Publishing peer-reviewed research: What should it cost?

Conducting research and writing papers

My initial answer: Not as much as I see people paying paying to publish research. I worked at the US Army for a while, and we hired consulting firms to help us publish peer-reviewed research papers. We had the data, and the questions – the consultants just had to analyze it and help us write and publish the papers.

I have to say that we overpaid – that’s why I started my consulting firm. I can charge you the right price without the headache of dealing with a larger firm the way we were. What I’ll show you is why these firms cost so much, and why my firm is able to cut the costs.

How a Typical Research Consulting Firm Comes Up with a Quote

All consultants who help people write peer-reviewed papers generally estimate how many hours it will take for each of their employees to work on the paper. Usually, there are multiple people working on the paper – senior people, who have published a lot and have a lot of experience, and junior people, who help with the tasks that require less leadership and expertise. The table below shows a typical estimate for a paper, with a breakdown of the different people working on it and how much they cost per hour.

Typical budget for hiring a peer-reviewed article consultant

Notice how there are four people involved: Two junior members (research assistant and statistician), and two senior members (senior epidemiologist and senior statistician). The research assistant is the cheapest, and does most of the work. Research assistants typically have master’s degrees. Statisticians do, too, but these positions are special. Statisticians usually can’t get a job like this unless they have a lot of experience, so they get paid more. The senior members of the team have PhDs.

PLEASE NOTE: What is budgeted is not what they would actually get paid. Everyone on this budget probably takes home half of what is budgeted. The rest goes to the overhead of running the consulting business.

But under this estimate, you would end up paying a total of $11,000. Also, I would say this is a low estimate – I have seen them much higher, depending on the complexity of the data.

Why Does This Model Cost So Much to Publish Research This Way?

The first thing is that so many people are involved, as I noticed when I worked at the US Army. And, we were paying for all these people to be involved. That was a lot of overhead. The research assistant was always trying to get these four people together for meetings. I also noticed that she was always querying the statistician, then reporting back to the senior members.

Also, they seemed to be insistent on splitting up the work. The statistician only used SAS, but the journal needed the tables in Word, so there was all kinds of work for the research assistant to format them. The senior staff were allergic to fighting with Microsoft Word, so the research assistant did most of the actual work on the paper. A lot of what she did had to be redone – I know, I was there as one of the US Army epidemiologists, and research assistants cannot replace seasoned researchers.

Plus, the senior staff would not even touch SAS until the statistician had prepared the perfect dataset for them, so the statistician did most of that work. And we, the US Army, had to weigh in on what was being written, so at the end of the day, this $11,000 paper would take several months to write.

Monika’s Model: Reduce $11,000 to $5,000

Now, notice how I do my budget below.

Streamlined budget for hiring peer-reviewed paper consultant

I have written a lot of papers before. For that reason, I have done a lot of time benchmarks, and I have a pretty good estimate. That’s why I can usually offer a flat fee of $5,000 per paper.

You can see in my budget why I can keep costs down. It’s because I do everything myself – so no overhead with the meetings. I’m also fast at everything – typing, using SAS, using R, fighting with Word, fighting with Excel, fighting with whatever software I need to fight with – and I always win.

Also, even though I publish all the time, I can keep costs down because my consulting company does not have all these huge unnecessary expenses – like statisticians who can only use SAS, or research assistants who can’t really do the scientific part of the writing.

Not only do I keep the costs down, I shorten the timeline. I go fast – and also – I’m impatient. I like to find out the answer to the research question!

Do you have a dataset you want analyzed so you can publish a peer-reviewed paper? Want to see if you qualify for my $5,000 flat fee for a journal article? Just contact me at [email protected], and we can meet for a free consultation!

Updated August 28, 2019

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