An efficient journal

March 6th, 2012

...time to switch...
“You seem to believe in fairies.”
Photo of the Cottingley Fairies, 1917, by Elsie Wright via Wikipedia.

Aficionados of open access should know about the Journal of Machine Learning Research (JMLR), an open-access journal in my own research field of artificial intelligence, a subfield of computer science concerned with the computational implementation and understanding of behaviors that in humans are considered intelligent. The journal became the topic of some dispute in a conversation that took place a few months ago in the comment stream of the Scholarly Kitchen blog between computer science professor Yann LeCun and scholarly journal publisher Kent Anderson, with LeCun stating that “The best publications in my field are not only open access, but completely free to the readers and to the authors.” He used JMLR as the exemplar. Anderson expressed incredulity:

I’m not entirely clear how JMLR is supported, but there is financial and infrastructure support going on, most likely from MIT. The servers are not “marginal cost = 0″ — as a computer scientist, you surely understand the 20-25% annual maintenance costs for computer systems (upgrades, repairs, expansion, updates). MIT is probably footing the bill for this. The journal has a 27% acceptance rate, so there is definitely a selection process going on. There is an EIC, a managing editor, and a production editor, all likely paid positions. There is a Webmaster. I think your understanding of JMLR’s financing is only slightly worse than mine — I don’t understand how it’s financed, but I know it’s financed somehow. You seem to believe in fairies.

Since I have some pretty substantial knowledge of JMLR and how it works, I thought I’d comment on the facts of the matter.

First, some history. JMLR was founded when most of the editorial board of the Kluwer journal Machine Learning (now a Springer journal) resigned to establish JMLR, Inc., a nonprofit to develop and publish the new journal on an open access model. The first editor-in-chief was Leslie Kaelbling, a computer science professor at MIT. The journal’s first papers appeared in October 2000. Its twelfth annual volume just completed this past December.

One of the main things that journal publishers do is manage the logistics of the peer review and filtering of submitted articles. Starting with the former Machine Learning team, the journal put together an editorial board and a cadre of action editors to handle the reviewing process. At the time the journal was launched, there weren’t the abundance of open-source journal management platforms that are now available. Being computer scientists, the editorial board took the expedient of implementing their own, a custom system that they still use. Much of the clerical effort of tracking the peer review process — assigning papers to action editors, engaging reviewers, tracking reviews, acceptances and rejections, and the like — is automated by the platform. Of course, these days, the platform situation has eased considerably.

Almost immediately, the journal was appreciated as being of top quality. The number of articles it published increased quickly over the first few years, its illustrious editorial team serving to convince prospective authors of its seriousness. Its first year in ISI’s rankings, it had the highest Impact Factor of any journal in its Web of Science subject category (“computer science, artificial intelligence”). It is currently ranked eighth (of 108 journals) by Impact Factor and fourth by Eigenfactor and Article Influence. Machine Learning is down to 33rd. If you’re into that kind of thing.

The journal does not charge any submission or publication fees and has never done so. It has never taken any advertising. Indeed, it has never had any direct revenue at all. In fact, JMLR, Inc. didn’t even have a bank account until recently; there was no need.

Of course, there are costs, but they are all provided through in-kind support. By far the largest costs are the labor required for peer reviewing and its management by the editorial board, but this is all volunteer effort as in most all scholarly journals. The primary people involved, the editor-in-chief, managing editor, and production editor, are all unpaid, contra Anderson’s conjecture. They volunteer for JMLR in their spare time away from their day jobs as computer science professors. MIT implicitly underwrites some clerical help, since Kaelbling’s administrative assistant at MIT does a small amount of work for the journal, amounting to a few hours per year.

The webmaster is a student volunteer. Anderson is right that MIT provides the web server, saving JMLR the tens of dollars per month they would otherwise have to pay for commercial hosting. Kaelbling has paid for the domain name out of her own pocket. The going rate for .org domains is about $15 per year.

