Thursday, 17th September, 2020

How to know where it's safe to submit?


After finishing a research project, or a part of a project, one needs to decide how to make the outcome accessible to other scholars and the general public. The traditional way to do this is through academic journals which typically first prescan the work to check that the topic fits to the journal, and then perform prepublication peer review through other, often anonymous, scholars working in the same field.

Since in many countries and institutes the scholars are evaluated partially based on the number of publications they produce, there is a clear incentive for publishing as many papers as possible. This has resulted in practise to publish the research in the smallest publishable units (so-called "salami slicing"), which is a significant factor in the growth in the number of scholarly publications (doubling every nine years).

Simultaneously with the increased pressure to publish as much as possible, many funding agencies have started to demand publishing the research they fund as open access (OA). This means that any member of the public will have access to the research outcome after publication. While in general a worthy goal, the rise of OA has spawned a not-so-worthy market for predatory open access publishers.

The business model of these 'publishers' is to charge large amounts of money (up to several thousands of Euros) from the authors (or their funding agencies) as an "article processing charge" and either do a very bad job with the peer review or to skip it completely before posting the submitted work on their website. To make matters worse, there is no guarantee that the articles will remain accessible after the people behind such journals have lost their interest. Because the number of both legit and illegit publishers in any field is approaching hundreds, if not thousands, it has become increasingly difficult for an individual scholar to know which journals are worth contributing to.

To address this issue, several international organisations and some individual publishers have now launched "Think. Check. Submit", which is a campaign to help researchers navigate this issue. I wish the campaign will be a great success and will get a wide media coverage to spread the word.

Through the scholarly kitchen.

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