Medwave 2017 Jan-Feb;16(1):e6558 doi: 10.5867/medwave.2016.01.6858
Predatory publishers: a bait for novices and expert researchers alike
Eva Madrid, Marcelo Arancibia
A few days ago, one of our colleagues, a middle-aged scholar, came to our office proudly remarking that she had written her first book chapter. Since we had recently heard about predators in scientific literature, we asked her whether she was sure her publisher was for real, wherein she replied without blinking: “Of course, the book is published online, I can see it anytime.” And she showed us the website…
Ethical issues on publications were, until recently, mostly concerning authors’ misconduct (i.e., plagiarism, major overlap/redundancy, minor overlap/“salami publishing,” fabricated data, ghost authorship, undisclosed conflicts of interest). With the purpose of actively encouraging intellectual honesty, the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) was founded in 1997, providing guidelines to be followed by authors, editors, reviewers and editorial board members. As a consequence, authors’ misconduct may persist, albeit in a more controlled way within the academic community . However, the emergence of open access literature brought with it a developing area of concern on publication ethics.
Open access literature
During 2008, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) mandated free public access to the published results of any NIH funded investigation, and the US Congress made mandatory that the electronic manuscripts should be submitted to PubMed Central by researchers when they had been publicly funded . Two years later, Public Library of Science (PLoS) became profitable and one of their journals, PLoS ONE, became the world’s largest scientific publisher . Nevertheless, digitization involved higher costs, due to format changes and the need to fund new and different investments . Paradoxically, instead of libraries or institutions, authors became the customers, not for reading, but for publishing the articles ,.
The nature of a predator
Predators’ modus operandi usually begins with an insistent spamming to scientists and scholars, soliciting manuscripts using the attractive bait of an expedite publishing. They usually do not mention that an author’s fee is going to be charged . After acceptance, authors are invoiced for fees ranging from US$1,500 to US$3,000. When authors complain about the high fee, the predator usually insists, offering a new price (up to 50 or 75 percent discount), since they need to show real papers exhibited at their websites. Thus, this “captured” evidence can confound unwary visitors. If the author does not agree to pay the new reduced fee and asks for retraction, the withdrawal of the paper is usually much more expensive or almost impossible . Another common practice is to recruit prestigious scholars to serve on editorial boards, which some naïvely accept, while others are listed as editorial board members without their consent or permission, maybe even without their knowledge ,,,.
These publishers usually own a fleet of journals, often with a scope that is incompatible with the title of the journal and the published editions. Their national base is not clear, usually with mailing addresses in US, Canada, Australia or Europe, while actually operating from other countries. When the address is searched using any online map, the location matches a freeway, a gas station or even a crop field. Domain name registrations are blinded as well, so it becomes impossible to identify owners and hackers in charge.
Effective communication constitutes the basis of human relations, and, in the field of academy, it involves the need that information must go beyond the mere fact of disseminating investigation results. In this line, open access editors promote democratization of information, which encourages free knowledge, but implies economical costs for authors. Therefore, economic interests have led to the emergence of predatory publishers, which are a growing menace for good practices in investigation, by appearing as a quick and tempting chance to foster academic advancement, but directly threatening, at the same time, the core reason of knowledge generation.
When we insisted to know the name of the publisher of our colleague´s book, she replied that her publication fee had been voided, so it could not be a predator. Our colleague is a very smart person and her output was a very well-written book chapter. Finally, when reviewing the Open Access Directory and locating the address on Google Maps, it was effectively a predatory publisher. Her book will be on their website forever, with no indexing, intended to work as a bait for other naïve authors who may visit the site. Our colleague’s options now are either to insist on withdrawing, or to write off the chance of having her work properly recognized, while the predator will continue to profit on what was a very good book chapter.
Conflicts of interest
Esta obra de Medwave está bajo una licencia Creative Commons Atribución-NoComercial 3.0 Unported. Esta licencia permite el uso, distribución y reproducción del artículo en cualquier medio, siempre y cuando se otorgue el crédito correspondiente al autor del artículo y al medio en que se publica, en este caso, Medwave.
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