In addition to management of the peer review process, publishers provide production services as well, such as copy-editing and typesetting. One of the main motivations for JMLR leaving Kluwer was the sense that the help they were supposed to be providing was sparse and better avoided. Kluwer did no copy-editing of articles. JMLR relies on reviewers for the kind of light copy-editing they always have done in the normal course of reviewing. For accepted articles that require large amounts of language help, the authors are requested to find copy-editing help at their expense; such cases are extremely rare. Other than that, no copy-editing is done. It doesn’t seem to have harmed the journal’s perceived quality.

As for the typesetting of articles, computer science authors typically use the open-source LaTeX typesetting system for writing their articles, a system designed for beautiful typesetting of mathematical material and far better for mathematical typesetting than the typical systems publishers are accustomed to. The process of retypesetting that many journals have historically performed inevitably introduces errors, leading to a product inferior to that computer science authors typically provide. JMLR used an approach where authors submit camera-ready copy based on a publisher-supplied LaTeX style file. By dropping the retypesetting with an inferior system, errors in the process are eliminated and the quality of typesetting improved. Increasingly, journals in computer science and related fields (mathematics, physics) are moving to this system. In fact, Machine Learning itself accepts LaTeX submissions and provides an appropriate LaTeX style file for authors to use. Thus, the total cost to JMLR for copy-editing and typesetting is zero.

The biggest expense, it turns out paradoxically, is paying a tax accountant. Kaelbling explained the problem to me:

We have to file a bunch of annoying forms to maintain tax exempt status, etc. I have paid for the original incorporation and some amount of the accountant out of my pocket. But I have gotten a couple of donations (totaling $7K) which I have also used for that stuff. It wouldn’t need to be so expensive, except I’m too disorganized and late to keep on top of it myself.

JMLR has always appeared both free online and by subscription in print. The print edition was originally intended to satisfy the desires of authors who hung onto a view that online-only journals may not be viewed as “serious”, but also has the advantage of substantially solving the digital preservation problem for the journal. The print edition of the first four volumes was published by MIT Press, at first quarterly, then semi-quarterly as submissions grew and more articles were accepted. JMLR received no revenue from the print edition and paid no subvention to MIT Press. MIT Press handled all aspects of fulfilling the print subscriptions and kept all the revenues from a quite reasonable subscription fee of just under 30 cents per page. From the fifth volume on, the print edition was taken over by Microtome Publishing under the same zero-zero arrangement. Under Microtome Publishing’s approach, which leverages important aspects of the print editions specific to open-access journals, the subscription cost decreased dramatically over the next few volumes, settling at a steady state of 8 cents per page for the last several volumes.

Adding it all up, a reasonable imputed estimate for JMLR’s total direct costs other than the volunteered labor (that is, tax accountant, web hosting, domain names, clerical work, etc.) is less than $10,000, covering the almost 1,000 articles the journal has published since its founding — about $10 per article. With regard to whose understanding of JMLR’s financing is better than whose, Yann LeCun I think comes out on top.

[Update 3/18/12: In the comments section, Leslie Kaelbling corrects her estimate of outside donations to $3,500, so I should revise my estimate of JMLR’s cost per article to be about $6.50 per article.]

How do I know all this about JMLR? Because (full disclosure alert) I am Microtome Publishing. Microtome is a sole proprietorship providing “publishing services in support of open access to the scholarly literature.” I’ve worked with JMLR for many years now, and consequently have gained a good understanding of all aspects of its operations and of the operations of a subscription-based print journal as well. I don’t pretend to have all of the knowledge of a professional publisher by any means. On the other hand, I don’t believe in fairies.

Does JMLR’s success and efficiency mean that all journals could run this way? Of course not. First, computer science journals are in a particularly good situation for being operated at low cost. Computer scientists possess all of the technological expertise required to efficiently manage and operate an online journal. Journal publishing is an information industry and computer scientists are specialists in information processing. Second, the level of volunteerism that JMLR relies on is atypical for the entire spectrum of journals. Paid editorial positions for computer science journals are exceptionally rare; we’re used to the volunteerism of running a journal. As authors, computer scientists are accustomed to performing their own typesetting and we prefer to do it ourselves. JMLR reviewers are relied on for whatever copy-editing is done. Paying professional copy-editors if that was desired would add more to the cost per page (though apparently not even Machine Learning’s commercial publisher was doing so when the board left). Third, some of the costs of operating a journal are the overhead costs that are being absorbed by various institutions. An independent publisher would have to pay for office space for staff, for instance, whereas the primary editors use their homes or offices, hiding that cost.

