USFA e-letter: Predatory Publishing and your CV: what should you do?

You may have been hearing a lot recently about “predatory” journals that print improperly vetted articles, resulting in a pollution of the peer-reviewed literature. The CBC National news carried a piece on this on April 18, 2016.

Venues like this have always existed, but their number and variety have increased in recent years due to the dramatic decrease in cost of producing both print and electronic journals. Fair or foul, academic venues are a publishers’ dream: the content and editing is done for free, and the results are sold to the universities of the world, sometimes after galley charges are sent to the author. And people’s careers depend upon it.

Cases have been brought to our attention where scholars have submitted articles to such venues in good faith, then have been penalized by the collegial review processes, and given only the cryptic advice to “publish more papers in high-impact venues.” Institutions are reluctant to outright ban certain venues, because it is near impossible to tell whether a brand new venue is predatory or a new open-access journal, and the charge opens the institution up to charges of defamation.

An exception is Beall’s list, a list of alleged predatory publishers and venues maintained by Jeffrey Beall, described in the Wikipedia as a critic of the open access publishing model – now mandated by Tri-Agency funders. Yet the editorial board of some of the journals printed by a publisher panned by Beall contained faculty from several U-15 Universities, including UBC, McGill, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, McMaster, Western, Manitoba, Ottawa and Alberta, as well as Laval, Carleton, Ryerson, Waterloo, York, and the National Research Council of Canada.

What should you do?

  • first, be informed: see the information that our colleagues in the library have put together about predatory publishers and what you need to know when choosing a publisher or journal
  • second, address the issue in advance and annotate your CV: contextualize the journal if it appears on the list, and explain why it is an appropriate venue to publish your work

Faculty are under tremendous pressure to perform, and there is the potential for unfavourable results. The onus is on you to help others understand what you have published, where you have published it, and that your output is credible and solid peer-reviewed work.