Predatory Journal Publishing

Does this sound familiar? A new message appears in your inbox: the Questionable Journal of Mysterious Origins wants to publish your research! They promise a quick turnaround time and wide readership, increasing the potential impact of your work, all for the low, low price of $300-$3000! But is this really a deal you can’t refuse?

Predatory journal publishing is an increasingly pressing issue in higher education. A study out of Finland reports a significant increase in the number of articles published in predatory journals since 2010. Stories range from the sad, as marginalized scholars succumb to the pressure of publish-or-perish, to the absurd, with Marge Simpson’s foray into computer science. Most recently, the FTC is taking action, filing a civil complaint against one particularly large and pernicious predatory publisher.

What is predatory publishing and why is it spreading? Predatory publishers take advantage of the upsurge in gold Open Access (OA), a digital, peer-reviewed journal publishing model that offers free, online, public access to research, often, though not always, by transferring publishing costs to the author (via Article Processing Charges, or APCs). Many legitimate and highly competitive peer-reviewed journals (such as PLoS Biology and IEEE Access) operate under the gold OA model and levy APCs, which are frequently covered by research funders rather than individual authors. Open access has gained so much traction that, in 2013, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy directed federal agencies to develop public access plans, requiring recipients of federal funding to make both their articles and data publically accessible.

With any growing and potentially profitable market, however, comes the opportunity for scammers to exploit the system. Predatory publishers establish charlatan gold OA journals, charging APCs and producing online issues, without establishing or engaging in a rigorous peer review and editorial process. Essentially, they’re designed to take your money and run, copying and pasting your unedited work into poorly designed websites that, at best, may one day be crawled by Google Scholar. Yikes.

So, how does one filter out the sham journals from the legitimate publications? Jeffrey Beall of the University of Colorado Denver has long produced a directory of predatory journals known as Beall’s List. While this may be a good place to start, it must also be mentioned that Beall and his List have come under criticism of late for some arguably extreme anti-OA views. Furthermore, York University librarian John Dupuis and Barbara Fister from Inside Higher Ed point out that the obvious spam-like efforts documented by Beall and others distract us from the real problem: more underhanded and mainstream predatory practices employed by corporate publishers like Elsevier and Wiley.

Thus, as always and with any source, we recommend practicing what we preach to our students: think critically, evaluate, and verify. CUNY librarians Monica Berger and Jill Cirasella laid out the case for this more well-rounded approach, and both Grand Valley State University Library and the Directory of Open Access Journals have published comprehensive quality indicators to be used as part of a holistic review process. Authors can also enjoy all the advantages of open access while circumventing these concerns by opting for green OA, publishing their article in the journal of their choice and depositing a pre- or post-print copy in UW’s institutional repository, ResearchWorks.

Interested in publishing in a gold OA journal but hoping to avoid the pitfalls? Your subject librarians are here to help!

Faculty and Open Access

How can faculty be involved in supporting and promoting Open Access efforts? Here are a few suggestions, adapted from SPARC and International Open Access Week:

  • Submit your research articles to OA journals as appropriate to your field.
  • Deposit your preprints in an OA archive, such as UW’S institutional repository ResearchWorks (learn more about ResearchWorks here).
  • If allowed by the Copyright Transfer Agreement (CTA) you signed with your publisher, deposit your postprints in an OA archive like ResearchWorks. If you’re not sure what your CTA allows or have not yet signed a CTA, check out our posts on understanding your author rights, part one and part two.
  • Deposit your data files in an OA archive along with the articles built on them (learn more about data management via our earlier post). Whenever possible, link to the data files from the articles, and vice versa.
  • Explore using Open Educational Resources (OER) in lieu of expensive textbooks in the courses you teach (learn more about OER via our previous post).
  • When asked to referee a paper or serve on the editorial board for an OA journal, consider accepting the invitation.
  • If you are an editor of a toll-access journal, start an in-house discussion about converting to OA, experimenting with OA, and letting authors retain copyright.
  • Volunteer to serve on your university’s committee to evaluate faculty for promotion and tenure. Make sure the committee is using criteria that, at the very least, does not penalize faculty for publishing in peer-reviewed OA journal, and at best, gives faculty an incentive to provide OA to their peer-reviewed research articles and preprints, either through OA journals or OA archives.
  • Work with your professional societies to make sure they understand OA. Persuade the organization to make its own journals OA, endorse OA for other journals in the field, and support OA eprint archiving by all scholars in the field.
  • And last, but certainly not least, educate the next generation of scientists and scholars about OA, and support their efforts to engage with scholarship in this environment (such as participating in UWB’s Open Access research journal, Interdisciplinarities).

If you have any questions, please contact us.

Coming soon! The new UWB open access journal – Interdisciplinarities

Our new UWB research journal, Interdisciplinarities, is an ongoing, collaborative process that seeks to highlight the superior research conducted by UWB students, and to provide space for comparing, analyzing, and generally thinking about the ways research and knowledge production intersect.  Our mission is to publish research on a broad range of topics spanning all disciplines, levels of analysis, and national contexts.  With collaboration from the Writing and Communication Center, the Journal offers an opportunity for students (both authors and members of the editorial board) to hone their writing skills and emerge and more effective writers.

The first issue is expected out in Spring 2016.  The call for submissions will be issued in Winter.   More on this to come!

UW Faculty Senate Resolution on Open Access

The University of Washington Faculty Senate has adopted a resolution on Open Access. The resolution:

  • states the value of open access research and open access to published articles
  • describes the UW’s institutional repository, ResearchWorks, which is hosted by the UW Libraries
  • requests that the Provost direct the Vice Provost of Digital Initiatives, Dean of the University Libraries, to develop an Open Access policy to recommend to the University

The resolution says,

“…dissemination of academic research by deposit of authors’ copies of published articles in Open Access repositories … is associated with increases in the impact, visibility and use of that research”

Read the complete resolution here.