What’s wrong with Scholarly Publishing? New Journal Spam and “Open Access”

I got the following SPAM (unsolicited bulk mail) today. (There seems to be an assumption that SPAM for conferences, journals, etc, is OK. It's not. It wastes my time and leads to errors. If I get (say) 5 invitations a day to "speak" at conferences whose acronyms I don't know I miss those few which genuinely want me to attend. It's irresponsible and unacademic. From today:

"Dear Prof. Murray-Rust:
Greetings! I hope you are well. On behalf of IGI Global, I would like to invite you to share your current research interests in the form of an editorship capacity. As you may know, IGI Global is an internationally-recognized publisher of high quality scholarly reference books, journals and teaching cases.

Introducing ??International Research Journal of Library, Information and Archival Studies?

The   International Research Journal of Library, Information and Archival Studies is a multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal that will be published monthly by International Research Journals (http://interesjournals.org/IRJLIAS). IRJLIAS is dedicated to increasing the depth of the subject across disciplines with the ultimate aim of expanding knowledge of the subject.

Call for Research Articles

We invite you to submit a paper /abstract /poster /workshop to the 4th Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries International Conference (QQML2012), 22 - 25 May 2012, Limerick, Ireland.


2011 the 2nd International Conference on system science, engineering design and manufacturing informatization (ICSEM 2011 )

On behalf of the Scientific and Organizing Committees it is our great pleasure to invite you, together with accompanying persons, to attend the 2011 the 2nd International Conference on system science, engineering design and manufacturing informatization (ICSEM 2011 ),

This is all simple SPAM and I have to filter it out by hand (all conferences look so similar no machine learning will work). But because I am blogging on scholarly publication I stopped to look at the following – and it's an excellent illustration of New Journal SPAM. Firstly it is, of course, simple SPAM because I didn't ask for it in my mail box. But it's more instructive than that.


Dear Researcher,

Greetings from the Modern Economy(ME) ,which is published by Scientific Research Publishing ( SRP ), USA.The aim of the International Journal of Modern Economy is to provide a forum for scientists and social workers to present and discuss issues in international economics.

Normally this goes in the SPAM bin immediately but I thought I'd follow this up. Needless to say I haven't heard of SRP. So I went to their home page (http://www.scirp.org/ ). 150 Open Access journals. Wow! This must be a GOOD THING…

Hang On… "Open Access" does not equal "good". Open Access can be good or bad or in between. Open Access means only one thing – anyone can read it without payment. "Open" is now frequently being used in the same way as "Healthy" or "Green". More a marketing term than a precise description. "Open" does not always mean Open Definition compliant (I'll leave this as a surprise…) . And even if it does that is all it means. "Free to use, re-use and redistribute for any purpose and without restriction save for acknowledgement". That does not mean good or bad, useful and useless. Be very clear on that because there are a large number of new Open Access journals and IMO some of them use Open as a marketing term.

So, anyway, SCIRP publishes chemistry. There are very few Open chemistry journals (the only non-specialist one is Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry – PloS doesn't chemistry). So a new one is welcome – in principle. Let's have a look at: http://www.scirp.org/journal/ijoc/ "International Journal of Organic Chemistry"

It's got an ISSN – that simply requires payment. SCIRP is a member of CrossRef. I do take some assurance from that – I know the Crossref people and I assume they have some minimal barrier to entry. They have rules for membership (http://www.crossref.org/02publishers/59pub_rules.html ). These mainly relate to the management of metadata and DOIs (which is Crossref's business). To continue, let's look at the mission of the journal…

International Journal of Organic Chemistry (IJOC) is an international, specialized, English-language journal devoted to publication of original contributions concerning all field of organic chemistry.

It is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal describing the synthetic approached and the design of new molecules for applications in medicinal chemistry, but also for the synthesis of precursors for new materials (solid or liquid) that have an interest in materials sciences and nanotechnology, homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis.

Contributions that concerns with analytical characterization, advanced techniques and the studies of properties for new synthesized molecules will also be highlighted. All manuscripts must be prepared in English, and are subject to a rigorous and fair peer-review process. Accepted papers will immediately appear online followed by printed hard copy. The journal publishes original papers including but not limited to the following fields:

    Fluorescent Molecules and Dyes,     Organo-metallics,     Polymers,     Surfactants Among Others,     Synthesis of Reagents

The journal publishes the highest quality original full articles, communications, notes, reviews, special issues and books, covering both the experimental and theoretical aspects of organic chemistry.

Papers are acceptable provided they report important findings, novel insights or useful techniques within the scope of the journal. All manuscript must be prepared in English, and are subjected to a rigorous and fair peer-review process. Accepted papers will immediately appear online followed by prints in hard copy. It will be available through http://www.scirp.org/journal/ijoc.

(There are some apparent illiteracies, but I'll pass …) So far so good. Let's look at the editorial board. (http://www.scirp.org/journal/EditorialBoard.aspx?JournalID=527 ). Wow! 50 names (I've heard of one, but I don't move much in synthetic organic circles, so don't count that). Now the papers:


"One-Pot Three-Component Synthesis of Imidazo[1,5-a]pyridines"

I understand what that means. I know what a Imidazo[1,5-a]pyridine is. Assuming this is factually correct, this is solid chemical science – potentially useful to other chemists who want to know how to make this type of compound. The bedrock of factual labotatory science.

