More on journal secrecy and vaporware

Robin Peek, Maturing of Open Access: With Growth Comes Growing Pains, preprint of a column forthcoming in the December issue of Information Today.  Posted October 30, 2008.  Excerpt:

Open access (OA) has had quite a good year….

Still, with maturity it was inevitable that new issues would emerge….

Of particular concern is the management of some of the young OA journals who are now appearing. Without question we have already seen that OA journals can be as well managed as the toll-access journals, whether they operate charging a fee or not. Springer would certainly not be purchasing the BMC journals, which are OA, if they were not well run and well respected….

Good journals require good editors, editorial boards, referees, and a flow of quality papers. If a young journal has any chance to gain traction it has to have an editor that is committed to its well-being and who also can gather a board that will add their reputation and editorial assistance to the project….

So…I was shocked when I was invited — as were, apparently, casts of thousands – to join an undertaking called Scientific Journals International (SJI)….SJI espouses a “quadruple-blind” peer review system….To achieve this the editors will not be revealed by this company so that they can’t be influenced (what does that mean, bribery or maybe legal threats? I don’t know.) That is not how the academic game is played. Editors become editors of journals because of the prestige; it’s not something they won’t tell someone about. “I just became editor of this journal, but it’s a secret, don’t tell anyone.” …

Another practice that [some of] these new journal publishers (SJI and others) engage in that they purport to publish, say, “100 journals” but when you visit the web site the majority are mere placeholders with notes like “coming soon” (or even “consider adding your content here.”) …I hope the day does not come when I must review a promotion report and find the candidate associated with a false front of a journal.

Yes there are people who sign up for these new up-start editorial boards and I am sure for lots of reasons. OA is now cool these days and some may feel they are genuinely helping the cause….

Of course there are people who will sign up for almost anything to pad a vita….

A journal should not be considered “published” until it has actual content. And a proposed journal that does not get any content for a year should be dismantled and its editorial group disbanded for failing to deliver. Further if there was no content then there was no journal and it should be stricken from one’s vita. If you never reviewed an article, solicited an article, or even had an editorial board meeting, you have not been on an editorial board; to say otherwise is a falsehood. Maybe that’s what “quadruple blind” peer review was meant to blind us all to.