Nonetheless, the success of JMLR does provide a clue that the cost of running a premier journal might be far less than publishers imply, if they were to rethink the process substantially — maybe not $10 per article, but surely far less than the $5,000 average revenue per article that scholarly publishers currently receive. This expectation is borne out by the several non-profit and commercial open-access journal publishers that are able to operate in the black with publication fees a fraction of that average.

Anderson closes his comments on JMLR with these recommendations for LeCun:

You should look at yourself in the mirror, and ask why you don’t understand even the most basic financial realities (computers cost money to run, editors get paid, and webmasters get paid), why you don’t understand how JMLR is funded, how much you’ve benefited from tuition/fee increases foisted on students at +395% over the past decade,[1] and why you feel compelled to argue points you haven’t adequately examined (you tell me how JMLR is funded, and you’ll have much better face validity).

The call not to argue points one hasn’t adequately examined is surely apt.

[1]With regard to tuition hikes foisted on students see my earlier post.

32 Responses to “An efficient journal”

  1. How to run an Open-Access Scientific Journal – the cheap way « Luis Gustavo Martins’s Blog Says:

    [...] » An efficient journal The Occasional Pamphlet. [...]

  2. Another Library Is Possible | Peer-to-Peer Review Says:

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  3. Eugenio Culurciello Says:

    Beautiful. I was thinking the cost would be 100$ or so if you want to pay a bit a webmaster and maybe pay some small amount of consulting for the people running the show (mostly on their own time).
    Now I need to do the same in my area and compete with IEEE.

  4. The nuts and bolts of DIY journals | Gavia Libraria Says:

    [...] consider this exposition by Stuart Shieber on a journal he’s helped run for years. His points about in-kind support are well-taken, and [...]

  5. A Says:

    Really grateful to you for writing this. I wonder what reaction if any, would come from the likes of Anderson.

    (This post has been widely shared on G+; see e.g. and its re-shares.)

  6. Another Library Is Possible « Says:

    [...]  Stuart Shieber describes exactly how an excellent open access journal can be published at a fraction of the cost a toll access publisher incurs. [...]

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  8. Kent Anderson Says:

    Interesting post. Before I respond, I’d like to ask a few more questions:

    1. How much did Microtome Publishing make in revenues in 2011? What was it’s margin on these revenues? Who kept this money? Where did it go?

    2. Do the people you’re raising money from, a) get a tax deduction and b) know that there’s a printing subsidiary run by you on the side?

    3. How do UCSD, Southern Louisiana, and the University of Minnesota cover the costs of their people serving in roles on this journal? Are there contracts? Or is it all voluntary?

    4. How do you explain that your organization’s tax-exempt status was revoked because you apparently neglected to file the proper (aka, “annoying”) paperwork?


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  12. Stuart Shieber Says:

    @Kent Anderson —

    1. How much did Microtome Publishing make in revenues in 2011?

    Not very much, but enough to cover all its expenses and my time. Surely you’re not insinuating that I’m gouging the customers at $.08 per page. Do you know of any other journal that has decreased its print prices by a factor of three over the last eight years? And remember, JMLR is an open-access journal; no one needs to pay a penny to read their articles.

    What was it’s margin on these revenues? Who kept this money? Where did it go?

    I kept the money. It went into my pocket, as sole proprietor.

    2. Do the people you’re raising money from, a) get a tax deduction and b) know that there’s a printing subsidiary run by you on the side?

    There’s a bit of a misconception in your question. Microtome is not a “subsidiary” of JMLR, Inc. The two are completely separate entities. In fact, Microtome was founded well before it took over JMLR‘s print version.

    (a) As a sole proprietorship Microtome hasn’t raised any money from anyone. You’d have to contact JMLR, Inc. to determine if their donors took a tax deduction, but I’d assume so.

    (b) The relationship between JMLR and Microtome is made explicit on the front page of the JMLR web site:

    Final versions are published electronically (ISSN 1533-7928) immediately upon receipt. Until the end of 2004, paper volumes (ISSN 1532-4435) were published 8 times annually and sold to libraries and individuals by the MIT Press. Paper volumes (ISSN 1532-4435) are now published and sold by Microtome Publishing.

