Apr 21, 2014: Open Access as Open Season on Researchers?

They arrive with relentless frequency. These emails often allude to my importance in my field, sometimes referring to my “eminence”. These emails contain invitations for me to submit my manuscripts, write chapters, or serve on editorial boards, because I am that awesome! The emails are usually from publishers of Open Access journals.

I like the idea of Open Access journals (explained here by the wonderful PhD Comics in Open Access Explained), and I also love hearing how respected I am in my field. However, it’s a little suspicious that these emails tend to be written in the sort of mangled English that evokes much correction with my purple marking pen when it occurs in student essays.

Another concern is that quite often, the target publication has pretty much zero overlap with my research. My research is generally in personality psychology (especially my beloved dark personalities), although I also investigate other individual difference variables (e.g., cognitive ability, human sexuality).

Ever since I published an article in Intelligence journal though, I’ve been getting a whole lot of invitations to publish manuscripts/present at conferences about Artificial Intelligence. Sometimes I reference the behavioral genetics literature. Now, I receive numerous solicitations to publish my research in journals devoted to molecular genetics and immunology. Somehow, these invitations lead me to suspect the sincerity of the flattering references to my eminence in my field – because, of course, my field is not immunology.

Quite often, these invitations are so ridiculous that it’s easy to hit delete and forget about them. However, a while back, I received a faculty-wide email from my institution’s library about opportunities to publish in new journals. I recognized some of these journals as being on my “mindless delete” list, but now the email was being forwarded by a credible source. I confirmed that these journals were no more scholarly than last time I’d checked, and I let my department and the library know. As a result, there was a “check before you submit to any journal” email follow-up.

Jeffrey Beall (this guy rules!) is an academic librarian who has taken the Open Access bull by its metaphorical horns and wrestled with the worst of its kind. He is constantly adding to his list of potential, possible, or probable predatory open-access publishers in his list of people we don't want to publish with as well as to journals we don't want publish in. He has taken heat for his stance (people don't like him!) but I applaud his commitment to academic integrity. We expect it of our students, and the public should expect it of us.

A friend and colleague was recently invited to write a chapter for an encyclopedia. She sent me the invitation and it was rather difficult to evaluate the legitimacy. The Wikipedia entry for the publisher contained some red flags, but again, it was difficult to evaluate whether it was worth her time to write the requested chapter. I found the publisher listed here, which suggested that the publisher did not qualify as “predatory” but that the investment of my colleague’s time might not be worth it.

As academics, we want people to read our research. At one point, I very excitedly posted about a new publication on my Facebook page. Of course, my friends and family couldn't access the publication, because it wasn’t Open Access. Much confusion ensued. My research was conducted at a publicly-funded university – shouldn’t the public have access to my results? Open Access still seems like a good idea to me, but I don’t like the idea of people making a buck at the expense of desperate academics.

If you want any of my publications, just email me at bethvisser@trentu.ca and I will happily give you access.