Today sees the launch of “Think. Check. Submit.” (TCS), a campaign to help researchers learn who they can trust when they are seeking to publish their work. The campaign is co-ordinated by ALPSP, DOAJ, INASP, ISSN, LIBER, OASPA, STM, UKSG, and individual publishers including BioMed Central, Springer Nature and Ubiquity Press. (Full Disclosure: I am the Honorary Secretary of UKSG, and used to work for TBI Communications which is managing the campaign.)
The campaign reflects substantial concern in the information community about “predatory” publishers, and is a timely addition to other efforts such as the Coalition for Responsible Publication Resources. Its launch coincides with the publication of a new study (Shen & Björk, 2015) that analyzes publications in “predatory” journals to determine whether any particular researcher groups are vulnerable to this “predation” – the study concludes that “the problem of predatory open access seems highly contained to just a few countries, where the academic evaluation practices strongly favor international publication, but without further quality checks.” TCS will aim to help “vulnerable” authors by providing them with guidance for evaluating the publishers and journals to whom they submit their work for publication.
TCS has been particularly created to help early career researchers in emerging economies, who are under great pressure to publish but don’t necessarily receive the same level of support and guidance from their institutions and supervisors as their counterparts elsewhere; the Shen & Björk study notes that “Asia and Africa contributed three quarters of authors” of the publications analyzed. The campaign is taking a positive approach, providing tools to help people think critically and make informed decisions, rather than making people afraid of getting it ‘wrong’ in future, or embarrassed by having got it ‘wrong’ in the past.
At the heart of the campaign is a checklist of what to look for – can you tell who publishes the journal? Have you read any of its papers? Do your colleagues recognize it? How do the existing articles fit with your work? The organizations are careful not to be seen to be telling people where to publish; the campaign’s focus is information equality – guidance that may seem like common sense to many of us, but that is aimed at those who aren’t so familiar with the publishing world.
The guidance was created by reviewing some of the less “trustworthy” operations currently active in publishing, and parsing these for common factors that could be distilled into a check list and FAQ. The website is written in straightforward language that will be broadly accessible to a global audience. Its text-heaviness is not accidental, as it is therefore lends itself much more readily to simple browser-based auto-translation, although a video animation will soon be added to help convey the campaign’s messages visually. The campaign will be launched on a rolling basis through regional conferences, regional social media, and local language communications (e.g. search engine advertising); communications will be given a new theme each month to broaden the campaign’s appeal. The team hopes to hold an “awareness week” (along the lines of this week’s inaugural Peer Review Week) later in the year once some initial awareness has been raised. One useful function of the campaign, given that there’s no readymade marketing list for the people it’s trying to reach, and no obvious forum for big bang events, is to encourage authors to sign up for updates, so that further guidance can be shared with them directly in future.
The campaign will be measured in the usual ways – engagement with the website’s calls to action, social media interaction and reach, media coverage and so forth. The project has an initial 6-month lifespan and we can hope that it is sufficiently successful in its launch phase to merit ongoing support from the information community. It strikes the right note in terms of how it is approaching the problem – constructively, and with a realistic recognition of the challenges involved. With more funding, it would be possible to increase outreach (for example, by getting institutions on board for campus-based events, or with heavier promotion at niche conferences). Strategic partnerships may also be possible once the program is established, both with organizations already active in the same target markets (perhaps a role for EIFL, INASP, HINARI?) and with organizations whose services could be similarly beneficial but who may be facing similar challenges in terms of difficult to reach audiences (e.g. ORCID, Figshare).
I’d encourage Scholarly Kitchen readers to help to increase the visibility of the campaign by linking to it from your websites, particularly if you are a publisher with nothing to hide – your proud endorsement of “Think. Check. Submit.” is good for your own credibility as well as that of the campaign! New campaign partners are welcome and more information is available at thinkchecksubmit.org.
Shen, C. & Björk, B.. (2015). ‘Predatory’ open access: a longitudinal study of article volumes and market characteristics. BMC Medicine. 13:230. doi:10.1186/s12916-015-0469-2
16 Thoughts on "Think. Check. Submit. (How to Have Trust in Your Publisher.)"
Hi Charlie! I’m surprised there is no mention here about Beall’s List. Do you feel that his list and his blog provide context for the discussion as well?
Hi Susan, yes, certainly Beall’s list has been a driver in drawing attention to this whole challenge and I was probably remiss in not giving (or linking to) more of the background around the “predatory” journals debate. What I feel is distinct and valuable about the TCS campaign is the attempt to equip authors to make their own judgements, which takes the onus off people like Jeffrey having to be up-to-date with every gopher that needs to be bashed! But naturally the two work well together – so an author who is attempting to evaluate a potential publisher / journal using TCS could sense-check their decision again Beall’s list (and other sources e.g. DOAJ blacklist) and refine / become more confident in their own judgements accordingly.
DOAJ now has a blacklist?
No, we do not have a blacklist. Dom Mitchell, Community Manager
Sorry Dom and David – lazy shorthand on my part. I was thinking of the DOAJ list of “journals removed and added” as being one place that authors would continue to consult as they hone their own judgement.
About time somebody is doing this! The checklist is a great start. I admire Jeff Beale’s work, but it’s got to be more than a one person crusade. Bravo!
Very much needed!
I just got this email. Is it predatory? How do I tell? The English is poor and the impact factor high. The scope is universal. Nor was it sent to me by name. Are these the central clues? Or is it legit?
