Another week, another unsolicited invitation from an author-pays journal

I receive so many unsolicited emails from unconvincing open access journals that I usually send them straight to the spam folder and forget about them. Today, though, I heard from the Journal of Education and Training Studies, whose title sounds plausible.

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Someone calling themselves “Robert Smith” addressed me by name, and told me that after reading one of my recent papers he believed that “your expertise fits within the scope of our journal quite well. Therefore, I would like to personally invite you to submit manuscripts to our journal”.

A quick dig on their website revealed a hefty authors’ fee of $400. For some reason, the publisher charges rather more for academics submitting to JETS than for any of its other journals.

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The website lists two editors in chief. One is given as a Professor John Cowan, of Edinburgh Napier University; a quick search on the university website produced no one of that name, though Research Gate lists a visiting academic of that name at Queen Margaret University, with a background in higher education scholarship.

The second is named as Dr. Richard Penny of the University of Washington Bothell. The university website mentions a former senior official of that name, who trained in neurobiology but made his career as a fund-raiser. Since 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile, he has been an ‘executive educator’ and leadership coach in the University’s Business School, but I was unable to find him on their website.

On the basis of this information, I am not inclined to recommend publishing in this journal. The website makes the standard claims about impact, based on such indexing services as Google Scholar and ERIC, which are unlikely to impress university appointment panels. RedFame, the publisher, is reportedly associated with the Canadian Center of Science and Education, which has featured in an earlier post on this blog.

And if you are interested in the paper on adult learning/active citizenship which provoked the original email, you can access it here. Neither of the authors paid a fee for it to be published!


Be cautious of the European Journal(s) of Education Studies

Another day, another crop of emails inviting me to submit papers to conferences and journals. Most are obviously dodgy but occasionally one appears that might – just might – tempt the unwary researcher. The latest to hit my inbox comes from the European Journal of Educational Studies – which at first hand sounds like a potentially decent journal, and claims an extremely impressive Impact Factor of 3.719.

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A quick look at the journal’s website reveals that it is one of seven education journals belonging to the Open Access Publishing Group, a Romanian outfit included in Jeffrey Beall’s “list of questionable, scholarly open-access publishers” (link). The email purports to come from a “Dr Monica Ilva”, but a search on Google produces no results for that name. The impact factor comes from something called Research Bible, which I’d never heard of before; their website claims that ‘Journal Impact Factor is from Journal Citation Report (JCR), a product of Thomson ISI (Institute for Scientific Information)’ (link).

The journal charges a publication fee of 30 US dollars. According to the website,

The submission, as well as the review process, are not subject of any charge. When a paper is accepted for publication, the author(s) is issued with an invoice for payment of a publication fee. . . . The payment of this charge allows Open Access Publishing Group to recover its editorial and publishing expenses and generates a pool of funds that will consent free access to the published research in the future.

Rather unusually, the journal also offers authors the opportunity of receiving a certificate of acceptance, and even a certificate of publication. I can only wonder what kind of bureaucratic requirement this is supposed to meet.

After the article is successfully published, a certificate is issued as a proof of its publication. The certificate of publication contains the name of the author, the article’s title, the name of the journal and its identification (ISSN) and the date and the place where it is issued.

As in any journal which sends ‘cold calling’ emails inviting you to submit papers, it is most unlikely to be widely read and respected by peers. But the European Journal of Educational Studies and its stable mates are far from the top of my mental league table of dodgy academic publishers.

Like many researchers outside the comfortably affluent west, Romanian academics are working in tough circumstances. I have no solid reason to suppose that they are merely predatory publishers. At $30 the charge is comparatively low. And the papers themselves have to be understood and judged on their merits. All that said, I  would of course advise any colleague to treat this journal and its stable mates with caution.


An unsolicited invitation from an open access journal

I’ve just received the following email:

I have had an opportunity to read your paper “An Anti-Urban Education? Work Camps and Ideals of the Land in Interwar Britain” in Rural History and can tell from your work that you are an expert in this field. . . . I am the editorial assistant of Review of European Studies (RES). RES is an open-access, international, double-blind peer-reviewed journal published by the Canadian Center of Science and Education. It aims to promote excellence through dissemination of high-quality research findings, specialist knowledge, and discussion of professional issues that reflect the diversity of this field. The journal publishes a broad range of papers from culture, history, art, sociology, religion, politics, laws, education, psychology and economics. RES takes a broad view of European issues and also encourages submissions which are with international perspective.

I checked this out. According to its website, RES is indexed in SCOPUS, which is a reputable bibliographic database. It is published by a company called the Canadian Center of Science and Education, which lists the Canadian Association for University Continuing Education as a member. So far, so good.

Less encouragingly, it turns out that the Center charges a minimum of $US 200 an article; the email did not mention an author processing charge. Moreover, the Center’s products have featured in Jeffrey Beall’s highly-regarded list of questionable publishers, and some of its journals have featured in prominent plagiarism allegations. So I won’t be submitting a paper to RER.

For some background on the ‘dark side’ of academic publishing, see this report in Nature:

And if you want to read my paper on anti-urban work camp movements, you can request a copy here:



Another dodgy publisher’s email

I have just received the following email. You may have seen somethiing similar – and it is possible that less experienced colleagues might think it is authentic.

We are contacting you because you are the corresponding author on a paper that was published in 2009. We are conducting a survey about the perceptions scientists have of information providers in scientific, technical and medical research fields.  As only a carefully selected sample of scientists and practitioners have been chosen for the study, your feedback is very valuable to us.
The survey is being conducted by a scientific, technical and medical publisher who will be revealed at the end of the survey. Under the terms of the Market Research Society Code of Conduct, it will not lead to any sales follow up and no individual (or organization) will be identified. Your results will be kept confidential and used only for research purposes.
The email was unsigned but came from the following address: It isn’t the first time that this bunch asked me to take part in their surveys. Last time, I asked the British Market Research Society whether they knew anything about them, and they said that they did not. I’ve heard rumours that Elsevier are behind this initiative, which might not be surprising given the publisher’s reputation among researchers, but if so it seems a clumsy way of responding.
The email closes with the saccharine line:

Thank you very much for your time, we really value your input.
Sincere or what?

Cold callers in the academy

I blogged recently about the publisher of Science Omega Review. In fairness to the company, I should now add that the compliance officer phoned this morning to offer an apology for the behaviour of an employee who was damaging the company’s reputation. Make of that what you will.

But the blog clearly touched a nerve. One comment, from Neuroskeptic, pointed out that a number of companies have spotted opportunities in the academic market. Dead right. I routinely receive emails alerting me to calls for papers for conferences and journals that I have never heard of.

As Neuroskeptic says, it’s not a sign of a quality event or journal when you get invited out of the blue. Another dodgy signal is that they usually have a generic email address.

This morning’s bunch, for example, included an email from someone called Kristian Hodko (with a Hotmail address), inviting me to contribute  to the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science. According to its website, the journal is ‘under the indexing process’ with ISI and Scopus. The website also names several UK academics as members of the editorial board. Its FAQ section says it charges authors $200 per paper.

I don’t find myself tempted to write something for this journal, but some people clearly do. It may even be a good or a young, emerging journal. I simply don’t know. And more importantly, a lot of people who are less experienced than I am, and at a much earlier stage of their scholarly careers, won’t know either.

How can we bring a little clarity into what has started to become a crowded and increasingly noisy market? Because if we don’t do something soon, the whole open access movement will be tainted.

Have you heard of “Science Omega Review”?

I’ve just taken a cold call from a young man claiming to be from Science Omega Review. He was offering me the opportunity to publish a paper on research in lifelong learning. Apparently the Review was just about to go to the printers, with an editorial on Michael Gove’s policies towards lifelong learning research. Would I be interested in writing a companion article?

We agreed that I knew about the topic, and that I would be willing in principle to write something. At that stage, it emerged that the Review wanted to be paid for carrying the article. I said that I wasn’t willing to proceed on that basis. ‘So’, he said, ‘you don’t believe in open access?’

The conversation didn’t last much longer. As I’d never heard of the Science Omega Review, I searched a few websites, and found an organisation called Public Service. Along with conferences and other commercial services, it publishes a magazine called Public Service Review, which included papers by a number of decent academics, so presumably they or their institutions listened to the same sales pitch that I interrupted, and decided it was worth their while to pay in order to get their research to a wider audience.

I’d be very interested to hear what other people think about this. My own judgement is that it’s a potentially worrying development, as academics under pressure to engage with ‘research users’ will be wondering how best to communicate their findings with policy makers and other non-academic audiences. Sales calls might sound appealing to some researchers – but surely there are better options, like blogs?

Meanwhile, who is behind this company, and does it really offer a quality service? And who actually reads its publications?