A standalone open-access journal based in Hungary charges authors based on manuscript “priority,” a euphemism for quality. “Top” and “high” priority articles are published for free, but authors of “medium” and “low priority” articles have to pay — a lot.
The journal is Applied Ecology and Environmental Research or AEER. As shown in the graphic above, the journal’s author fees are waived for some articles, but others require payment:
Top Priority. These manuscripts are treated as priority during the reviewing and publication processes. In this category publication is absolutely free.
High Priority. These manuscripts are reviewed and published in order of submission. In this category publication is absolutely free.
Medium Priority. The reviewing process of manuscripts in this category is suspended after the pre-review. Authors are informed about the status of their manuscript and they can decide whether they want to continue the reviewing process with the open access publication fee indicated in the below table. Authors are required to make payment only after their manuscript has been accepted for publication. Publication fee for this category is shown in the below table. A discount is valid if at least one of the authors are from a developing country (countries outside the USA, Canada, European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Japan or South Korea).
Low Priority. Same as Medium Priority except for the amount of publication fee.
The priority determination is determined during a “pre-review” process. If your article ends up being medium priority, you end up paying €500 (with a measly €50 discount if you’re based in a developing country).
So, submitting to this journal is like playing a slot machine, you may hit a jackpot, or you may have to pay up to 800 euros, the charge for a low-priority article from a developed country.
The journal’s website uses “frames,” a popular HTTP feature from the late 1990s. The jornal’s website is an electronic fossil. It began publishing in 2003 and is not on my list.
Though it’s a fee-charging, open-access journal, Applied Ecology and Environmental Research requires that authors sign over their copyright to the publisher.
Looking at the articles, one cannot tell which “priority” level each one is. So for each article, one wonders whether the authors had to pay or were awarded free publishing.
The publishing model is such that the low priority or weak articles subsidize the publication of the good ones, an incentive for the journal to accept and publish more weak papers.