Subject: Inviting research article for publication for vol 6 issue 10 October -2015
International Index Journal
International Journal of Recent Scientific Research
Journal for All Subjects
ISSN No: 0976-3031
A Double Review Monthly Published Journal in English
IMPACT FACTOR: 5.114
International Journal of Recent Scientific Research has released its October Issue, it is been well received by the academic fraternity. The issue includes papers on Life Sciences: Agricultural, Biological Sciences, Biochemistry, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Environmental Science, Immunology and Microbiology, Neuroscience, Marine Biology. Physical Sciences and Engineering: Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth and Planetary Science, Energy, Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy, Engineering, Material Science, Statistics. Health Science: Medicine and Dentistry, Nursing and Health Professions, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Pharmaceutical Science, Veterinary Science, Veterinary Medicine. Social Science and Humanities: Arts and Humanities, Business Management, Management, Accounting, Decision Science, Economics, Econometrics, Finance, Psychology, Social Sciences etc. The journal welcomes the submission of manuscripts that meet the general criteria of significance and scientific excellence in this subject area and will publish:
Critical Reviews, Surveys, Opinions, Commentaries and Essays
However, IJRSR is now been listed in the International ISSN Directory, Paris and offers authors a Copy of the Journal and Certificate of Publication. Thus your paper published in IJRSR shall be acceptable in all the Institute/Universities in India and abroad.
If you wish to publish Research Paper/Article, send us firstname.lastname@example.org
Kindly forward this e-mail to your Friends / Colleagues / Associates and Fellow Researchers who may be benefited out of this.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF RECENT SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH
Email Id: email@example.com“
I fund this in the fine print: “There is no charge for the processing of paper but author(s) of each accepted paper is required to pay the publication charge which is very nominal fees. The fees depends upon the number of pages, number of authors, images etc. Before the accepted paper is published we will intimate the fees in the acceptance letter.”
No doubt this is what Beall is rightfully flagging. But who could not think this strange?
Hi David – an interesting example to work! Obviously I (and perhaps you too) are not the primary target audience for TCS and consequently some of the steps on its recommended checklist are not easy to carry out, e.g. I have not read the journal, and don’t have colleagues that I can ask whether they read it. I did not find it easy to determine who the publisher is, or where they are based. There is a cute diagram about peer review though not much detail on this specific journal’s particular approach e.g. blind or double-blind etc. You have at least found the small print about the fees! Not knowing the publisher’s name I can’t check whether they are in COPE or OASPA or whatever. As a researcher, at that stage I would probably Google the journal’s name – that reveals mention in Beall’s list (though, unless I’m mistaken, not a detailed explanation of how Jeffrey has reached his conclusion). Ultimately, I find that what I am basing my judgement on is whether its Impact Factor is real, and what other discourse I find about it on the web – perhaps those two checks might be something we’d recommend TCS add to their list (or perhaps they considered them already and could like to comment on that).
Given that the IJRSR homepage talks about an “Impact Ffactor [sic]” and has a “Call for papper [sic] 2015”, I’m not having to think too long and hard about this one! If you Google the alleged ISSN for this journal, it is listed at http://www.issn.cc/ (whatever / whoever that is – the Cocos Islands being a hotbed of publishing of course). It also seems to be listed by every made-up variant of the impact factor that you can imagine. So they’ve done a grand job at faking their credentials. It is, however, depressing that submitting authors can search a fake ISSN register for free, but cannot search the official ISSN International Register for free, and that (at least until recently perhaps) it was too easy to get an ISSN for an online journal without sufficient quality checks.
Could someone explain why Quality Open Access Market (www.qoam.eu) is so systematically boycotted? It’s Base Score Card (libraries analyzing the transparency of a journal’s web site) and Valuation Score Card (authors sharing their experience with a journal) ask the same questions as TCS. The difference is that the answers are preserved so that others may benefit. QOAM also includes price information, thus creating a real market.
What’s wrong with QOAM? Do it’s initiators not belong to the right circles; would it provide an answer where questions and discourse are preferred; is the publishing industry not amused?
Hi Leo, the simple answer for me at least is that I was not aware of QOAM. That shows one of the core challenges to any such initiatives – marketing. How many great ideas or perfect solutions to widely felt problems have failed, simply because no-one knows about them? I think this is often an area that is underestimated when new initiatives are planned and launched, and that in part was why I was interested in the TCS approach of getting “gatekeeper” organizations on board from the outset – not least, to raise sufficient funding to undertake substantial promotion. Do you know much about how QOAM was marketed at launch, and / or how it’s been promoted ongoing?
On a separate note, one obvious difference between QOAM and TCS is that the former is focussed on Open Access, where I believe TCS is trying to provide generic guidance for all kinds of journal, regardless of business model. That means some of QOAM’s guidance is more specific / detailed in some cases. There could usefully be link up between the two – further to comments above, TCS might usefully list “other resources you can consult”.
You may be right. Marketing has not been our main focus (I am one of the founders). QOAM started two years ago as a two people initiative, supported by a few libraries and SURFmarket in the Netherlands. We hoped it would go viral on its own. Academic naivety? Apart from that, we needed all our time to develop it into a robust service.
The difference between the two initiatives is smaller than you suppose as QOAM includes all journals that offer open access. That is, including hybrid journals. Simply because we want to encourage competition in open access publishing regardless of the underlying business model. But you are right in so far that we exclude subscription journals. With their big deals they evade any competition.
From our side we will certainly link the two initiatives. Hopefully TCS will do the same reciprocally.
Hi Leo – it its naivety, it’s by no means restricted to academics! It makes one appreciate anew what services with huge numbers of users have achieved; sure, luck can be a part of it (right offer, right place, right time) but more often than not there’s simply been lots of behind the scenes effort to keep pushing the word out. Good luck with next steps for QOAM. I am pleased to know about it as I think all these endeavours are important to helping academics navigate the evolving challenges of publishing!