    My involvement with Microtome is made clear on the Microtome web site that JMLR links to.

    3. How do UCSD, Southern Louisiana, and the University of Minnesota cover the costs of their people serving in roles on this journal? Are there contracts? Or is it all voluntary?

    You’d have to ask them, but my guess is that they cover these people serving in these roles just as they and other universities cover so many of us as reviewers and editorial board members for so many journals published by commercial or non-profit publishers — as unpaid volunteers. As you know, volunteering to review articles for journals and serve on editorial boards and in other editorial positions is something faculty do without pay, without contracts, without compensation of any sort, as part of our perceived duty to the scholarly endeavor. I’m not sure why you find it so hard to believe that all these people are volunteers but they really are.

    4. How do you explain that your organization’s tax-exempt status was revoked because you apparently neglected to file the proper (aka, “annoying”) paperwork?

    My organization, Microtome Publishing, is and has always been a sole proprietorship, not a non-profit organization.

    JMLR, Inc. is a non-profit. I wasn’t aware that JMLR, Inc. had lost its nonprofit status until you pointed it out. You’d have to contact them to find out the details, but I understand from Professor Kaelbling that they were late filing their annual report.


    You’re welcome.

  13. Fernando Pereira Says:

    I’m baffled by Kent Anderson’s question 3. I’ve reviewed papers, been area editor, program committee member, conference area chair, major conference program co-chair for over 30 years. For commercial and nonprofit venues in several areas of computer science and artificial intelligence. During that time, I have been employed by universities, a non-profit research institute, and companies. All of those employers not just accepted my doing that work, they encouraged it as a service to the scientific community. The most consideration I ever got for editorial work from a commercial journal was a free subscription for the duration of my role. For over 10 years, I have refused to do any such work for venues that are not open access. If my employers and me (on my evenings, weekends, and sometimes vacations) are supporting this service, the least I can ask is that the results of our volunteer effort be available to all without discrimination.

  14. Kent Anderson Says:


    Thanks for finally posting my comment and replying. I never got a notification that you did this.

    While in your initial post you note an unparalleled knowledge of how JMLR runs, you then also note that you were unaware that it had lost its non-profit status.

    Part of running a professional journal is having a professional staff managing things like this — filings, contracts, accounts. I think inept non-profit filings and unawareness of same by key people argues against your assertion that JMLR is “efficient.”

    As for your involvement in Microtome, why does JMLR have to raise money to cover its costs if you’re generating income to cover your costs and keeping same? Why not return that money to JMLR so funders don’t have to bail it out? Are you keeping $7K per year for your “time”?

    As for my third question, you have people listed in official roles yet don’t understand how they’re accomplishing their work or under what terms. That’s not efficiency. It’s more like ignorance.

    It’s nice there’s a little journal like this in computer science, floating papers, getting an impact factor, and so forth. But to run it so that the IRS isn’t stripping it of non-profit status, proprietors aren’t personally profiting from the non-profit’s output (which is illegal, by the way), and key relationships are understood? That might require some work beyond running a posting platform. From where I sit, it doesn’t seem like JMLR is up to the task of running a non-profit journal.

  15. Leslie Kaelbling Says:


    As the founder of JMLR, I can elaborate on Stuart’s description of our operations. It is true that I lost track of the paperwork and we have had to file to have non-profit status reinstated. I do not think this is reflective of the effectiveness or efficiency of the journal as a whole; just minor incompetence on my part.

    Like most academic institutions, my department has an expectation that I will do a certain amount of “service to the field”. That service is almost always in the form of volunteer reviewing or organizing for journals and conferences. Although I have never inquired, I assume that all the other editors and reviewers for JMLR are operating in a similar mode.

    Microtome’s and JMLR’s finances are entirely separate. We just have a publishing agreement with Microtome.

    In fact, JMLR has received a total of two corporate donations over the course of 12 years: one for $1K and one for $2.5K. (I mis-remembered the amount when Stuart initially asked me and only just went back to look it up; I am sorry for any confusion.) This has been its total outside income. It would have been possible to raise much more in sponsorships from corporations and/or professional societies, who have been eager to support us, but we have seen no need to do so.

