Predatory Open-Access Journals: Part 2

For much of the last week, I have been looking for a solid reason to either go ahead or not ahead with a manuscript I submitted to HOAJ Biology, a journal I later discovered made Beall’s List of Predatory Open-Access Publishers. There were many good reasons, in my mind, to just do it – it was peer-reviewed, my article and software are sound (though a minor contribution) and I would like closure on this project I finished a year ago. It turns out, there are some even better reasons not to publish with this journal. First and foremost, there is a FICTIONAL PERSON on the Editorial Board.

Shortly after this post, Dr. Todd Vision, with NESCent and UNC Chapel Hill, emailed me and asked if he might be of help. After sending him the manuscript with some additional details, he replied with this advice:

As for HOAJ Biology specifically, <an editor’s name deleted> may be legitimate, but that doesn’t mean he actually helps oversee peer review. I suggest you look up the credentials of another one of the editors, Peter Uhnemann, before you draw any conclusions about the involvement of the editorial board: http://phylogenomics.blogspot.ca/2012/01/scary-and-funny-functional-researcher.html

I highly recommend people read that whole post, but for those in a hurry: “Peter Uhnemann” from the “Daniel-Duesentrieb Institute” is a fictitious person from a fictitious institution. And he’s listed plain as day on HOAJ Biology’s Editorial Board! (I did contact one person on the Editorial Board via email to make sure he was actually affiliated with the journal, which he confirmed, but I guess that didn’t cut it.)

So, I am retracting my submission and going instead with either arXiv or figshare, which are non-peer reviewed, but citeable places to deposit research articles and/or software.

Dr. Vision also shared this advice with me for future manuscripts:

There are technical aids to finding the right journal in which to publish (like http://www.edanzediting.com/journal_advisor) but in the end one still needs to make a personal judgement about how to weight the many different factors. And while I am personally a strong advocate for gold OA journals, paying for publication upfront does require us as researchers to be more informed about the choices – library subscriptions no longer keep the low-quality publishers out of the market. In the future, if you are trying to decide among OA publishers, members in the OASPA (http://oaspa.org/membership/members/) is generally a reliable indicator of being on the up and up.

So what to do if you say no? If you aren’t interested in sending it to a more reputable outlet for minor contributions (like, say, BMC Research Notes), you could simply post it as a technical note on your website (a very common thing in CS) or on a preprint server like Figshare.

We’ll support you whatever you decide.

I am grateful to Dr. Vision (and Dr. Jonathan Eisen for the original post about “Peter Uhnemann”) and to all the commenters here for advising me when I really wasn’t sure what to do. (Final note: I suppose I should say that my experience with HOAJ Biology doesn’t mean all the smaller, open-access journals out there are Bad. Doing my homework paid off, though!)

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Predatory Open-Access Journals?

Last summer, I worked with NESCent and Google’s Summer of Code to write a small piece of software. I think it’s quite useful for the specific thing it does and some researchers in my immediate peer group who have used it agree. I wrote up a short manuscript describing the program and very quickly got it rejected from Molecular Ecology Resources and Bioinformatics. It went on the back burner for several months until I got a solicitation from a new open-access journal that was offering a discounted rate for articles received before a certain date. So I submitted to this journal, after looking up some of their papers and a few people that have published there and convincing myself it wasn’t a flat-out scam.

One day after I submitted, I got an email asking me to review my own article. I know, right? How could that ever happen with a legitimate journal? I declined, they sent it to others to review and about a month later I got three reviews back that were short (0.5 – 1 page), but addressed real questions about my manuscript and included helpful suggestions. I incorporated the changes as best I could and resubmitted. About a week after the resubmission, I saw Beall’s List of Predatory Open-Access Publishers, which includes the aforementioned  journal on the list of “questionable, scholarly open-access publishers”. The author of the list says: I recommend that scholars not do any business with these publishers, including submitting articles, serving as editors or on editorial boards, or advertising with them. Also, articles published in these publishers’ journals should be given extra scrutiny in the process of evaluation for tenure and promotion.

Then, this morning, I got final acceptance of the manuscript and I’m not sure what to do.

I’m not trying to pull one over on anyone and I don’t necessarily disagree with the above text, but I don’t think this paper will be able to go anywhere else and I’m not convinced this journal is Bad. Not a lot of places publish small pieces of discipline-specific software (if you know of any, let me know). I believe this would be a really useful tool for some biologists and in fact, there are a couple of people waiting to cite the manuscript. I don’t want to encourage predatory journals, but open-access articles that do not-super-important science might actually have a place in our field.

I would LOVE thoughts on this. I certainly don’t view this manuscript as equivalent to a Molecular Ecology or Evolution publication – but do all pubs have to be top (or middle) tier? Is there a solution here, like including impact factors on CVs? Or maybe new fangled software like Google Citations can alleviate this problem since they show the overall publishing record of an individual/article? Please weigh in!

(PS – I’m not usually a fan of baby pictures, but come on. It’s a fat, funny baby. He looks like he’s made of marshmallows.)

(PPS – There’s a follow-up post here.)