3.7.18

"VANITY PRESS" USED TO BE A PEJORATIVE.

Maybe it still is, although the contemporary approach to academic publishing, which dispenses with the printed page, can no longer rely on news-stand sales or home subscriptions for revenue.  Library acquisitions administrators continue to take a harder look at institutional subscriptions.  Perhaps the good journals can maintain a pay-wall for their content (this is still true of the American Economic Association's stable of journals, although the annual dues are reasonable.)

Thus, the scholar who submits for the hope of being published must pay for the privilege.
Over the past decade, many have stopped selling subscriptions. Instead, they charge authors a publication fee and permit people to read the result for nothing. This “open access” business model has the advantage of increasing the dissemination of knowledge, but it also risks corrupting the knowledge thus disseminated.
In part, server space continues to be cheap, and time to keep up with your reading is not, what with the imperative to publish becoming as demanding as a Hillary Clinton speech.  Thus, it's easy to invent a journal with an impressive sounding title, and sell space in it, and maybe what gets in isn't much of a contribution to the academic conversation.
[Cabells integrity inspector Kathleen] Berryman reckons the publishers of bogus journals are getting ever cannier. She has seen cases of journals she regards as suspect claiming to be on whitelists, fabricating citation scores for papers, stating plausible time frames for peer review (claims of rapid review are often associated with questionable journals) and brazenly listing as sitting on their editorial boards scholars who are not in fact doing so.

Ms Berryman says, too, that some websites copy wording and graphics used by legitimate journals. Other sites go further, assuming a name that is confusingly similar to that of a reputable journal. And according to Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, a blog that monitors such matters, questionable journals now also occasionally retract articles in a bid to appear responsible, in what can only be described as a superb piece of subterfuge.
The article describes Cabells as an "analytics firm."  The company describes its goal as "to provide academics with accurate information and reputable outlets for publication."  It's neither Underwriters' Laboratories, doing destructive testing for a fee, nor Consumer Reports, reporting on what interests its reporters.  There are a lot of journals, in a lot of fields, on the Indexus Cabellus.  There are also a lot of scholars filling up their promotion dockets with listed journals.  But don't you dare suggest that the enterprise is as corrupt as the Vatican seeking to fund a new principal house of worship!
Last year Derek Pyne, an economist at Thompson Rivers University’s business school, in British Columbia, published a paper in the Journal of Scholarly Publishing, itself published by the University of Toronto Press. In it, he reported that many of the business school’s administrators, and most of its economics and business faculty with research responsibilities, had published in journals on [Colorado librarian Jeffrey] Beall’s blacklist. Dr Pyne also claimed that these papers seemed to further their authors’ careers. Of the professors who had published in the blacklisted journals, 56% had subsequently won at least one research award from the school. All ten instructors promoted to full professor during the study period had published in a journal on Mr Beall’s list.

Subsequently, Dr Pyne told school officials that an administrator up for promotion had published widely in blacklisted journals. This earned Dr Pyne an e-mail from the university’s human-resources department on June 15th, threatening him with disciplinary action for “defamatory language and accusations”. When asked, the university declined to comment.
They're not buring heretics at the stake, yet. The message, though, is clear: recant or be excommunicated!

The hinky research is getting into print, in part, as the administrative hierarchy of higher education ceases to be of and for the faculty.
Dr Pyne thinks part of the problem is that too many academic administrators have no research experience, and so either cannot tell good publications from bad, or do not care. Few researchers, though, thrill to the idea of a career in administration, so changing that might be difficult.
Part of the problem, dear reader, is that we are talking about careers in administration, rather than having department heads and deans take turns in that role, then return to faculty.

And yet again, I find myself noting that change for its own sake is not necessarily change for the better.
One far-fetched solution is a return to journal subscriptions. These have for so long been excoriated as rent-seeking profit-inflators restricting the flow of information that a change of course would now be unthinkable. But those who pushed for their elimination might be wise to pause for thought. As the old proverb has it, be careful what you wish for. You might get it.
It's called restoring a state of good repair.

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