AS an unintended outcome of the effort to expand open access to scholarly material, the publishing world now has to contend with new challenges around what academic librarian and blogger Jeffrey Beall (in his blog Scholarly Open Access, www.http://scholarlyoa.com/) has termed “predatory publishers.” In August 2014, participants at the 33rd Annual Meeting of the International Academy of Nursing Editors (INANE) in Portland, Maine, concerned with the potential for inadvertent submissions to these journals as well as the citation of questionable manuscripts, agreed that it was time to raise awareness and educate our constituent communities about the potential detrimental effects of this emerging phenomenon.
CONDITIONS CREATED BY OPEN ACCESS
Open access publishing is a relatively recent occurrence with the worthy goal of removing restrictions to the online access of peer-reviewed scholarly research. Although it may have created the conditions under which these new predatory publishing practices are flourishing, open access is not, in itself, the problem. Many highly rigorous, scholarly, and professional journals are exclusively open access; other journals offer authors a range of traditional and open access options. These include options for authors or their funders to pay article-processing charges for immediate open access and various levels of delayed public access for specific types of articles. As it has taken hold, the open access movement has significantly altered the conventional financial model of many journals. Although journal owners historically relied entirely on journal subscriptions and content licenses or advertisements as their revenue base, most open access publishing options are fee-based. Many research granting bodies have strongly advocated for unrestricted access to the findings from studies they fund, and some have willingly funded open access publication costs as a means to make results widely and rapidly available. As a result, publishing has been influenced by for-profit enterprise in ways previously unimagined by scholars. The window of commercial opportunity has been flung wide open and in many cases thrown completely off its hinges.
Beyond the open access options being adopted by mainstream publishers, the ease of digital publishing and exploitation of this new publishing business model has led to a myriad of new journals, each actively competing for authors and revenue. Some of these new journals, including those introduced by conventional commercial and professional society publishers to augment their journal portfolios, apply the same rigorous peer review practices and standards of scholarly excellence we have come to rely on as consistent with advances in professional disciplines such as nursing. However, across every academic field, professional discipline, and geographic jurisdiction, we are also seeing the emergence of a new species of publisher whose practices reveal little evidence of editorial and publishing quality. Instead, with profit as the driving force, these “predatory” publishers engage in a range of disturbingly unethical and unscholarly practices.
PREDATORY MOTIVATIONS AND PRACTICES
Typical practices of predatory publishers include promises of rapid review and acceptance for publication, minimal to nonexistent review processes, a fabricated editorial board, and mimicry of legitimate journal titles. These publishers often send out flattering individualized e-mail solicitations to potential authors inviting them to submit manuscripts or serve as “guest editors” for their journals. Guest editing typically involves having “editors” invite their own collaborators and colleagues to submit papers for a special issue—for a fee. There are examples of eminent names being listed as an “honorary editor” or members of the “editorial board,” where these scholars were unaware of the existence of the journal or the use of their name in that manner.
Conversely, the named “journal editor” may be someone with no qualifications or credibility in the field and may simultaneously administer a suite of journals in a wide range of fields in an effort to attract as many submissions from author–customers as possible. In the rush to provide rapid review and acceptance for publication, these editors may review submissions single-handedly or rely on a single employee “peer” to bless the manuscript and deem it publishable. The result is a “review process” unfettered by actual expert critique. This practice is sometimes evident in the eventual published document, with the date of submission, review, and acceptance all occurring in close proximity.
Many predatory publishers also deploy unscrupulous marketing practices to seduce unsuspecting potential authors, such as inventing journal titles that are similar to those of well-known and reputable journals or using logos deceivingly like those of conventional publishing houses. Operating within the global environment, these journals tend to establish administrative home bases that afford protection from legal repercussions that could arise from such practices as copyright violation. The goal of such creative strategies is always the appearance of authenticity, thereby luring unwary authors to presume credibility.
When the driving motivation of a journal is profit, the focus is fixed on pleasing the author as the primary source of revenue. Predatory publishers, therefore, target senior scholars to build the journal's credibility and to help attract unsuspecting or naive authors, who may fall prey to easy flattery. Other targets include those whose academic pressures to publish may blind them to the nefarious nature of what allows a journal to bring a manuscript to print in record time. Unfortunately, aspiring authors caught up in the promise of rapid publication may unwittingly find that (a) their career progress is tainted by the lack of credibility of their selected publishing venues, (b) they are liable for unexpected additional fees once their paper has been published, or (c) their previously published papers suddenly cease to exist, or reside in legal limbo, with the copyright signed away to a nonexistent publisher and inaccessible through established search mechanisms, because contractual arrangements for these publications may be unenforceable.
