Magazine article Information Today

Beware of Predatory Open Access Publishers

Magazine article Information Today

Beware of Predatory Open Access Publishers

Article excerpt

Several times a week, invitations to publish in academic journals drop into my inbox. Sometimes, they address me as "Dear Author," "Dear Researcher," "Dear Professor," or "Dear Dr. Ojala." Once it was "Dear First Name Last Name." I've never been tempted because of the obvious red flags--and not just "Dear First Name Last Name," although I laughed out loud at that. Incorrect spelling, bad grammar, and inappropriate topics (electrical engineering, are you kidding me?) are dead giveaways that these journals are not where I want to publish. Even assuming I do scholarly research, which I don't. These emails are from predatory OA publishers.

'Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs'

Thus, I loved the idea that the National Federation of Advanced Information Services (NFAIS) was hosting a webinar on Sept. 27, 2016, called Beware! The Story of Predatory Open Access. Katie Sullivan, product manager for Flipster at EBSCO Information Services, began her presentation by talking about Mark Shrime's experiment at gaming predatory OA publishers. Shrime, a medical researcher at Harvard University, used to create a nonsense article that he titled "Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs"--authored by Pinkerton A. LeBrain and Orson Welles--and submitted it to 37 medical journals. Astonishingly, 17 accepted it and agreed to publish it upon receipt of his $500 article-processing charge (APC). One publisher, Science Publishing Group, typeset it and sent Shrime the galley. Its opening "sentence" reads, "In an intention dependent on questions on elsewhere, we betrayed possible jointure in throwing cocoa."

Don't run to search your favorite scholarly journal databases for this cuckoo article; Shrime didn't fork over the $500, so his "scholarly study remains unpublished. The episode is, however, thoroughly covered by Fast Company in a Jan. 27, 2015, article by Elizabeth Segran (

Beall's List

Any discussion of predatory publishing inevitably centers on Beall's List of predatory publishers ( Jeffrey Beall is a University of Colorado--Denver librarian who has been exposing the perils of predatory publishing since he coined the term in 2009. The list has quadrupled in size since it inception and now has some 1,100 names. In addition, in a 2015 article in BMC Medicine, Cenyu Shen and Bo-Christer Bjork report that articles in predatory OA journals increased from 53,000 in 2010 to an estimated 420,000 in 2014 (bmcmedicine.biomedcentral .com/articles/10.1186/s12916015-0469-2).

Sullivan told us that Beall, who likes to be thought of as a guard dog for scholarly publishing, spends 25 hours per week evaluating publishers who might be candidates for his list. …

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