31 May 2011

Too many journals, too few papers?

I'm sure that others have noticed a very large increase in the number of messages from journal publishers seeking either members for their editorial boards or calling for papers.  A (very) modest investigation suggests that the majority of the journals involved are so-called 'open access', involving author charges.  A number of publishers are clearly trying to jump on the open access bandwagon in the hope of making a profit; but they are doing so without having journal editors with the kinds of contacts that would enable them to contact people individually to be Board members.  One wonders, therefore, about the authority they can bring to the editorial position.

The Call for Papers message suggests a couple of things: one is that these journals and their editors do not have the kind of relationship to the respective fields of the journals to be able to use other means of attracting papers and, on the other hand, they are aware that there are many academics seeking publication outlets for their work. Even a cursory examination of the journals involved suggests that the quality is low: copy-editing is almost non-existent and the standard of English suggest that no one is doing any actual editing.

In the 'publish or perish' environment in which young researchers exist these days, desperate to publish to attain a tenured appointment, these publishers will claim to fill a need, but publication in newly established journals, based on a business model that has not been tested over time, is a hazardous business.  In addition, the journals are unlikely to be listed in Web of Knowledge and, increasingly, universities (in response to the idiot requirement of 'research assessment') are demanding in highly ranked journals, and even if a young researcher cannot get into a highly ranked journal, a mid-ranked journal will be of more value on his or her CV that publication at all costs in a journal of dubious reputation.

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