Back in 2015, academic publisher Dan Morgan, then of the University of California Press, took to Medium to argue that a foundational assumption of his industry—that experts should volunteer their time as peer reviewers—is flawed. “I am fairly sure I have never volunteered my time but then had a 3rd party charge a commercial, profit-generating price for it,” he wrote. “[W]e all know that some publishers are getting very, very rich, while nothing tangible is making its way back to the primary volunteers making this happen.”
In return for their labor, Morgan asserted, reviewers for commercial publishers should have a say over the use of some portion of the revenue from published papers. As an example, he cited the model of an open access journal he’d cofounded the previous year, Collabra: Psychology. Reviewers for that journal earn credits that give them control over a portion of the quarterly revenue from the article processing charges (APCs) charged to authors: they can choose to direct the money to an APC waiver fund, which enables researchers who don’t have funds budgeted for APCs to publish in the journal, or to their own institution’s budget for open access–related costs, or they can pocket the money themselves.
The idea was: “Let’s test [whether we can] set up a system whereby the value that gets created in the scholarly publishing system could not just all go to publishers, but could also be hard-coded to circulate and return back to the academic community,” explains Morgan, who left UC Press for PLOS in 2018.