 society Jnl paper would be about $150k.

  • AcademicLurker says:

    Since this is a thread about glam papers, can someone explain to me how a paper in this week's Science is able to have 4 freaking corresponding authors?

  • Newbie PI says:

    I was thinking that I've definitely read some glam papers that are only a couple of figures with very cheap/basic experiments, but that proved a really cool hypothesis. But as I looked up a couple examples, I realized the two papers I was thinking of were both Science papers, and in each case they came out with a back to back publication that came to the same conclusion using fancier technology. So anyway, you can sometimes get lucky and not spend the millions of dollars that everyone seems to be proposing (if you have brilliant ideas that are easily testable and submit to a journal at precisely the right time).

  • kalevala says:

    Or how about the Science paper with three co-first authors, a token middle author, and one corresponding author?

  • Neuropop says:

    Don't know about a glam journal but the latest manuscript for a society journal (J. Neuro.) cost 2 grad students x 2 years ~220K, 20% effort for PI x 2 yrs ~80K, reagents and supplies ~50K.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I'm guessing that this post was inspired by this tweet from Steve Ramirez, which estimated the cost of one paper at $2.75 million?

    Not exactly. That tweet was responding to probing from @superkash who was in turn motivated by a conversation he and I were having about this.

    It is interesting to compare this to typical "productivity" discussion of R01 renewal applications in study section.

    Yes, yes it is. This is related to a prior post I had about how an R01 doesn't really pay for itself.

    if the average cost of a glam paper was the same as that of a non-glam, but well regarded "society journal" paper. If you consider that there are many pubs that were planned for glam, but didn't make the cut (but still cost the same)

    I agree with you that "targeted for glam but didn't make the cut" can be just as expensive. Sure.

    there are also many Cinderella stories that started out as non-glam (in scope and budget) but hit the C/S/N jackpot.

    "many"? That didn't get hit with demands to replicate it in three more animal models and use the latest hawtest techniques the reviewers could dream up? I'm doubtful that the cheap Cinderella amounts to more than a tiny fraction of Glam articles.

    Do you count the costs of all the experiments that you did that didn't work?

    Sure.

    would be to divide the total $DCs of NIH grants by the total impact factor of the publications they generate, to come up with a value system based on $ per IF point.

    Glam-hound labs are highly likely to spread the true costs across fellowships to postdocs (both NIH and other), HHMI, philanthropy and other sources. This proposal for an analysis is therefore a nonstarter, imo. These considerations do fuel my complaint about Berg's / NIGMS' much quoted analyses of cost per paper since one gets such a category shift for true Glam pubs and, as noted in this thread, continual GlamHumpers who may fail to hit Glam now and again. So it is good to keep in mind.

    can someone explain to me how a paper in this week's Science is able to have 4 freaking corresponding authors?

    Sure. It is because the Corresponding Author marker has now become a tick mark of academic contribution and credit instead of a mere convenience for getting in touch with the research team. So much like we've seen metastasis of "co-equal" first (and now last ) authors, we're seeing expansion of corresponding author credits.

    you can sometimes get lucky and not spend the millions of dollars that everyone seems to be proposing (if you have brilliant ideas that are easily testable and submit to a journal at precisely the right time).

    Yeah. I'd like to see the backstories on those and get the respective laboratories to weigh in on priority. Having been directly privy to a situation or two where the thinner-sauce paper was rushed in from a lab that was reviewing and holding up the publication of the other competing work....it happens.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Don't know about a glam journal but the latest manuscript for a society journal (J. Neuro.) cost 2 grad students x 2 years ~220K, 20% effort for PI x 2 yrs ~80K, reagents and supplies ~50K.

    So roughly speaking two J Neuro papers out of the first four years of a full-modular R01 and then you have to submit the competing continuation application. I just can't see a renewal going well on the back of a mere two Journal of Neuroscience publications. It is going to be killed for lack of productivity, ime.

    Remember, NIH is making noises about sustaining a more stable funding stream. gee, I wonder why this is an issue right now? Perhaps because they have failed to keep the amount of spending power that is associated with their default grant from deflating?

  • namaste_ish says:

    Gee....I hope no one gets concerned about the insane finances, time and pressure that is put upon people and, gasp, would fake data. "Sure we did that!" (Data not shown).

    I'm getting vapors just thinking about it.

  • poke says:

    Really tough question to answer. I mean, do you include the cost of the celebratory cake?