I can text mine this! It's Open, isn't it. Let's find their definition of Open Access… Can't find it … What's the c opyright? The paper carries:

Copyright © 2011 SciRes

This is NOT OK

This is NOT OKD compliant. It might be regarded as Green Open Access but it's not Gold. And I can't text-mine it.

Lesson: "Open" means almost nothing unless defined.

But, at least it's readable by anyone. So I am intrigued. I haven't heard of SCIRP so I'll look in Wikipedia.

What, Wikipedia? All academics know that is unregulated junk. Well, the stuff that I (PM-R) wrote in Wikipedia is correct to the best of my ability. And I am coming to believe in the correctness of Wikipedia in sciences to a great level than many other conventional sources. Anyway maybe Wikipedia can tell us how old SCIRP is . From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_Research_Publishing

Scientific Research Publishing is an academic publisher of open access
electronic journals. The company created a controversy when it was found that its journals duplicated papers which had already been published elsewhere, without notification of or permission from the original author. In addition, some of these journals had listed academics on their editorial boards without their permission or even knowledge, sometimes in fields very different from their own. A spokesperson for the company commented that these issues had been "information-technology mistakes", which would be corrected.[1]

Well it's a stub entry. From a single source. But from the various edits it seems likely that the company started in 2008 and added several new journals each month. The original stub seems to have been catalysed by a Nature article:

Sanderson, Katharine. "Two new journals copy the old". Nature 463, 148 (2010)

Let's have a read of that. After all Nature brands itself as "The world's best science and medicine on your desktop". I assume that is agreed by the whole publishing community. (But then what does "best" mean? I can brand my science as the "best" approach to semantic chemistry. ) Let's have a look:

Log in

Sign up for free access to this article, or log in with your nature.com account

Why do they want me to sign up? Probably because they want to add me to their "direct mailing list". Well, sorry Nature, I'm not going to. I'll go to Pubmed http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20075892 - not much there. Pubmed are scrupulously careful not to violate the "rights" of publishers. Which means we don't get to read things. UKPMC (on whose advisory board I am) cannot give help either. So finally to the blogosphere (through Google) and I find a (quite by chance) recent post http://possibleexperience.blogspot.com/2011/07/adventures-in-fake-academic-publishing.html I'm copying iyt in full as it has useful links:

Adventures in fake academic publishing: SCIRP

Here's a new 'journal' in philosophy published by the disreputable SCIRP. [PMR possibleexperience's phrase, of course, not mine as I have an open mind] The business model of this outfit is to charge authors for 'publication' in their online 'journals' (rather than charging readers for access to the articles), charging charge $300 for the first ten pages, $50 for each page thereafter, as stated in 'author's guidelines':

Your paper should not have been previously published or be currently under consideration for publication anywhere else. Papers should be submitted electronically through the Open Journal of Philosophy (OJPP) Submission System. All papers are subject to peer review. After a paper is accepted, its author must sign a copyright transfer agreement with OJPP. Papers accepted for publication will be made available free online. The modest open access publication costs are usually covered by the author's institution or research funds ($300 for each paper within ten printed pages, and $50 for each additional page). Scientific Research Publishing may grant discounts on paper-processing fees for papers from lower income countries, or by students, or authors in financial difficulty. The amount of discount will depend on a variety of factors such as country of origin, quality of the work, originality of the article, and whether this particular article was submitted at the invitation of the editor-in-chief. Since only about 20% of papers published in each issue will receive the discounts, there is no guarantee that a discount will be granted to every author who meets the requirements.

SCIRP created a stir last year when at least two of its journals were caught republishing papers without permission.

Two new journals copy the old At least two journals recently launched by the same publisher have duplicated papers online that had been published elsewhere. Late last year, an organization called Scientific Research Publishing reproduced the papers in what its website (www.scirp.org) billed as the first issues of the new journals Journal of Modern Physics and Psychology. Huai-Bei Zhou, a physicist from Wuhan University in China who says he helps to run Scientific Research's journals in a volunteer capacity, says that the reproductions were a mistake…

  What is the quality of their publications? Here's one from Advances in Bioscience and Biotechnology, another of their journals:

"Molecular genetic program (genome) contrasted against non-molecular invisible biosoftware in the light of the Quran and the Bible," Pallacken Abdul Wahid, Advances in Bioscience and Biotechnology, vol. 1, no. 4, 2010, pp. 338-47.

"[The] most striking one is that a living cell and its dead counterpart are materially identical, i.e., in both of them all the structures including genome are intact. But yet the dead cell does not show any sign of bioactivity. This clearly shows that the genome does not constitute the biological program of an organism (a biocomputer or a biorobot) and is hence not the cause of "life". The molecular gene and genome concepts are therefore wrong and scientifically untenable. On the other hand, the Scriptural revelation of the non-molecular biosoftware (the soul) explains the phenomenon of life in its entirety."

PMR. Well at least a reputable journal from a reputable publisher would never publish an article that mixed science with religion in this way, would they? You would never get an article about proteomics and creationism from a reputable journal, would you?

Unless you know different…












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