Beware of the International Journal of Education

I receive so many emails from dubious journals that I usually just mark them as spam. Occasionally, though, one comes along from a journal that sounds reasonable enough to take in less experienced or less cynical colleagues. Then I blog about it.

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The latest email comes from someone called Amy Li on behalf of the plausibly-named International Journal of Education, addressed to me by name and asking me to submit my own research, encourage my colleagues to do likewise, serve as a reviewer, and join their editorial board. This sort of scatter-gun aproach is enough to start my alarm bells ringing.

The International Journal of Education publishes on an open access basis, as Ms Li’s email says. What she does not mention is that it charges its authors fees, at a rate of $200 an article. And it is part of a stable of journals published by an organisation calling itself the Macrothink Institute, one of whose journals accepted for publication a spoof paper concocted as part of a sting by the journal Science. You won’t be surprised to learn that Macrothink was listed by Jeffrey Beall as a ‘predatory publisher’.

Interestingly, and for me surprisingly, their editorial team seems to include some genuine academics. Among those listed from the UK are a principal lecturer at Leeds Trinity University, two lecturers at Ulster University, a senior lecturer at Glasgow, and a Reader at Northumbria (listed under her previous university). Some of these academics don’t list any publications on their departmental web pages, which prompts a couple of obvious questions, but others – including two whom I know personally – seem to be decent scholars.

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An extract from Amy Li’s email

Assuming that these colleagues are aware that they are listed as members of an unusually large editorial advisory board, I wonder what they think their purpose is? Are they genuinely contributing to scholarship in this way, or are they providing an academic fig-leaf for a less than ethical activity, which may well succeed in relieving some less experienced researchers of their money? And why would you allow your name and your institution’s to be associated with such a dubious enterprise?

I’m starting to think that there may be a role here for the learned societies. After all, societies like the British Educational Research Association are fond of proclaiming their concern for early careers researchers. So in the case of the UK academics mentioned above, shouldn’t BERA take an interest?

A flattering invitation

It’s always nice to be praised. An email arrived today inviting me to speak at a conference, telling me that ‘your unique, inspirational message will be the perfect way to kick off the congress’. It goes further, describing the conference as an ‘historic event to celebrate the milestone achievement derived from you’. And it also invited me to join the conference committee. Wow!

This all sounds great. The event is in Wuhan, in China, which sounds a nice place to visit. And according to the website, I’ll also be able to hear several other ‘renowned speakers’, from Johns Hopkins, the University of Alberta, and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

It sounds ideal – but there’s a catch. My inspirational message is being requested for a conference on HIV. However you stretch it, this is not my area. And there is a nice big fee –the early bird rate for speakers is quoted at $2,149 – as well as some rather ominous talk of membership, with a fee that has to be ‘updated’. Just to add to the confusion, the invitation talks about the 4th Annual Symposia of HIV (HIV-2013), but the website lists the event on those dates as the 3rd Annual World Congress of Microbes.

So is this just another dodgy invitation? A simple mistake (I am not, sadly, the only John Field in academic)? Or an over-enthusiastic conference administrator, hoping that my swollen male pride will overcome my lack of expertise, and persuade me to share my unique inspirational message with a bunch of microbe or HIV specialists?  

At first glance, I guess you might think this is kosher. The website lists many academics on the organising committee, including a reader in maths at Strathclyde University, a reader in pathology from Cambridge University, and a professor of food studies at Ulster University. I’ve not contacted them to ask whether they really are involved with this organisation, but given that their expertise has nothing much to do with HIV or microbes, this conference – if it exists – is unlikely to be a quality event.