When journals ain’t journals

Publishing is a crucial part of a scientist’s job. It allows others to evaluate your findings, try to replicate them, argue against them, incorporate them into their own work. It’s also a vital indicator of the worth of the research; the best work generally gets published in high-ranking journals and attracts citations, and these metrics are used in awarding the grants and promotions that keep research going. The top journals reject most of the manuscripts they receive and send the rest to experts to criticise (sometimes constructively), pan or even approve. This peer review process is supposed to ensure that the journal contains only well-conducted, ethical and useful research.

Inevitably, the pressure to publish has several downsides. One is the advent of dodgy journals that, for a price, will publish just about anything.  They’re often full of manuscripts that have been bounced down the journal hierarchy, but on which the authors have spent too much time to abandon entirely; the rest is rubbish. Some of these journals have plausible-sounding names and websites that give an impression of quality. All actively tout for papers, sending emails (often personalised) seeking submissions to special journal  issues cunningly tailored to your interests. These are predatory journals; at best they’re an annoying waste of time, at worst a scam.

Peter Vamplew (Federation University Australia) had clearly had enough of these emails, particularly those from the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology. He submitted a paper (originally created by David Mazieres of Stanford and Eddie Kohler of Harvard in 2005) containing the phrase “Get me off your fucking mailing list” 863 times. A return email said the IJACT‘s reviewers had given the paper an “excellent” rating, and offered publication for $150. Funny, but a bit sad too. Read Stephen Luntz‘s blog on the story here.


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