We see a significant collective harm for the body of published scholarly nursing literature, because concern about quality inherently reduces the profit margin in this predatory model of doing business. Although we have come to trust the practices and processes of our various scholarly and professional publications for the quality and credibility of the corpus of disciplinary knowledge, the new and unmanaged proliferation of pseudoscholarly activity could significantly flood the market with journals and articles that discredit the profession. In health care, this threat is even more serious, as the pseudoscience and poor scholarship published by predatory journals could conceivably result in harm to patients and the health information–seeking public.
THE INANE CALL TO ACTION
The INANE community, representing editors of credible and reputable nursing journals, believes that it is imperative to inform nurses of the harm inherent in this new hazard that has arrived in the publishing scene. We encourage nursing authors to use Beall's list of predatory publishers at Scholarly Open Access as a reliable resource. His approaches and methods, including dynamic monitoring of the publishing world for this purpose and a willingness to reconsider and revise any listing found to be in error or misleading, make Beall's site extremely helpful for nurses who now need to ensure the credibility of the journals to which they entrust their manuscripts or become otherwise involved. At the same time, Beall would be the first to acknowledge the impossibility of keeping up with all of the emerging new journals. We, therefore, also encourage potential authors to consult the Directory of Nursing Journals (www.http://nursingeditors.com/journals-directory/), a collaborative effort between INANE and this publication, Nurse Author & Editor, for journals that have been reviewed and vetted within our community and to be vigilant for the hallmarks of predatory practices. A third useful resource is Thomas Long's blog on Nursing Writing (www.http://nursingwriting.wordpress.com/), which includes a compilation of recent reports on predatory open-access journals and scholarly conference scams. Another potentially useful resource may be the Directory of Open Access Journals (http://doaj.org/application/new), which is working to strengthen its approvals process on the basis of more strict criteria.
We will maintain information on this topic on INANE's website (www.http://nursingeditors.com/) as an ongoing reference for our members. Finally, we offer in the accompanying table a brief compilation of considerations and “red flags” summarized from internationally reputable organizations concerned with publications ethics. These sources too will undoubtedly continue to evolve over time. In writing this statement, the INANE community hopes to encourage educators, mentors, scholars, and clinical practitioners to join in a campaign to help our colleagues understand emerging hazards on the path to publication. We encourage those who oversee institutional promotion and advancement processes to ensure that (a) their members are well mentored with respect to the publication records they are building and (b) that their review committees have the knowledge required for fair assessment of work across the spectrum of publication modalities. Above all, we seek to serve the emerging science, knowledge sharing, and authorial careers of our discipline as well as possible by ensuring that nurses are making wise publishing choices (see Table 1).
The INANE members are committed to sustaining the high standards we have come to expect in the published body of nursing knowledge, across the full spectrum of theorizing and philosophizing, science and evidence building, clinical applications, education, leadership, social advocacy, and policy engagement, even as we embrace the new possibilities for publishing in the digital universe. Open access is both an exciting opportunity and an intriguingly disruptive force in the publishing world. It is unfortunate that it has been exploited in this predatory manner. However, by translating our best nursing health promotion and disease prevention wisdom to the publishing domain, we can help keep our colleagues and their important ideas safe from harm.
Let us spread the word and disarm the threat together.
—INANE “Predatory Publishing Practices” Collaborative
Sally Thorne, Nursing Inquiry
Peggy L. Chinn Advances in Nursing Science
Leslie H. Nicoll, CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing; Nurse Author & Editor
Rita Pickler, Journal of Advanced Nursing
Patricia D'Antonio, Nursing History Review
Cynthia Connolly, Nursing History Review
Cindy Peternelj-Taylor Journal of Forensic Nursing
Dawn Welliver, Anesthesia eJournal
Joy Don Baker, AORN Journal
Annette Flanagin, JAMA and The JAMA Network
Lucy Bradley-Springer, Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care