Publish or perish, and predatory journals

I keep a list of potential blog topics in my Bullet Journal that I turn to when I lack immediate inspiration.  I’ve been sitting on the topic of predatory journals for a while, a note-to-self that I made during a week in which I was averaging 3 “requests for manuscripts” from journals that are less-than-reputable; the journal titles from which I received these requests indicate that their relevance to my actual academic focus is peripheral at best.  Many,  if not all (I haven’t checked them all, not enough hours in the day), of these journals appear on Beall’s list, which tracks predatory open access journals.

Last month, published a lovely piece on a manuscript entitled, “Get me off your f*%!ing mailing list” that got accepted to a journal that appears on Beall’s list.  Clearly if you look at the content and figures, while plenty entertaining, they wouldn’t pass muster for a proper peer review.  I’ll confess that had I been responsible for submitting it, I would have paid the $150 asked by the publisher.

Then, of course, the news broke this week about a paper by Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel being accepted for publication, this acceptance by TWO predatory journals.  If you are thinking their names sound familiar but can’t remember why, they’re characters from The Simpsons.

For those questioning the explosion of predatory journals, it’s my believe that they have largely grown up in response to publication as the active currency in academia.  This isn’t an issue that is confined to academic medicine, and it’s not an issue that is confined to the U.S.  The widespread nature of these publications- and their solicitation of manuscripts- makes me worry about junior academics who may simply be seeking the opportunity to publish, not understanding the importance of quality peer review in refining our scholarly works.

If anything, these recent news items- in addition to the previously existing data points- emphasize the urgency of reassessing how we evaluate scholarly activity in the retention, promotion, and tenure process.  Intuitively we know that not all journal publications are created equal, and we know that not all scholarly work has required equivalent activity to achieve the delivered product.  Then, of course, there’s the whole question of what does constitute scholarly activity.  Should this blog count?  Twitter engagement?  If we’re achieving impact, if we’re engaging an audience, what metric can and should we use?

And, as I often state, I offer many more questions than answers.  I’m eager to see what comments and ideas you all, dear readers, have on this topic.