    I’d be happy to answer any further questions you have.

    - Leslie Kaelbling

  16. Stuart Shieber Says:


    Let’s try this one more time. JMLR, Inc. is a separate company from the two companies (MIT Press and Microtome Publishing) that have performed its print publishing service. So JMLR, Inc. is not “personally profiting from the non-profit’s output (which is illegal, by the way)”. Microtome Publishing is charging for print editions of the journal, as every other commercial (and non-profit) publisher does. Doing so is completely consistent with open-access principles (BOAI calls for “free and unrestricted online availability”), non-profit status (applicable to MIT Press but not Microtome in any case), transparency (since the arrangement is disclosed at the JMLR website), and law.

    I understand how the many people listed in official roles — editors, editorial board, advisory board — are accomplishing their work. They do so just like their counterparts at any other journal do. They volunteer their time. You seem to think donations to a journal constitute a “bailout”. Some of us academics might think of the total donated labor contributed to the academic journals of the world a bit of a bailout too. The donations to JMLR, $3,500 total over 12 years, don’t come close to the value of the donated labor to it and to every other academic journal. If we academics stopped “bailing out” the journals of the world (as you would have it), the whole system would collapse.

    I don’t understand your concern about returning money to JMLR. The arrangement that Microtome made with JMLR is identical to that of MIT Press before it. Do you complain of MIT Press that it “raises money to cover its costs”? How else would one cover one’s costs except by raising money? The only thing notable about Microtome is how low we’ve been able to keep those costs. If JMLR wanted to take over the print edition and keep the revenue, they could have done so at any time, and can still. As for the $7,000 per year that you hallucinated I pay myself for my time, where did that come from?

    Finally, and most upsetting, is the unconcealed condescension in your last paragraph (“nice there’s a little journal…floating papers…running a posting platform”). JMLR ranks in the 93rd percentile for Impact Factor in its subject area; the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery ranks in the 90th percentile in its. JMLR is publishing about 3,500 pages per year of scholarly articles, somewhat more than JBJS. Your patronizing attitude toward the work of the many people who make JMLR a leading journal is not, I hope, typical of the view of academic publishers. And I hope it’s not your view of the volunteers who contribute to JBJS’s success too.

  17. Sustainable Journals « Information Fluency Says:

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  18. Neil Stewart Says:

    Why would Kent Anderson be so quick to criticise the business model of JMLR (which to me looks perfectly transparent, above board and indeed worthy), and yet when Elsevier are criticised for creating fake journals and other dubious practices on a large scale, he is quick to defend them? It’s almost like he has a vested interest in the status quo, and is unwilling to admit that any change to scholarly communications is possible, let alone desirable.

  19. Kent Anderson Says:

    I can’t examine your not-for-profit filings, because your journal isn’t efficient enough to maintain its basic status in the world. Your non-profit status was apparently revoked because you didn’t file the required paperwork for THREE CONSECUTIVE YEARS. Contemplate that in the light of a claim of efficiency. Part of efficiency is management efficiency, not just doing things cheaply. Cutting corners so severely that you lose your non-profit status isn’t efficiency — it’s sloppiness, as your colleague indicates.

    It seems like you’ve been filing for non-profit status without being serious about it. That’s cynical. You should take the status of a charity in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts seriously.

    My question about where the money is going centers around what appears to be private (aka, personal) benefit from the activities of a non-profit. I can’t tell if you’re listed as a trustee or as another key figure on your non-profit filings (because your status has been revoked), but if you are, you might be in trouble. And the $7K figure was not “hallucinated” — it was a figure Kaebling used to quantify donations. My question was specifically if your private benefit from Microtome could have obviated the need for donations.

    Another point on efficiency — your Web site has sections that are clearly out of date.

    I’d recommend that you rethink your claims of efficiency. So far, all I see is corner-cutting, a lack of operational know-how, and an outdated Web site that doesn’t even have its current information updated. You may be posting a lot of papers, but you’re not doing some core activities well as a business, management team, or non-profit organization, and if your involvement Stuart is also as a trustee or other key individual at JMLR, my personal and somewhat informed opinion is that your ownership and private/personal benefit from Microtome seems potentially in conflict with the laws dictating how non-profits are to be run.

