The Risks to Early Academics in the World of Publishing

As I traverse through the academic trenches, I’ve been learning more and more about the publishing context. Along the way, I’ve come across a few hazards that can have negative repercussions on the reputation, bank accounts, and intellectual property rights to early academics. Having learned yet another one of these risks today, I decided to write a post on important lessons learned to prevent and mitigate the potential risks we face in the publishing world.

From https://static.pexels.com/photos/36178/pexels-photo.jpgA few years back I learned Lesson #1 – Do Your Background Research. I was approached by a journal offering to pay $1000 per article — and the $1000 was legit! Hungry to feed my student starved bank account, I was keen to write, publish, take the money and run. Yet, when I starting sharing the “good news” with a few of my colleagues they weren’t so enthusiastic. They heavily advised me to do my research, do a background check on the journal, and find out where this funding came from. To my surprise, this journal turned out to be a very right-wing, private / military funded, dodgy, journal with a poor reputation. My contacts in the industry were very negative about the content of the journal. In academia, I was advised that as a young academic, publishing with such a journal could reflect badly on my political leanings and integrity of my work bigger picture. And investigating the content of the journal further, I did, in fact, find that their leanings were very much against what I stand for.

I suppose in the end, I paid $1000 to maintain my integrity as an academic. This led to Lesson #2 — Ensure the political / moral leanings of the journal align with your own.

Following this lesson, I had another experience where I was contacted to be on a panel at a conference. This was a legit conference, legit panel, legit organization funding the event. My participation, however, was contingent on submitting a paper within one week. I was keen. I knew there would be valuable conference attendees for building my professional network, which I didn’t want to miss out on. So I pushed for 2 weeks to put a paper together and whipped something up. What did I whip up you ask? In hindsight, a very VERY valuable portion of my research. To put the paper together as quickly as possible, I just wrote up a portion of my research I had been wrapping up in the previous months. Thought nothing of it. Submitted within the timeframe and awaited further information on the panel.

Fast forward to after the conference… the paper was published as a conference proceeding. I didn’t even take the time, beforehand, to look into where the paper would be published (as I had to act so quickly). And in the months, and years following that paper, I later realized that I had released the intellectual rights to the foundation of my research as these proceedings. And now, as I’m doing a manuscript thesis, it would have been more pragmatic if I’d saved that content for peer-reviewed publish so that I could use the paper for my dissertation requirements. Today, I feel like I almost threw away all that work with little to show for it. Thus…Lesson #3 – Protect your Intellectual Property for when you need it.

On a side note, I did end up making some great connections at the conference… but I didn’t even end up on the panel! For some reason, emails I sent informing the panel organizers I had submitted the article were lost / never received, and I found out days before the event that I have been replaced without any notice or communication. I followed up with them again and even reached out on twitter, forwarding them copies of sent emails informing them I’d submitted the article as requested… but, by then, it was too late :/

Another lesson, which I learned even more recently is Lesson #4 — Sometimes it’s ok to publish with low visibility journals, even if they charge a publishing fee.

I was contacted a few weeks back by a journal that had seen my work in a recent conference. They requested an extended submission of the paper for publish in a peer-reviewed journal. They contacted my colleague as well who I published the document with. Seemingly legit, I did some background research and couldn’t find *anything* on the journal. No impact factor, not listed in databases. I also noted they charged $250 USD to publish. They claimed since they’re an open source journal, that through “an open access model, we promise that readers don’t pay for the subscription fee to access online published articles.” I reached out to my academic contacts, to vet whether it was worth publishing with them… We all felt that “a bird in hand is hard to dismiss” and so I was set to proceed.

Yet, in the meantime, I also learned Lesson #5 — University librarians are very helpful with vetting a journal. While reaching out to academic contacts, I also used the library chat to investigate. I told them I couldn’t find reference to the journal and wanted to double check the reputation. Unable to find anything themselves, they connected me with the librarian for the department linked with the subject matter of the journal (e.g. Sociology dept). I contacted them and they responded a few days later.

I received their report today, which leads me to my very important Lesson #6 – Beware of Predatory Journals. He mentioned it looks like it may be a “predatory journal” i.e. open source journals that charge, making specific claims that are untrue, and claiming a board of academics that may be unaware they are even on the board! This journal, Sociology and Anthropology is on the list! Although it makes sense, I didn’t know this was a thing!

Moving forward… this librarian, who was such a big help, provided a list of things to look for when we assess journals for publish. It’s incredibly valuable, and thus I wanted to share. His findings are included in the list to show as an example.

In summary, to try and avoid many of the pitfalls I’ve mentioned above, when looking to publish, be sure to check:

The journal is listed on predatory publishers lists. Predatory open access publishers are characterized by deception and a lack of transparency in their operations. A librarian in the USA maintains an online list of potential, possible, and probable predatory open-access publishers. The publisher of Sociology and Anthropology (Horizon Research Publishing Corporation) is on this list. You can find the criteria used to judge a publisher here.

Name Recognition of Editorial Board Members. One recommendation is to examine the journal’s editorial board for recognized experts in the field. Unfortunately, I don’t recognize any names, but you might.

One characteristic of predatory publishers is that they sometimes include faculty on their editorial boards without their consent or even knowledge. I have contacted a couple of the individuals listed on the editorial board of Sociology and Anthropology to confirm that they are indeed on the Board. I haven’t heard back from them yet.

The editorial board also lists a Dr. Mary Poppins (name removed for privacy) from the University of Toronto, but I haven’t been able to confirm that this individual has an appointment at U of T. I can only find a Mary Poppins who is (or recently was) a student at U of T.

Journal Indexed in Key Indexes and Databases. Publishing in journals that are indexed in the key databases makes your own research more readily discovered by others. The main database for sociology is the Sociological Abstracts. However, Sociology and Anthropology does not appear to be indexed in the Sociological Abstracts. The initial email to you claims that Sociology and Anthropology is indexed in Proquest. The University of Toronto Libraries subscribes to 78 Proquest databases. None of these appear to index the journal Sociology and Anthropology.

Another characteristic of predatory publishers is that they sometimes claim that their journals are indexed in particular databases, when in fact they are not.

Read the Journal’s Articles to Assess Quality. You may also wish to contact previous authors to ask about their experiences with the journal.

Attempt to Verify the Impact Factor of the Journal. The publisher does not seem to make a claim about the impact factor of Sociology and Anthropology. I checked the main citation databases (Journal Citation Reports and SciMago) and Sociology and Anthropology appears not to be indexed in these resources, so it is not possible to determine it’s impact factor.

Author Rights. Be aware of your rights as an author. The Library website has a page on Author Rights. One thing to consider is a publisher’s copyright and self-archiving policies. These can usually be investigated by searching a resource known as SHERPA/RoMEO. However, in the case of Sociology and Anthropology, it doesn’t help as the periodical is not included in the resource.

Membership in Industry Associations. Check to see if the journal is a member of an industry association that screens its members. One example might be the Directory of Open Access Journals. Sociology and Anthropology cannot be found in DOAJ.

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