When calls for papers go wrong

Last week I received email invitations from three different journals to submit a research article. I should have felt flattered, but it is unclear why it is me that received invitations to the journals Biomarker Insights, Genomics Insights and International Journal of Medical Sciences. All three journals already exist for a few years, and I wouldn't say that the focus of my research is biomarkers or genomics.

Then I thought about a recent blog post by Gunther Eysenbach: Black sheep among Open Access Journals and Publishers. In this post he calls the sending of unsolicited emails simply spamming and argues that there are also throw-away journals out there from shady publishers trying to cash in on the current surge of interest in open access publishing.

And this is what all three journals mentioned above have in common: they are open access journals and the author pays for the (accepted) article. It is obvious that any journal that gets paid by the author is interested in soliciting articles whereas a subscriber-pays journal would be interested in attracting new readers. There is nothing wrong with this, but there are two potential problems. (1) Like most people I don't like spam. (2) Journals with an author-pays business model have to be extremely careful about the quality of their papers.

Potential authors should first check whether the journal (if it is a biomedical journal) is indexed in Medline (Genomics Insights is not) and either has a reasonable impact factor or (for new journals) receives enough citations.

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5 Responses to When calls for papers go wrong

  1. Bob O'Hara says:

    I’ve been getting a few of these as well. I guess it’s a hidden problem with open access and the author pays model that in the worse case it becomes vanity publishing.

  2. Sabine Hossenfelder says:

    Interesting you mention this because I just recently complained about it. I’ve been receiving a lot of emails from journals; it’s been going like this since several years. Not only by email, but also by snail mail. At least 80% of these are in topics completely off my area of work. By now, I’ve stopped reading any of them. Should I ever look for a journal, I would probably find it!
    Yes, I do think as also Bob said this is a problem, but it’s not hidden – open access has to be financed somehow and science isn’t the place for capitalistic games. We’ve had a brief discussion about this in our post “Why $20 for a paper?”:http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2008/02/why-20-for-paper.html and somebody pointed out this interesting article by John Ewing
    “Where Are Journals Headed? Why We Should Worry About Author-Pay”:http://www.ams.org/notices/200803/tx080300381p.pdf
    Which I think makes the point very clearly. Best,
    PS: And if you’re working for one of these journals and read this, PLEASE STOP SENDING ME EMAILS I DIDN’T ASK FOR, I JUST DELETE THEM

  3. Cath Ennis says:

    I’m getting some of these emails too, and I don’t even do research!

  4. Brian Derby says:

    I get these e-mails too. I also get e-mails inviting me onto the Editorial Board of such new Journals, usually based in the Middle East and India.
    There is of course a fine balance to strike. The idea of a market, and after all publishing is a business, allows new ideas to be tested and some should succeed if they provide an advantage. Some of these new publications will no doubt succeed but the majority will fail.
    The article by John Ewing mentioned by Sabine Hossenfelder is well worth reading as it makes some key points re the driving force for author pay publication. However, it was not so long ago that the majority of, US-based, Learned Society publications demanded a page charge that could lead to authors paying over $1000 for publication. That led to a two-tier journal market similar to that which John Ewing fears.

  5. Martin Fenner says:

    Sabine, the article by John Ewing is indeed worth reading. Another recent article on the topic just appeared in EMBO Reports: “An open challenge. Open access and the challenges for scientific publishing”:http://www.nature.com/embor/journal/v9/n5/full/embor200860.html.
    The Welcome Trust report “Costs and business models in scientific research publishing”:http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/About-us/Publications/Books/Biomedical-science/WTD003185.htm suggests an alternative to the traditional author-pays model: authors pay for each submitted rather than each accepted manuscript. This model better covers the costs of journals with high rejection rates.
    It would also help with the problem we discuss here. If authors paid for manuscript submissions, journals would be less inclined to publish a paper simply for business reasons.