A few months ago I registered on Elsevier’s clunky old on-line manuscript submissions site and submitted a paper to Journal of Archaeological Science. It got turned down because the two peer reviewers disagreed on whether it should be accepted or not. No biggie: I resubmitted elsewhere. Today Elsevier Science & Technology Journals spammed the address I submitted from with an offer of language revision!

Need help getting published? Elsevier Language services can help you

Dear Dr. Martin Rundkvist,

Could expert language editing improve your chances of getting published?

• Language Editing
• Language Editing Plus

Our language editing team will make sure your manuscript is written in the highest standard of English.

We will correct spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors. We will also check for problems in parallelisms, tense and conjugations and eliminate improper language and poor word choice.

No, Elsevier, I do not need help getting published. I have a rather comfortable body of work in the scholarly literature, thank you. Nor do I need your help with language revision. You see, I’m the editor and main language revisor of an international journal. Do you have any idea how unprofessional it is to a) spam contributors to your journals, b) suggest in said spam that they may need some help to get into print? Shouldn’t you employ marketing people who know a little something about academics and academic publishing?

Comments

  1. #1 Eric Lund
    June 12, 2014

    suggest in said spam that they may need some help to get into print?

    For a suggestion of this nature to come from a journal publisher smacks of payola, above and beyond the usual issues with page charges and such. If you want to portray yourself as a reputable scientific publisher, as I assume Elsevier wants to do, this is an epic marketing fail.

    I haven’t seen this particular e-mail (that I know of; it may have gone straight into my spam filter), so they may be assuming that people in countries where English is not the official language need this help, but people in English-speaking countries don’t. That’s a bad assumption on both counts: some native English speakers work in countries with other native languages (in addition to locals who become fluent in English), while many scholars who are not fluent in English work in English-speaking countries (most often the US, but also the UK, Canada, and Australia).

  2. #2 Martin R
    June 12, 2014

    My guess is that they’ve spammed everybody they’ve sent a rejection letter. Not a good call either.

  3. #3 Phillip Helbig
    Tyskland
    June 12, 2014

    Note that in many branches of science, there is a boycott of Elsevier, due to their highly inflated prices. That alone should be a reason not to do business with them.

  4. #4 Phillip Helbig
    Tyskland
    June 12, 2014

    By the way, do you recognize where the photo in my avatar was taken? Not exactly archeology, but a site of historical importance.

  5. #5 Martin R
    June 12, 2014

    I know about the boycott but my co-author likes the journal. That statue looks like Tycho Brahe, so my guess is the island of Hven!

  6. #6 jane
    June 12, 2014

    Also, it ought to be “written *to* the highest standard of English”, or “in the most elegant English” or something similar, not a nasty combination of the two that sounds – to my ears – non-native!

  7. #7 John Massey
    June 13, 2014

    The time has come (and was reached some while ago) for engineering journals and the proceedings of engineering conferences to be published online, open access. There is almost no money in publishing them anyway, and it is clearly in everyone’s interest to do it. Unfortunately, there is no sign of it happening.

    Suggested amendments forwarded by email, Captain Rundkvist.

  8. #8 John Massey
    June 13, 2014

    Yeah, to the highest standard, not in the highest standard.

  9. #9 Eric Lund
    June 13, 2014

    it is clearly in everyone’s interest to do it

    It is not in the publishers’ interest to do it. Under the status quo, they’re basically getting money for nothing. If I were a publishing company that had that kind of deal going, I’d want to keep it going, too.

    That’s a big part of why journals and books on technical subjects are so #$(@*%( expensive. They can’t make it up on volume, so they have to charge high prices for the work. There is a reason Donald Knuth used dollar signs to indicate switches between math mode and text mode in TeX: mathematical typesetting has historically been especially expensive.

  10. #10 Sean M
    June 15, 2014

    “Money for nothing”? That depends. While some academic presses have been bought by by rent-seekers who provide few services and squeeze money out of academic libraries, others are shoestring operations run by volunteers grappling with the need to earn their $10,000 cash costs on a print run of 200 copies. Producing a book is expensive: turning a novel MS into something which is ready for mass printing costs about 20 person-weeks ( http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/02/cmap-2-how-books-are-made.html ). I have seen estimates that the cost to produce scholarly articles is on the order of 10 dollars/pounds/euros per reading, and that money has to come from somewhere too (as Stross points out, digital publishing lets the publishers save 10% or so not 50%).

    Making the author pay costs of publication is a stopgap, but it has its own problems.

  11. #11 Birger Johansson
    June 16, 2014

    Speaking of translations, am I the only one to be infuriated by crappy translations in science documentaries? I can understand kitsch channels have the cheapest translators money can buy, but *science* documentaries?
    (OT) Time-Lapse: Swedish Sunset http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/06/15/time_lapse_video_of_a_swedish_sunset.html

  12. #12 Birger Johansson
    June 16, 2014
  13. #13 jane
    June 16, 2014

    @Birger – no, you aren’t the only one infuriated by crappy translations; I can never understand why anyone would pay lots of money to produce their product/website/film and then quibble at a few extra quid to get across the message in another language! It’s an awful false economy.

  14. #14 Birger Johansson
    June 16, 2014

    Jane, welcome back!
    (OT) Data mining: Old Bailey data shows growing intolerance for violence during Victorian era http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25728-old-bailey-data-shows-growing-intolerance-for-violence.html

  15. #15 John Massey
    June 17, 2014

    @12 “Chinese grave” is potentially misleading – the trousers belonged to horse-riding nomads from Western Eurasia who had migrated to the Tarim Basin. The grave is only Chinese in the sense that its location is now in Xinjiang Province.

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