The publishing jungle

In our last post about publishing we briefly mentioned to watch out for predatory journals. In this blog I will not name any predatory journals or publishers for fear of being sued, but they are not hard to find on the net. There is the saying, “If it is too good to be true then it is probably false”. Well here is my take on predatory journals and publishers.

About two years ago I got an invite to submit a review article to an open access journal which will remain nameless. Being naive I thought “choice one”, the editor has read my work and wants a review article from me. Having only published two journal articles at the time, this would increase my post PhD publication output by 50%. After all being invited to submit a review was like guaranteed publication. I asked a more experienced colleague about it and having been through this before asked straight away, “how much do they want?” I replied “nothing….they want a review”. My Colleague replied, “Are they going to pay you?”….etc eventually I found that they would have charged me USD $500 to publish after looking at online blogs about this journal and publishing house. There is no information on the journal or publisher’s website about what the fees are. I also found that this particular journal was a one person show also publishing 37 other “journals” out of an apartment…OK so initially I thought ‘just stick to society journals’, which at least provide peer review. They are not evasive about their open access fees and some even still print hard copy.

What are predatory journals? In the last 10 or so years “predatory publishers” have created journals that provide little to no peer review, publishing most submitted articles as long as a publication fee is paid. Some of these publishers are not very transparent about publication fees and some even use the names of scientists as editors and reviewers without their knowledge.

New scholars from developing countries in particular are at risk of being preyed upon by predatory journals and publishers. About 75% of submissions come from Asia and Africa. Lists of predatory journals and publishers have been published on the internet, some lists have been taken down pending legal action.

The explosion of predatory publishers has attracted investigations such as one run by Science journal correspondent John Bohannon. In 2013 Bohannon submitted fake scientific papers to about 300 journals owned by fee-charging open access publishers. These papers contained such blatant scientific flaws that they should have been rejected immediately by editors and peer reviewers. However 60% of the journals accepted them.

In my last blog I advised to stick to society journals. Well it is not quite that simple. Some so called predatory journals have been successful in attracting articles and subsequent citations, for which they have developed some reasonably good metrics. One particular journal had an impact factor greater than 3. This in itself is a flaw to do with the “Facebook friends” like the nature of academic metrics. However recently the editor and most of the editorial board resigned as they felt under pressure to accept sub-standard publications without a due peer review process. At least this journal had legitimate reviewers and editors. There are also a few solely open access journals, not part of any academic society that are legitimate.  Therefore I wonder, “are predatory journals an unfortunate side effect of the “publish or perish” regime of many institutions in their push to improve their own metrics?”

Like many scams there must be plenty of victims and the scammers have been enabled online. There are even predatory conferences now. You pay the registration fee, book the travel, hotels etc etc only to find you and two other people are the only ones who show up at the venue looking for the conference bags and tee shirts.

Be careful out there and look before you click and send.

Mauri ora Pete

Pete Russell is from Ngāpuhi


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