  • Neuropop says:

    @Drugmonkey - " just can't see a renewal going well on the back of a mere two Journal of Neuroscience publications. It is going to be killed for lack of productivity, ime. "

    Yup. The 15-odd figures of supplementary data that J. Neuro. doesn't allow can now be spun off into sub-dump journals to "boost" productivity. Maybe, that'll help. Of course, that doesn't mean that one is done satisfying the J. Neuro reviewers -- additional experiments, more $$s..

  • drugmonkey says:

    "Sub-dump" does not help. A "dump " journal implies a minimum level of barest credibility in your field, for a context.

  • kalevala says:

    "many"? That didn't get hit with demands to replicate it in three more animal models and use the latest hawtest techniques the reviewers could dream up? I'm doubtful that the cheap Cinderella amounts to more than a tiny fraction of Glam articles.

    Even those folks who don't regularly set out to do a glam study but happen to get that "Huh? Cool!" serendipitous finding, will submit it to a glam journal. Because, why not? The majority won't be accepted, but Nature/Science love the unexpected oddities, and the letter/report format is perfect for this stuff. There's a better shot at getting accepted without too much scrutiny if the unexpectedness is due more to the fact that the topic is poorly studied rather than if it challenges dogma in a saturated field. The follow-up nitty-gritty (which may in fact cost more than what went into the glam shot), will then be published in a society journal, not glam. But maybe this practice is indeed phasing out and has become a tiny fraction of today's glam content.

  • Philapodia says:

    "How much do you think it costs to generate the manuscript that is accepted for publication at your average Glam journal?"

    Your eternal soul...

  • jmz4 says:

    1 PI soul= 2 PD souls=4 graduate student souls.

  • Newbie says:

    Eight science, seven nature, barely any cost.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sch%C3%B6n_scandal#Withdrawn_journal_papers

    Other questions.
    Relative proportion of a Glam cost to start up package?
    MIRA awards had a line to justify cost-effectiveness, would a glam pub disqualify cost-effectiveness if the expectation was a) higher chance of scooped resulting in redundant work, b) expectation of excessive experiments to satisfy reviewers before dissemination of information?

  • dr24hours says:

    It's gonna be massively field dependent. The big general journals like Science and Nature will have some that cost in six figures, surely (maybe even the rare occasional high-5) for some fields when a really cool result is stumbled upon cheaply. Medical glam like NEJM? Mostly those are large, multi-center trials that cost into eight figures. Though, I know of at least one person who got a small-n pilot trial into a medical Glam journal that probably cost in the mid-six figures.

    My guess is that the mean is low-seven digits with a wide sigma.

    I don't know that that has any implications toward "fair distribution" of funds, but then, I haven't bothered to think about it much either.

  • potnia theron says:

    Except of course, they still publish other (but glam) research that is not expensive: field studies (think new species), paleontology (new species) etc etc. Your tunnel vision is showing.

  • DJMH says:

    Calc for my last glam paper.
    3 yr postdoc salary + fringe + IDC = $300K.
    Say 5% PI salary + fringe + IDC (because PI only had to raise 25% from grants) = $30K
    15% of the animal tech = $70K
    Amortized cost of equipment, assuming 20% of 15 year equipment lifetime = $30K
    Supplies (not very expensive) 10K/yr = $30K
    Other tech/undergrad, small fraction of hours = $10K

    total $460K. Actually the paper only took 2.5 years but all I did in the last 0.5 year was go on the job market so I lumped that in. Is this bargain basement science?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Nice dodge on the PI salary. This is about cost, not charges to a grant.

  • DJMH says:

    No, you're the dodger, because you are making explicit comparisons to whether the cost of a few papers aligns with what's expected from an R01. Since my PI's salary mostly doesn't come from the R01, this is the correct calculation for NIH/grant dollars.

    It is fine to do the calculation the other way, but then you explicitly cannot turn around and whine that an R01 isn't enough money to produce enough papers. Of course papers are more expensive, in *grant* dollars, from a soft money lab than from a hard money lab.

    Maybe it bothers you to have this pointed out?

  • DJMH says:

    And anyhow, doing the calc including 20% of PI salary etc for 3 years instead of 5% would bring us to $120K for PI contribution, for a grand total of $560K....still a helluva lot cheaper than the other numbers being thrown around.

    And this is not paleontology.

  • effie says:

    A while back I heard a suggestion that manuscript reviewers should provide an estimate of the time and cost of their additional proposed experiments. I still think that was spot on.

  • lurker says:

    What are the criteria for a paper to be called Glam besides CNS? Double-digit IFs make a paper/journal glam? Is 1 Glam => 4 SSJ's (Solid Society Journal)?