  20. Dianne Says:

    Mr. Anderson,

    It appears you are either not reading or comprehending the clearly presented information, and certainly not taking into account the corrections and additional information supplied by representatives of Microtome or JMLR.

    First, obvious to this outsider from the information presented, Microtome and JMLR are separate legal entities. The former being a sole proprietorship, not a non-profit. The latter a non-profit with, as you state, a current lapse in that status. (It is still fair to call them a non-profit, assuming the first nine years they did have non-profit status, and given the statement they are attempting to re-establish non-profit status.) Second, Microtome has a business contract with JMLR to produce print copies. JMLR is not entitled to any of the proceeds unless specified in the contract.

    As for the donations, it was initially reported to be $7000, but corrected by Kaelbling to be $3500. This a remarkably small amount over an 12-year history. Even $7000 over 12 years is fairly minimal.

    To be absolutely clear, I have absolutely no connection to either business or persons involved in the above named organizations. However, I find it bothersome that while you have taken the time to hunt for non-profit status filings, your apparent bias has prevented you from clearly seeing or understanding the information presented. Additionally, your patronizing attitude, such as “you seem to believe in fairies” and “it’s nice there’s a little journal like this in computer science”, is completely unprofessional and undermining any shred of credibility you may have once possessed.

  21. Kent Anderson Says:

    A few responses:

    1. As for my attitude toward Elsevier’s fake journals, we covered it, and shamed them, at the Scholarly Kitchen, both promptly and consistently.

    2. My questions about Microtome, Scheiber, and JMLR are multiple. For instance, if JMLR needed $3,500 to manage some activities, and Scheiber was a trustee or key individual at JMLR, and he diverted some revenues from JMLR to himself, this would be a big problem. That’s what I can’t seem to get clear. Contract or no contract, that would be wrong.

    3. Asserting that JMLR is still a non-profit despite it having lost that status is an act of imagination. And you wonder why I accused people here of believing in faeries.

    4. My credibility isn’t compromised at all. I’ve helped improve and develop many successful journals, created major services that most journals now take for granted, and innovated in many ways over my career. I have no interest in the status quo except those parts that work and need no improvement. You tell me how a shoddy non-profit that can’t manage to file its papers is “innovative” in that regard. Please.

    So, someone provide evidence that Scheiber didn’t divert monies from JMLR to himself through his role at JMLR, and I’ll be happy.


  22. Dianne Says:

    Mr. Anderson,

    Returning to this discussion is likely akin to the proverb about teaching a pig to sing, but it is my time to waste.

    The last available public charity (PC) filing for JMLR, Inc. is for fiscal year (FY) 2010, not absent the “THREE CONSECUTIVE YEARS” you claim above. Additionally, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not list JMLR, Inc. on either its PC non-compliance or deactivated lists. Furthermore, Massachusetts law (Part I, Title II, Chapter 12, Section 8F) states “the trustee or trustees or the governing board of every public charity shall annually, at a time to be determined by the director, file with the division a written report for its last preceding fiscal year”. The timing chosen by the director is unknown to me, but it is reasonable to consider that the FY 2011 filing may not actually be late. Another potential is that the annual filing was submitted, but the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office has not yet made it available online. A third option, as mentioned previously, is that filing was delinquent and, given the slow pace of government, the true status is known only to those involved at JMLR, Inc. and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Finally, the fourth possibility, is that JMLR, Inc. has indeed lost its non-profit status as you assert. However, if you have proof of your assertion, such as a statement by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, of their lost non-profit status please provide it. Otherwise, I stand by my imaginative statement that it is still fair to call JMLR, Inc. a non-profit.

