More and more I’m being confronted with questions about journal publications. I devote some words to it in a session for our MSc programme in the module ‘Understanding Education Research’ and recently, in a panel discussion at our local PGR conference, there were questions about how to judge a journal’s reputation. Note that in answering this question I certainly don’t want be a ‘snob’ i.e. that only the conventional and traditional publication methods suffice. Actually, developments on blogging and Open Access are positive changes, in my view. Unfortunately there also is a darker side to all of this:
One place where I always look first when it comes to ‘vanity press’ and predatory journals is Beall’s List, which is “a list of questionable, scholarly open-access publishers.”. What I like about this list is that they are rather sensible about how to use the list: “We recommend that scholars read the available reviews, assessments and descriptions provided here, and then decide for themselves whether they want to submit articles, serve as editors or on editorial boards.”. The list of criteria for determining predatory open access journals is clear as well. One thing you can do is use the search function to see if a journal or publisher gets a mention. This is exactly what I did recently with some high profile research. I was surprised to find out articles were indeed published in such journals.
The first example is this high profile article mentioned in the Times Educational Supplement. It references a press release from Mitra’s university:
The journal title did not ring a bell so I checked Beall’s list, and yes the journal and publisher are mentioned in this article on the list. Just a quick glance, also the comments, should make most scholars think twice to publish in here, certainly if it is ‘groundbreaking’ stuff. This is not to say that articles per se are bad (although methodologically there is much to criticisise as well, maybe later, although this blog does a good job at concisely flagging up some issues) but I am worried that high profile professors are publishing in journals like these (assuming it was done with the authors’ agreement, predatory journals sometimes just steal content to bump up their reputation). In the case of this person it has happened before, in 2012, when the ‘Center of Promoting Ideas’ (this name would be enough for me to not want to appear in their publications) published this article in a journal, which is also on Beal’s list. It is poignant that an Icelandic scholar really got into problems because of this. Some other examples: this article, CIR world also features on Beall’s list (Council for Innovative Research, again a name which raises suspicion by itself).
These publications serve as examples that even high end professors could fall victim of predatory journals. I do not mean that in a judgemental way; it shows that more education on the world of predatory journals is needed. Although I must admit, there might be some naivety at play here, experienced scholars should know ‘positive reviews only’, ‘dubious publishing fees’ and ‘unrealistic publication turnovers’ are very suspicious. Early Career Researchers often are targets of predatory journals and it therefore is important to be aware of this ‘dark side’ of Open Access publishing. Beal’s list covers these but recently there also are more and more ‘non open access’ journals that might be a bit dubious as well. In many cases it’s quite a challenge to judge the trustworthiness of publications. Certainly if in social sciences we would want to go away from the hegemony of the five big publishers, there is a lot to be gained in general skills to judge literature. Now, everyone has their own judgements to make when it comes where they want to publish, but I would be very concerned publishing in any journal (and for any publisher) on Beall’s list.