6.8- Predatory journals
You might even want to contact them and ask them about their experience with the publisher because there are known instances when people's names have been borrowed and just stuck on these websites without the person's permission. He wrote, "The lesson of optogenetics is that the old, the fragile, and the rare - even cells from pond scum or from harsh Saharan salt lakes" Notice the use of dashes there, "can be crucial to comprehension of ourselves and our modern world. The story behind this technology underscores the value of protecting rare environmental niches and the importance of supporting true basic science.
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In the last module for this week, I want to make you aware of the problem of predatory journals. If you’re publishing in the scientific literature, you need to be aware of the problem of predatory open-access journals. Predatory open-access journals are bogus journals that are exploiting the open-access model to make money. Open-access journals are a great idea. The idea is that authors pay publishing fees so that journals can make the full text of articles freely available to everyone. The PLOS journals, Public Library of Science journals, are shining examples of this open-access publishing model. When it’s done with integrity, open-access publishing is fantastic. But, because money is exchanging hands, this has opened the floodgates for the creation of bogus journals which exist solely to collect money from authors, not to publish high-quality research. Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver, has been a leader in calling out this practice and keeping lists of bad publishers and bad journals. Another leader in exposing this whole problem is the journalist John Bohannan. He ran a sort of sting operation that he wrote about in Science in 2013. What he did was he submitted an obviously flawed bogus cancer paper. He describes it as he did a scientific version of Mad Libs so that he could come up with 255 slightly different versions of the same paper where he took molecule X from lichen species Y inhibits the growth of cancer cell Z. He created a whole bunch of different papers just substituting different molecules and species and cancer cells. And the papers had obvious flaws. Any scientist, no matter how schooled, should have been able to look at figure 1 and know that this paper was problematic. He submitted this to open-access journals, many of which he suspected to be predatory journals. And indeed, of 255 where he got a decision back, 157 of those journals accepted that paper. It was only rejected by 98. I’ll note that PLOS ONE was one of the journals that correctly rejected the paper. In fact, 82 percent of the publishers on Jeffrey Beall’s list actually accepted that paper. So, John Bohannan was able to show that there is this huge suite out there of predatory journals and they are willing to accept anything for money. All evidence shows us that these predatory journals are greatly on the rise. There was a 2015 paper in BMC Medicine that tracked predatory journals from 2010 to 2014. You can see it’s growing exponentially. Pay attention to that red line on top. That’s the total number of predatory journals. They estimated that in 2014, there were about 8,000 active predatory journals. In 2010, these journals published about 53,000 articles. That was up to 420,000 articles published in these predatory journals in 2014. These are probably all or most of poor or garbage quality. Authors paid an average article processing charge of US$178 per article, so it’s a money-making scam. That same paper, they also share that this affects all scientific disciplines. You can see in this graph here that no scientific discipline was safe from this practice. I like this checklist that Declan Butler published in 2013 in Nature. He published this checklist to help you vet journals, to make sure that you’re being careful to not submit to one of these predatory journals. So he says, check that the publisher provides full, verifiable contact information. You want the full address of the publisher to be available. You also want to check that the journal’s editorial board lists actual experts with full affiliations, not just made-up people. You might even want to contact them and ask them about their experience with the publisher because there are known instances when people’s names have been borrowed and just stuck on these websites without the person’s permission. You want to check that the journal prominently displays its policy for author fees. Open-access journals do charge fees, but you want to make sure that these policies are clearly described on their website. If they’re not, that’s a suspicious sign. Be wary of spam e-mail invitations. We talked in an earlier module about academic spam. You will get a lot of these e-mails that ask you to submit to journals or to become an editorial board member or to speak at a conference. You can tell that these are spam if you look carefully. They have lots of grammatical errors and lots of exclamation points. Be careful of those. Always go to the journal’s website and make sure that the articles that they are publishing are high-quality articles, not just junk. Check that a journal’s peer-review process is clearly described. Make sure that they are actually doing peer review, and try to find out whether a journal’s claimed impact factor is correct. There is a trend now where these predatory journals are making up bogus metrics. They have names like the universal impact factor, UIF, or the global impact factor, GIF, or the journal impact factor, JIF. These are all popular but bogus metrics made up by predatory journals. They sound a lot like the real thing, so be careful not to get sucked into that. There are lists people publish of supposedly legitimate open-access journals. The lists are not perfect, but at least the journals listed there have gone through some vetting. So you might want to check before submitting, you can check with the Directory of Open Access Journals or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association. You can check there and make sure that the journal you’re submitting to is listed there. Finally, use common sense. If something looks fishy, if it looks like spam, it probably is. So just be careful and be aware of these predatory journals. Finally, changing topics here, I want to keep talking about writing throughout this course even though we’re now on to talking about publishing. So just to end this week, I want to present an example of good writing. This is from an article by Karl Deisseroth in Scientific American. He wrote, “The lesson of optogenetics is that the old, the fragile, and the rare – even cells from pond scum or from harsh Saharan salt lakes” Notice the use of dashes there, “can be crucial to comprehension of ourselves and our modern world. The story behind this technology underscores the value of protecting rare environmental niches and the importance of supporting true basic science. We should never forget that we do not know where the long march of science is taking us or what will be needed to illuminate our path.” And eliminate is a bit of a play on words here because, of course, optogenetics involves elimination. Anyway, I just wanted to end here with an example of good writing.
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