Publishers behaving badly-again

Once again, someone has uncovered a scam by unsavory publishers. The Ottawa Citizen recently published an article by Tom Spears about a sham article that got accepted by several fake publishers within 48 hours of being submitted. These journals claimed that articles went out for peer review, but there is no way peer review could be done in that short of a time period – which is why I call the publishers fake. And of course, after accepting the bogus article for publication, they require a payment (usually less than the charges at reputable publishers, but still a scam) to make the article available online.

The article that Tom submitted was a mishmash of cut and pasted sentences from geology papers and hematology papers. The references came from a wine chemistry article. In short, the article made no sense at all – the abstract contained the phrase ‘seismic platelets’ which is obviously made up – and it was almost entirely copied from other articles. No reputable journal should have even sent it out for peer review.

These fake publishers make it difficult for already overworked faculty to evaluate the articles they find, evaluate potential publication venues, and evaluate the work of their peers. Jeffrey Beall, a librarian in Colorado, has a list of these types of publishers that faculty can refer to, but I wonder if there is more that libraries could be doing in this area to help the faculty and students we work with?

Green vs gold discussion

The library had a brown bag lunch discussion about green -vs- gold open access (OA) on Friday, April 18th. Green OA is when an author takes a version of their article and adds it to a repository or to another online location to allow for free access (also called self-archiving). Gold OA is when an author publishes with an open access publisher and the work is freely available online from the moment of publication. One of the first questions asked was whether there was a useful mnemonic to help remember the difference between green and gold. One suggestion was that gold OA is the gold standard since the publication is openly available from day one. No one could really come up with a good mnemonic for green OA.

We discussed the misconceptions that many faculty have about open access. Some think that open access publications do not include peer review. That is almost always untrue. Open access journals have peer review just like traditional, toll-access journals. Even green OA usually involves articles that are peer-reviewed.

Many faculty feel pressure to publish in high-impact journals. Fortunately, there are more and more well-respected, high-impact, open access journals – one example of this is PLOS Biology. There are also some unsavory publishers in the OA field. Jeffrey Beall, a librarian from Colorado, maintains a list of questionable publishers: Authors should always investigate the publishers they consider working with.

There was a question about what article processing charges (APCs) cover. The concern was that the author would pay the fee and then there would be another fee down the road for continued access. APCs are a one-time charge. The charge covers the costs of publication including editorial review, peer review, copy editing, layout, and online publication. Once the article is published it is freely available from then on; there are no additional fees.

We also demonstrated the use of SHERPA/RoMEO to investigate journal and publisher policies regarding self-archiving. This is a very useful tool for comparing publisher policies and for checking to see what version of an article an author can put online. We use this quite a bit to evaluate publication lists before uploading material to the UT Digital Repository.

We also talked briefly about open data. Many federal agencies are now encouraging grantees to make the data from their grants publicly available. One long-time data repository, ICPSR, has recently introduced a new option for data publication called Open ICPSR. Members of ICPSR (UT Austin is a member) will be able to deposit their data for free. Non members will have to pay a $600 fee to deposit.

Finally, we talked about a general lack of awareness of open access on this campus. Most faculty are in favor of it in theory, but aren’t willing to invest time into either self-archiving or investigating alternative publishers. We in the library can help by providing services in this area, but we also need to be aware of the time involved in offering these services. We don’t want to over commit and fail to deliver, so we need to continue to look at ways of stream-lining processes.

These are some topics that were mentioned for further discussion or investigation:

  • Is there data that exists about OA authors? For instance – does rank, field, or age have any impact on whether someone chooses to publish their work OA
  • We would like to investigate altmetrics.
  • Updates on the White House directive that requires federal granting agencies to come up with plans for making data and publications more openly available.



There is a new open access publisher called ScienceOpen. The idea behind ScienceOpen is to publish in all areas of science and utilize post-publication peer review. Submitted articles will go through a technical and ethical review and accepted publications are then published online with a DOI after payment of an $800 publication fee.

Open peer review takes place after publication. Authors may invite suitable reviewers for their own manuscript, and editors or other ScienceOpen members may also invite peers to review the work. Unsolicited comments make up a separate portion of the public review system. The identity of all reviewers and commenters is visible at all times.

For more information about this process:

An update on public access to federally funded research

The Office of Science and Technology Policy has released an update on the federal government’s work towards making research, including data, more openly available to the public. It specifically provides an update on agency plans for complying with the White House directive. While those plans are still not public, it appears they may be in the next few months. It looks as though some federal agencies will be taking advantage of the infrastructure surrounding PubMed Central.


Open Access for scholarly books

A nonprofit group called Knowledge Unlatched, has come up with a new model for publishing open access books. In this model, libraries pick titles they would like to be open access and pay a title fee for each of those books. Those fees are meant cover the cost of publishing each book. The books are then published with a Creative Commons license and made available DRM-free via OAPEN, the HathiTrust and eventually the British Library.

For more information about this new OA model for books:

Chronicle article:

Knowledge Unlatched: