The ‘sting’ article in Science on open-access ‘predatory’ journals - New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science
"Earlier this week, Science published a much-discussed article entitled ‘Who’s afraid of peer review?’ The article, however, focuses specifically on peer-review in open-access journals that charge publication fees, as it reports on a little ‘experiment’ conducted by the author of the article: submitting multiple versions of the same spoof paper to a wide range of these open-access journals to see what would happen (sort of a Sokal hoax but then multiplied by 300). The hypothesis was that, given the multiplication of open-access journals following the ‘pay-to-publish’ model, the tendency is for the 'predatory journals' among those to accept pretty much anything that comes their way, and then charge authors exorbitant amounts of money as publication fees. And indeed, 'by the time Science went to press, 157 of the journals had accepted the paper and 98 had rejected it.' The article sparked a cascade of negative reactions, in particular by proponents of the open-access model who saw it as a vicious attack on the model by one of the flagship subscription journals (see here). Some have pointed out that, if the ‘study’ intended to be methodologically sound, it should have sent an equal number of spoof submissions to non-open-access journals in order to ascertain whether there really is a significant difference between the two models when it comes to letting bad papers go through the sieve of peer-reviewing. Ultimately, what the experiment seems to indicate is above all a failure of the peer-review model, not of the open-access model. As well put by Curt Rice (who often has incisive analyses of the politics of higher education, e.g. on gender issues): 'The real problem for science today is quality control. Peer review has been at the heart of this, but there are too many failures — in both open access and traditional journals — to simply plod ahead with the same system. We need new approaches and many people and organizations are working on those, such as the open evaluation project.' Here at NewAPPS, we’ve been discussing issues with the peer-review model, in philosophy as well as more generally. One of the problems is simply that it’s a very costly process, something that often goes underappreciated. But of course, the issue is that it is unclear what alternatives there might be. In philosophy, the pay-to-publish model is virtually nonexistent. But those of us working on the interface with other fields, e.g. psychology, are likely to come across the pay-to-publish situation (e.g. with the Frontiers publisher). Now, because I object to this model (as will become apparent below), I refuse to publish in such venues, and have for example recently given up writing for a volume after having accepted the invitation, once I found out that there were publication fees involved ..."