Desperately seeking submissions

An academic is puzzled over a string of ‘surreal’ emails from journals

April 16, 2015

“When you’ve published an academic journal article or two, you start getting emails which, at first sight, seem very flattering,” writes Helen Kara, an independent researcher, on her eponymous blog.

However, Dr Kara is less than impressed by the motivation behind the emails, which praise her work or expertise before inviting her “to write an article for their journal, or to edit a special issue, or produce an e-book” on a topic where she has “little knowledge and no expertise”.

“Others want me to take on onerous editing responsibilities, sourcing articles from prestigious scholars in return for one whole free electronic journal issue or e-book,” Dr Kara continues.

The emails in question often verge on the “surreal” in their use of language, and the blog includes an example. “Dear Dr. H Helen,” it begins unpromisingly. “Tranquil greets from [name of] Journal… We would be truly fortunate if you could assist us to successfully release the issues by your active and enthusiastic submission of manuscript which will be processed & published under [name of] Journal for upcoming glorious year…” It goes on.

Despite what you may be thinking, the publications that Dr Kara is talking about are not so-called predatory journals – cash-seeking titles that ask people to pay for publication.

“They seem to be desperate journals,” she continues. “One emailed me on 17 February, giving me a most generous deadline of 15 March, and finishing, ‘If it is not feasible for you to submit paper in the month of February, then kindly let us know your feasible time of contribution. Anticipating your quick response.’ ”

Unsurprisingly, they received no response, but that didn’t stop the “cheeky blighters” emailing again, “giving me a revised deadline of 31 March”.

“When I check out the journals online, they appear to be for real. So why are they so desperate?” Dr Kara asks. “And who responds to these poorly targeted requests?” Alas, there are no answers.

The issue of predatory journals is tackled in a separate post on the London School of Economics’ Impact of Social Sciences blog, titled “Beyond Beall’s List: We need a better understanding of predatory publishing without overstating its size and danger”. Beall’s List is a resource that names “potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers”.

In the post, Monica Berger, associate professor and electronic resources and technical services librarian at New York City College of Technology, part of the City University of New York, and Jill Cirasella, associate librarian for public services and scholarly communication at the CUNY Graduate Center, argue that librarians can play an important role in helping researchers to avoid becoming prey to predatory open access journals.

In the blog, originally published in the March 2015 issue of the journal College and Research Libraries News, they state that “no matter how strong our urge to support and defend OA, librarians cannot deny the profusion of predators in the OA arena”.

“Rather, we should seek to understand their methods, track their evolution, and communicate their characteristics to our patrons,” they write.

Chris Parr

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