Sunday, April 14, 2013

Summary of Stratford’s article

In this article, Stratford examines some potential problems of “predatory” online journals, by focusing on the example of OMICS Publishing Group. Stratford uses the concept of “predatory open-access publishers” from Jeffrey Beall, which refers to the OA publishers “whose main goal is to generate profits rather than promote academic scholarship” (p.4). Beall also provides a list of such predatory publishers on his website, and OMICS is on the list.

Stratford first discusses the author-pay model for OA journals, where journals charge their authors rather than their individual readers or institutional subscribers for obtaining financial support. He contends that either legitimate, peer-reviewed journals or some vanity, or predatory journals could adopt the author-pay model, and the line between the two types of journals are blurring. For those legitimate publishers that use the author-pay model, they may encounter a similar dilemma: how publishers balance between the profits gained from accepting more articles, and the responsibility to publish high-quality academic articles.

For those predatory journals, since their goal is to generate profits from publishing, the major challenge for them to achieve their goal is to attract more authors. Stratford then discusses some ways for those journals to attract authors, including promising to facilitate discussions on papers through social media, and translations of articles in multiple languages; more importantly, fast publishing process makes those journals attractive to their potential authors, mainly the graduate students and junior faculty members, especially when they encounter publication pressures.

In addition to those ways mentioned above, the names of some researchers or faculty members appeared on the editorial board are also helpful to attract submissions from potential authors. Stratford uses the example of the OMICS to explain why scholars would agree to be on the editorial board. One of the major reasons for explaining their consent is that serving on an editorial board could be an evidence for their “professional advancement”, although many of them only know a little about the journals’ reviewing procedures.     

Stratford then examines the ways in which OMICS recruits its editorial board members. Some scholars report that OMICS sends invitations to them through emails, and some say that their names are listed as the editorial board even without their permissions. However, according to the email interview with Srinu Babu Gedela, the owner of OMICS, the publisher also finds its editorial board members through “the conference it organized and suggestions from other editorial board members”, and the publisher has obtained written agreement from all the members before put their name on the editorial board.

Another issue of OMICS is the inconsistency of the paper quality among its different journals. Some journals, like the Journal of Earth Science & Climate Change, seem to lack of the quality control on the papers they publish, and some journals might even do not adopt the peer-review process, although they claim to do so. Meanwhile, some OMICS journals, such as the Journal of Bioterrorism and Biodefense, are considered by the academia to have published high quality papers.

After reading this article, I also visited Jeffrey Beall’s website, where he provides a list of detailed criteria to determine whether a publisher is predatory or not. However, I’m wondering whether those criteria are easy enough for potential authors or editorial board members to tell whether a publisher is predatory. Moreover, I’m uncertain whether they will bother to spend time in investigating in order to distinguish the predatory ones from legitimate ones, when they face the publication pressures, or think about adding a line to their C.V.s. 

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