The ease of publishing does not reflect the realities of science

Almost every day I am besieged through email to either join editorial boards of new ‘up-and-coming’ journals or submit manuscripts to them. Neither is a trivial matter for me. A submitted manuscript often comes after several years of research by one or even several students, and by the time we are convinced of the merit of publishing, we have no intention of settling on one of the many “fly-by-night” enterprises that seem to crop up like mushrooms in the forest after rain.

No, our research energies deserve more than that – a serious consideration and fair review process by recognized scientists and reviewers: in short, a respectable journal.

So when I receive an email such as the one depicted below, I can only vent my frustration at the lack of professionalism displayed by this enterprising ‘journal,’ that is aware of my ’eminence’ in cell biology, and can’t string two sentences together without half a dozen grammos (grammatical typos). Shame on them!

Dear Dr. Steve Caplan,

Warm Wishes from SciTechnol!!

Being aware of your eminence in the field of Cell Biology, we with an immense pleasure, invites you for a valuable contribution for our upcoming issue and welcomes submission of original and significant contributions.

Cell Biology: Research & Therapy (ISSN: 2324-9293), a peer-reviewed and hybrid journal, encourages ongoing international research and information exchange through publication of latest advances, research reports/ breakthroughs. The Journal aspires to provide International scientific/ scholarly communication, platform for dissemination of research through our journal publications.

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of about 10 students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery that is now in press! All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising. http://www.stevecaplan.net
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6 Responses to The ease of publishing does not reflect the realities of science

  1. cromercrox says:

    Is there a journal which specialises in the phenomenon of the post-pluvial appearance of mushrooms in forests? Just asking.

    • Fred says:

      For a $1000~$2000 open access fee, they will create one just for you 🙂 – which I think is the reason we get these spammy article submission requests – publication fees are cold hard cash.

      There are evidently dozens of organisations (or perhaps a handful of organisations with dozens of fronts) posing as scientific journals who will accept anything sent to them in return for a fee, with no review.

      I possess the scientific/over-engineering bent, and wonder about a proof-of-peer-review scheme. Is there a way that we could use digital signitures to verify that a manuscript was reviewed by ‘real’ people, whilst maintianing the anonymity of the reviewers?

      The usual approach – to be circumspect about anything in Journal of Immaterial Science or its namesakes – is likely good enough.

      • Laurence Cox says:

        Perhaps we could get the professional bodies for each discipline to offer certification of journals published in their area regarding standards of peer review etc, at least until the dark side strikes back with “Dear Dr Steve Caplan, You have been pre-selected as a Fellow of the Bantustan Cell Biology Society.”

        • Steve Caplan says:

          Fred and Laurence,

          Good ideas, but what never fails to amaze me is that such journals actually exist. The scientists listed on the editorial boards are real (albeit, they may not know that they are on those boards – see my older blogs including: http://occamstypewriter.org/stevecaplan/2013/10/23/call-for-papers/). But it’s so hard for me to envision that a serious scientist, who has just spent ~2 years with a student or post-doc focusing on a project – and probably >$300,000 in salaries + reagents – would be silly enough to send the study to such a journal. Every scientist knows their field well enough to understand that there are a lot of fraudulent journals out there, and they would be best to stay well away from them. But I guess it only takes a few people to err for someone with an internet site to take money off their hands…

          • anon says:

            There are some countries (Turkey and China for example) where publishing in any academic journal, no matter how crap, gets you an automatic cash bonus. It’s a big incentive for badly paid investigators to round up boring data that would be difficult to publish, or side projects they aren’t too invested in, and submit it purely for the money. That’s why you see so many unoriginal papers that have two western blots and maybe an immune in obscure journals on pubmed.

  2. Steve Caplan says:

    Anon,

    Point taken, but why target me – or anyone outside of those countries that you mentioned, for that matter? Or is it all a spam email that goes out to half a million scientists across the world? Wouldn’t it be better to market the scam journal specifically, say, to scientists in China, in Mandarin, and targeted to their needs? And that still doesn’t explain an editorial board with mostly western-based scientists…

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