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.

http://neuroskeptic.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/the-rise-of-science-spam.html

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?