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.

New Picture

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.


A dodgy journal and my brush with celebrity

From the Wikipedia entry for Miley Cyrus

From the Wikipedia entry for Miley Cyrus

I just had an email from Miley Cyrus. Or to be more precise, the email came from someone calling themselves “Mili Cyrus”.

At the bottom was the signature of one Dr. Kathleen M. Everling, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Tyler, inviting me to contribute to a journal of which she is editor. I won’t be writing for the Journal of Education and Human Development, whose publication processing fee for a research paper is 200 $US, and is published by a body calling itself the American Research Institute for Policy Development.

This email could be kosher, but it looks to me like another bunch of chancers who are taking advantage of – and probably damaging – the open access movement. I’ve blogged on this topic before. But I thank Mili Cyrus, whoever you are, for allowing me to post an entirely off-topic image of the qeeun of twerking.

A legal requirement for open access?

Last Thursday, the German state of Baden-Württemberg approved a new law on higher education. It covers quite a number of areas, from access to degree study to an Ombudsman system for doctoral research students, but it is the section on open access publishing that has attracted far the most attention.

Under the new law, universities are required to support their researchers in exercising their right to a non-commercial reproduction of their work after a period of one year. As the publishers do not accept that researchers have any such ‘right’, it is entirely unsurprising that they are bitterly critical of this provision.

Theresia Bauer, the Green Party minister who guided the law through parliament, argues that open access is desirable in principle as a way of informing public opinion. She also cites more practical grounds: the public already pay for the research, and the rising price of journal subscriptions means that even university libraries struggle to pay once more for the published findings.

Conservative opposition politicians have supported the publishers, arguing that it contravenes copyright law. Some prominent academics have even argued that the requirement to make their publicationsavailable in an institutional is an attack on academic freedom.

Mercedes-Benz-welt, Stuttgart

Mercedes-Benz-Welt, Stuttgart

You might not know much about Baden-Württemberg, but that doesn’t make it a minor backwater. It has nearly 11m inhabitants and its capital, Stuttgart, is home to some of Germany’s best-known quality car manufacturers. It could serve as a model of the successful, dynamic city-region, with a high density of researchers among its population. The state also houses a thriving wine industry and the beer is pretty good too (I once enjoyed a pint – yes, a pint – in a bar that claimed to have been Hegel’s regular when he was a student).

If Baden-Württemberg chose to declare independence from the rest of the federal republic, it would be one of Europe’s most prosperous and attractive countries. So I am starting to wonder what would happen if the Scottish Government adopted a similar principle, and insisted that all academics in publicly funded universities in Scotland should similarly make their work available online.

If Holyrood were to reach such a decision, they would find themselves in open conflict with the UK Government, which has opted for the far more publisher-friendly model of ‘gold open access’. Picking fights with Westminster is what Alex Salmond likes best, so long as he is on a winning wicket. In this case, I am pretty sure that he would find widespread support for ‘green open access’, both in the research community and among the wider public who pay for our research.



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?

Why I’m not writing a chapter about lifelong learning

I’ve just rejected an invitation to write an entry for the International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences. The editors wanted me to write 5,000 words covering life course approaches to education and learning. It’s an easy enough task, and it is important to ensure that our field is well represented in multi-disciplinary collections like this, so normally I’d have been happy to get on with the job.

Earlier this year, I joined a growing group of academics who are taking action against commercial publishers who block public access to research. Elsevier, who are publishing this Encyclopedia, are a particular focus of attention because they have so actively lobbied governments, especially in the USA, to enact legislation blocking the free exchange of information. They also charge exorbitantly high prices for subscriptions to individual journals, then offer discounts to libraries who buy ‘bundles’ of journals (many of which they do now want).

This is an enormously profitable business. In 2010, Elsevier reported a profit margin of 36% on revenues of $3.2 billion. Very little of this makes its way back to academics or their universities. Like most people, I never expected to make money from academic publishing, so let me be very clear that I am not boycotting Elsevier because I want a fatter slice of the pie.

The first edition of this Encyclopedia is still available, apparently, at the price of €7,360. Elsevier offered me a fee of $100 for my chapter – just 2 cents a word, or 1 cent after tax (and we could write pages about that as well).

There’s nothing wrong with making a living. But academic research is largely funded from the public purse – yet commercial publishers ensure that the public never get to see most of it, except in the garbled form of a press report. According to the specimen contract, Elsevier allow authors ‘the right to post the Contribution on a secure network (not accessible to the public) within your institution’.

Note that qualification – not accessible to the public. In short, those who have paid for my research. I find this abhorrent, and that is why I am a supporter of open access publishing, which makes academic research available online. It isn’t the answer to all our prayers, and it doesn’t resolve the problems of ensuring that our research is understood and accessible. That is another challenge. In the meantime, I’m supporting the Cost of Knowledge movement, and encourage others to do likewise.

For details of the Cost of Knowledge boycott, see: