This is not a regular research blogging post, but important enough that anyone following this blog should be aware of it. Most of you doing research, I assume being associated with an institute/university, would have an academic email id that does not end with .com. You are vulnerable, my friend. Yes, the subject is “open access publishing scam“.
When I see an email that goes something like in the screenshots below, I ask these questions to myself
- Am I that famous in my field already that I am getting invited?
- How did they get my email id?
- Why does it sound too good to be true?
- Where can I verify if this is a spam?
So, for those who are new to this, these are all genuine scam/spam emails, sent by someone/something. Using a crawler script one can easily get the email addresses of everyone in the department and send emails to all of them. Now, imagine the following situation:
You got into graduate school/university or a research job, where publications mean either getting a new job or a promotion. There is peer-pressure for you to get a publication. You have submitted the manuscript and have been rejected from more than N* journals and you are desperate! And then, you get this email, which seems to be THE answer to your problems in life, at least when you were looking at the day ahead. (* replace N with your favorite number!)
If the above resonates with you, resist your temptations from clicking the “Submit your manuscript” button. It is the same analogy as going to the supermarket and you find something very interesting that catches your eye. Let me explain with an example. Couple of weeks ago, I came across this wonderful USB device that said “Watch your favorite TV channels without cable or paying fees“. It was for $9.99 ONLY! I was so tempted to buy it and wanted it, since I don’t have cable at home. But, something told me that this is too good to be true. And guess what, a simple Google search told me that the USB device has ONLY a .html file with the list of all free TV channels that are FREE to view, if you have an internet connection. Now, I am a proud owner of the $9.99 + tax saved. 🙂
Back to scientific publishing, 2012 has been called as the “Year of the Predatory Publisher”  thanks to the gold mine of open-access. Now, the business model is simple; it exploits the author’s vulnerability to publish [2, 3]. Thanks to a painstaking approach of Jeffrey Beall, there is a entire list of publishers and journals who will most probably will send an email to you.
In Asia, it seems the problem of such publishers is very acute.
Many open-access publishers are springing up in India and China, for example, where swelling researcher ranks are creating large publishing markets. Pressure to publish is often intense in developing countries, and vanity presses could attract unscrupulous researchers keen to pad out their CVs.
As to the question of Where can I verify if this is a spam? Access the full list here: http://scholarlyoa.com/publishers/ If you see the name here, be cautious and keep an open mind! Click here to find out how Jeffrey Beall made a decision to put them on the black-list. A word of caution, about this list also.
Some experts in scholarly publishing are uncomfortable with Beall’s blacklist, arguing that it runs the risk of lumping publishers that are questionable together with those that could be bona fide start-ups simply lacking experience in the publishing industry. Matthew Cockerill, managing director of BioMed Central, an open-access publisher based in London, says that Beall’s list “identifies publishers which Beall has concerns about. These concerns may or may not be justified.
So, now what? Be your own detective. Here’s how in order of priority
- Go to Journal Citation Reports and check for the journal. If you don’t have access, this is the time your friends with access come handy. Ask them. If it is listed, see step 2.
- If your friends also dont have access. Go to Directory of Open Access Journals (www.doaj.org) or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (www.oaspa.org) and check about the Journal or the publisher.
- Look for “Contact Us” in the webpage. If it is a web based contact form. Forget it, it is not legit.
- Access an article in your area and find out if the article looks like good science reported.
- Before you go to step 6, call/email your librarian and ask their views. They know a lot!
- If it is still too good to be true, send an email to the authors of that article, genuinely ask for their inputs. Trust me this has worked for me. Researchers who are irked by such publishers send reply with their experience and are helpful to prevent others falling for the same scam.
Hope this helps you and other people in judging such emails! 🙂
- Butler, D. (2013). Investigating journals: The dark side of publishing Nature, 495 (7442), 433-435 DOI: 10.1038/495433a
- Beall, J. (2012). Predatory publishers are corrupting open access Nature, 489 (7415), 179-179 DOI: 10.1038/489179a
- Predatory Publishing, Jeffrey Beall. Published Aug 2012. The Scientist