    As I teach in Biochem class, A Kornberg got his Nobel from a J Biol Chem paper, whose IF is still just ~4-5'ish. Back in those days (pre-McKnight), they valued science for what it was, and not for its journal name.....

  • JustAGrad says:

    Hey, you can still get an Ig Nobel from non-glam journals! Just look at how many awards were given this year for papers in PLOS ONE.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Wrong DJMH. I am in fact the one that talks about the true costs of research. Reality doesn't bother me in the least. Why are you so keen to deny it?

  • DJMH says:

    How'm I denying it????? You framed this as being about the grant cost, so I gave numbers in those terms. You changed the frame to being about total costs, so I gave numbers in those terms.

    My numbers still seem lower than other numbers spouted around here, and you're still grouchy about Unspecified Things.

  • Philapodia says:

    "Hey, you can still get an Ig Nobel from non-glam journals!Just look at how many awards were given this year for papers in PLOS ONE."

    And look at how many grad students were able to publish their non-vertically ascending science in PLoS ONE so they could graduate.

    From the Ig Nobel website: "The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that make people LAUGH, and then THINK. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology."

    Seems to me that getting an Ig Nobel should be a mark of pride, not shame (as is implied), since it's not meant to demean people but rather celebrate quirkiness and scientific imagination. Personally I appreciate people who don't take themselves too seriously, since they are a lot of fun to be around. People who are too earnest/driven/douchee are rather tiresome.

  • physioprof says:

    Personally I appreciate people who don't take themselves too seriously, since they are a lot of fun to be around. People who are too earnest/driven/douchee are rather tiresome.

    You must love Charles Zuker.

  • chall says:

    our latest publication was 250k in mice work alone. It's nuts but that was the sum when i counted it. add the other reagents and genome seq and it's easy 1 mil when adding the salary over time with people.

  • drugmonkey says:

    DJMH- I am pretty sure you have read my blog for years. I specify a lot of things that make me grouchy.

  • Philapodia says:

    @PP

    Don't know this chap. Is he a McKnight clone or more of the Gallagher type?

  • Philapodia says:

    C/N/S editors are the science equivalent of the Koch brothers. Discuss.

  • qaz says:

    The problem with this whole discussion is that it still works under the (incorrect) assumption that there is a 1:1 relationship between experiments and papers. While it may have been true in some magical past that you did an experiment and reported the results in a paper (some of those classic JNeurophys papers - the ones that are still cited - seem to be that way), but we are long past that now. A paper is about a scientific discovery, not about reporting the experiment that you did.

    On one side, in my field a single experiment (meaning doing something to a set of animals under a set of conditions) provides for many results. On the other, papers cut across experiments, pulling result X from experiment 1, combining that with result Y from experiment 2, and realizing that result Z from someone else's previous paper (*) leads to a conclusion that changes how we think about things.
    * That's why the literature is important!

    So its hard to measure direct cost. You would have to amortize it across all the papers that arise from the experiment.

  • kalevala says:

    If the Koch brothers didn't have a political agenda based on self-serving ideology, sure. You give the glam editors too much credit. They're not pushing for any specific outcome, they're more like spoiled kittens who increasingly chase only after the newest and loudest toys.

  • Philapodia says:

    They may not have a political agenda, but they are self-serving by choosing science they think is sexy, which helps their own careers and the bottom lines of their companies. Companies and powerful interests controlling the debate sounds familiar, no? They have the power to make peoples careers based on what they think is shiny and new, and scientists spend 2-3 years and maybe a million dollars for a 3-page paper (with 3 papers worth of supplemental data tucked away somewhere) to get into C/N/S, so they can drive the direction and control the science without dirtying their hands by doing or paying for the work. The editors chasing new and shiny science implies that superficiality (i.e. vertically ascending science) is what is important and that the hard work of filling in the details as plebeian and unimportant, so you get glitzy science that is wrong or falsified a significant proportion of the time, but C/N/S always gets paid and almost never gets blamed. It's a genius racket, really.

  • kalevala says:

    So they are the equivalent of Fox News.

  • philapodia says:

    I like that analogy better. Good on you, mate!

  • mH says:

    "Glam-hound labs are highly likely to spread the true costs across fellowships to postdocs (both NIH and other), HHMI, philanthropy and other sources. "

    Yes, this is how the BSD productivity hustle works.

  • Philapodia says:

    There was an interesting article in the NYT that y'all should read related to who gets rewarded for science:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/03/opinion/the-folly-of-big-science-awards.html?ref=opinion

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