Being the editor of the journal gives you a perspective on the publishing process that is not available to the majority of academic researchers. One of the issues that strikes you is that there is an enormous volume of material seeking a home. Into this gap have come open access journals, new journals from existing publishers, but also a host of predatory journals. Unfortunately, some Irish academics are either falling prey or worse are deliberately seeking out publication opportunities in these predatory journals.
I first became aware of this phenomenon when a colleague drew my attention to piece in a national newspaper lauding a particular kind of medical research. He had noticed that the publication in which this research appeared was one that was accepted by the medical and research community as being if not downright fraudulent then a predatory publication. We contacted the journalist, who seemed genuinely unable to distinguish between the fact that this was a predatory publication, listed and accepted as being a place where in effect you could pay the journal and it would publish any old rot , and a peer-reviewed publications such as the New England Journal of Medicine. Her response to our continued outlining of the problem was “but it’s a peer-reviewed publication, it says so on the journal website”. This is the difficulty- stating that you are peer-reviewed when you are in fact not is certainly unethical, but to the casual reader, or even to a medical journalist, it might appear as though the journal is actually reputable.
The most comprehensive list of these journals has been for many years available at Beal’s list. The criteria for inclusion in this rogues gallery and pretty detailed, but it revolves around the kinds of practices that should give any researcher concern were they thinking of submitting a journal article. Typical giveaways that the general is predatory or pay for publication might include minimal or no review processes, and editorial board consisting of people you’ve never heard of places you never knew existed, an obsessive focus on various kinds of fees for processing, shenanigans around copyright transfer, excessively broad titles and scope of journals, spam emails, and the journal is headquartered in some quite obscure place that you never thought was a center of academic excellence.
The vast majority of publications by Irish business and management academics are not in these journals, but it is not difficult to find examples where academic researchers have published in journals that can best be described as predatory or pay for publication. If it’s going on in business, and in certain aspects of medicine, then we can be reasonably sure there’s going on in other areas.
For all the problems that the REF and the various RAE’s have in the United Kingdom, they have from the most part squeezed out this kind of predatory CV padding. It’s difficult to hide that you are inflating your publication count by dubious means when at some stage in the medium-term external peers are going to review said CV. It can still be done, but there are fewer hiding places. We have absolutely no method here, beyond the occasional school level quality review, to surface and change CV padding. Any active researcher, the matter how exalted or no matter how prolific, any of us will have publications in o outlets of which we are actually in retrospect not terribly proud. It’s quite different to look back at your publication record and say “I really shouldn’t have bothered putting that paper into that publication”, or “I really under sold that idea, I could have published it in a much better journal” as opposed to looking at one’s publication list and realizing that its stuffed full of papers that no matter the quality of the material therein have not been published in anything close to reputable journals.
In business and management, including here economics, it’s not difficult to find generally acceptable sets of journals. There are four or five lists, some of which are also rankings, for what that’s worth, but which provided a first cut as to where one might consider publishing, in order not to be in a predatory journal. In other words they represent more or less a consensus around a set of decent, acceptable, reputable journals. The most important of these would be; the Financial Times list, journals included in the Journal Citation index, the Association of Business Schools list (UK), the Australian Business Deans Council list and the CNRS list (France). A comprehensive listing of management journal rankings, which also serves to provide a listing of journals is of course available in the well-known Publish or Perish website maintained by Ann-Will Harzing. All of these are on the web, all of these are easily looked up, they contain in total over 2000 journals in all areas of management, economics, business etc. Note that these do not necessarily encompass the entirety of the kinds of areas in which people publish. I and other finance academics occasionally publish in physics, or statistics journals. People in behavioural economics might find themselves publishing and psychology journals. These would not be included in the above lists. It is not difficult however to “map” journals from these fields to management fields, at least in terms of showing the journals to be reputable, by using methods such as impact factors etc.
Without bringing in a full research evaluation process we might think of the following small steps.
First, directors of research of the higher education institutions should make it clear to scholars that they should purge their online presence of any publications appearing in these lists of predatory publishers. This should be done within the academic year. Second, no further publication should appear within these lists. Third, two years from now, which gives a decent lead in time, any persons found newly publishing in these lists should be investigated for academic misconduct. There are plenty of opportunities to publish, and publishing in the predatory journals simply devalues the concept of academic publications.