A recent article in The Guardian “Predatory publishers: the journals that churn out fake science” reported on an investigation (in collaboration with German broadcaster Norddeutsher Rundfunk) into predatory publishers and fake science.
According to the article more than 175,000 scientific articles have been produced by the five largest “predatory open access publishers” and 5,000 scientists at British universities have published in predatory publications in the last 5 years. The article mentions that many of the researchers were “exploited by the publishers, who aggressively seek new business from academics who don’t know their reputation.”
Predatory publishing has been on the minds of librarians for quite some time, I often feel like it is old news. Unfortunately, I think is still new news to many researchers and STEM authors. I can point to examples of clinicians looking to publish a paper who didn’t even understand the difference between open access and traditional access. In their mind a journal like NEJM appears open access to them because they are able to access it freely using the library subscription.
So when you have this access perception problem it isn’t hard to see how some can be fooled by predatory publishers. Their game is more difficult to spot than the Nigerian Prince who just needs you to send him $1,000 for you to receive $10,000. The problem isn’t just with publications. There at predatory conference promoters. Back in May I posted about receiving an invitation to speak at a conference in China. Considering I have been asked to speak in Ireland and other places it isn’t all that far fetched to think somebody from China would be interested. After getting my hopes up momentarily, careful review led me to realize this was predatory conference spam mail.
I think as librarians we need to remember that there are still many authors who are unfamiliar with the concept of open access and as a result unfamiliar with appropriate open access article submission guidelines and expectations. Lists of predatory publishers will come and go, we need to work with people to be able to better identify the red flags. We need established publishers to step up their game and help with the education process. We need database providers to establish criteria for inclusion, rather than including any research article that was publicly funded.
Only by working as group can we have a hope at turning the tide.