    I agree, that if “Scheiber was a trustee or key individual at JMLR, and he diverted some revenues from JMLR to himself, this would be a big problem”. However, until partially clarified in your most recent post, your line of inquiry has assumed that Scheiber IS “a trustee or key individual at JMLR” with nothing to support that assumption. I cannot assert Scheiber is not “a trustee or key individual at JMLR”, but neither is there evidence to support that he is one. He is not listed on the any of the JMLR board rosters, nor is there any connection to JMLR, other than as JMLR’s archival publisher, listed on any of his internet biographies. Finally, as Kaelbling previously stated, “Microtome’s and JMLR’s finances are entirely separate. We just have a publishing agreement with Microtome”. Meaning the revenues gained from publishing belong to Microtome NOT to JMLR, Inc., and any revenue to JMLR, Inc. from publishing is determined by the agreement between JMLR, Inc. and Microtome. If the agreement between JMLR, Inc. and Microtome stipulates that JMLR, Inc. does not receive any share of the revenue Microtome gains from publishing JMLR then there are no “diverted” revenues. Surely you still have questions, and will no doubt continue to raise them.

    For the time being this is all the time I am willing to waste.

  23. phd Says:

    Wow. As a PhD student in the field of AI, I’m surprised about the total lack of good argumentation from Kent. He keeps talking about the printing issue when the main issue is clearly free online access and not printing.

    I’ve never bought a print edition of a Journal. Even one of my favorite books in the field (, I first printed (because printing at many universities is free for students) and then liked it too much not to have a proper copy.

  24. Leslie Kaelbling Says:

    Stuart Shieber does not have, nor has he ever had, any role in JMLR whatsoever. He has never been an officer, an editor or an associate editor. We have a simple business agreement that Microtome publishes the hardcopy version of the journal.

  25. Kent Anderson Says:

    Thanks. That took awhile, but answers my question.

  26. Jakob Says:

    I got the link to this interesting discussion from

    JMRL is to be applauded for being a role model in OA publishing.

    What is the motivation of Kent Anderson? His comments almost read like an April fool’s joke – rarely I’ve seen such a hypocritical and patronizing attitude, ignoring almost any valid argument and spitting out irrelevant denigrations.

  27. David Wagner Says:

    I’d like to thank Stuart and Leslie for taking the time to explain the situation with JMLR and provide concrete numbers about its finances. I find this extremely helpful — and an inspiring example of service to the research community. Thank you for your good work!

  28. Schenck Says:

    I’m really stunned at the output here, a journal at the top of it’s class and respected in it’s field, that’s free to access, cheap to get an archival quality print, and involves nothing on it’s ‘staff’ part other than what’s normal work for researchers and scientists. I’m really impressed by this, it gives a person hope that this model could potentially spread.

    The only problem seems to be that most scientists and researchers aren’t really proficient in self-typsetting, ala LaTeX, or managing such a project. BUT, that sort of stuff seems to slowly be changing Besides comp.sci people, Math & Physics researchers routinely submit to their journals using LaTeX, so maybe it will spread to biologists, chemists, social scientists, etc. Can’t see it spreading too easily to Literature types (but who knows).

    Also, I have no background in law or publication, but even I can pretty clearly see that Microtome is what’s called a “Publisher”, and JMLR would be what’s called a ‘client’. I /think/ they’d use this thing called a ‘contract’ to work out the details of having JMLR printed and distributed.
    It looks like I can purchase an archival quality print of an entire year’s worth of JMLR articles for ~$240. OR I could go to a ‘mainstream’ publisher and spend $50 for a pdf of a single article. Or, if I wanted to have an Artificial Intelligence article of my own published (and to be clear I don’t work in that field), I can submit it for free to one of the top journals in that field with a high impact factor and expect it to be well read and well cited, or I can submit it to a ‘mainstream’ publisher, pay a fee for things like color images and excess pages, and pay something like $2,000 to allow other people to access the pdf’s for free.

    It’s pretty clear who’s stealing from who in this system.

  29. opendna Says:

    Kent Anderson writes: “My question about where the money is going centers around what appears to be private (aka, personal) benefit from the activities of a non-profit. I can’t tell if you’re listed as a trustee or as another key figure on your non-profit filings (because your status has been revoked), but if you are, you might be in trouble.”

    (facepalm) You should really do a state-level corporation search before accusing people of federal tax evasion. The Massachusetts Secretary of State’s website lists all twelve of the JMLR’s Annual Reports (plus Articles of Incorporation), and Stuart Shieber isn’t listed as an officer in a single one.

    This is research methods for first-year Arts students.

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