This panel addressed the problem of predatory publishing and the need for librarians and publishers to better inform authors about it. Julia Gelfand began by noting that “predatory” means exploiting the publishing model. She said that the library community can help authors identify their options to publish their scholarship in non-predatory journals. The number of predatory journals has exploded to over 10,000 titles worldwide, and predatory publishing is now an organized industry. Legitimacy is rooted in peer review. Pseudo-science is very dangerous. We must be committed to working with our communities to inform authors about predatory practices and the changing ecosystem of publishing.
Brigitte Burris said that the knowledge we bring as collection development librarians is relevant to the predatory question. We need awareness. OA removes some of the curatorial function that we do as librarians, but there is still a need to share our knowledge. We have developed expertise in assessing the quality of journals, and this expertise can be shared to teach authors to identify predatory journals. Authors have choices and we must raise their consciousness. We are in a position to advise authors in line with their interests: acceptance rates, APC costs, risks of publishing in OA journals, etc. Critical thinking and fact checking can do much, and librarians can provide this.
Lisa Macklin noted that faculty are frustrated at the bombardment by deceptive or predatory publishers approaching newer scholars who are feeling the pressure to get grants and tenure. We should reach out to campus Offices of Compliance that control how grant money is spent. The concern of administrators is reputation: invitations to be on editorial boards, conferences run by questionable organizations, false articles, and the reputation of the editorial board. We must reach faculty in as many ways as possible and inform them that librarians have a critical role to play.
John Scherer said that publishers look more predatory today because they have had to expand their value proposition and become service organizations. University presses have an opportunity in this environment. We need independence, but we must also help solve these problems. All books are peer reviewed by editors and sponsored by departments. This has become a large business for the presses which sell copies of books and helps pay the library from the proceeds.
Charles Watkinson concluded the session by noting that if you have been burned by a predatory publisher there is a stigma, but you should educate your colleagues so they can protect themselves. We do not want to point fingers, but we can review the quality of journals and do an analysis of the publisher. We cannot tell someone not to publish in a journal, but we do not have to fund publication charges, and we can discuss the journal quality. It would be effective for someone to say, “Don’t get burned like I did”. How can librarians partner with faculty and give them the benefit of our expertise?
Monograph publishing has its own set of issues and is not as well defined as journals. Monographs are not necessarily peer reviewed, so reader reports must be used to evaluate them.
OA publishers want to be listed in an archive as a mark of respectability. We may not have a way to evaluate them because there is no central resource to consult. With the demise of Beall’s List, Cabell’s is trying to fill this role.
Faculty members often have questions about where to publish. They also have concerns about what is being cited or indexed in discovery services. The evaluation of an article is different from evaluating the journal in which it is published.
Who is behind predatory publishers? It is profit driven and prestigious to be a publisher and is seen as a source of fast money. They are proliferating because the startup expenses are low.
Don Hawkins blogs about conferences for Information Today and Against The Grain. He also maintains the Conference Calendar on the Information Today website and is the Editor of Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, published by Information Today in 2013, and Co-Editor of Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits, published by Information Today in 2016. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and has worked in the information industry for over 45 years.