The Future of Open Access Publishing

The Diamond Model of Open Access PublishingOpen access (OA) publishing is a major contemporary theme that shapes many scholarly discussions today. Scholastics or academics, colleges, corporate publishing houses, non-profit publishers and journals, editors, editorial boards, labor unions representing publication employees, funding agencies, and policymakers are all vital actors in this context. They hold numerous, albeit diverse, opinions on open access.

The discussion on OA is a debate about the future of the academic world without the fetters of copyright and licensing laws. The pros and cons of traditional profit-oriented academic publishing need to be discussed, including touchy issues such as monopoly prices and inequalities in access. Many believe that traditional publishing operates within the ambits of a market economy, which does not go well with, and often inhibits, academic pursuits. Simultaneously, the discussion must also center on the contemporary perspectives on OA that are frequently advanced by the mainstream publishing industry, policymakers and labor unions, and then meet these perspectives head on with cogent arguments in favor of OA publishing.

In recent times, a new term has been added to the debate on open access publishing, viz., diamond open access (DOA) publishing. This kind of publishing gives a chance to reclaim academic commons. DOA is a non-profit academic publishing concept that looks at scholastic knowledge as a common good and encourages job security by providing employment to many in the field of open publishing. It recognizes the true essence of the academic domain as a communication system that produces and disseminates academic knowledge as a commons in the OA process.

Promotion of academic commons through DOA needs public funding, favorable policies, research grants, and a system of rewards for academicians who act as editors, reviewers or editorial board members. After all, DOA works in the interest of the academia.

Existing concepts such as “green open access” and “gold open access” have their own limitations. In particular, the green open access model has been criticized because, like conventional publishing, it also operates in a market economy; authors are asked to pay to get their works published. This often leads to “vanity publishing,” where authors pay to publish researches that are often below par. Second, gold open access works in favor of research areas that have financial backing. For instance, while researchers in fields like life sciences have the cash to pay their way through to publication, others are hard put to get their work published through the gold access model.

DOA seeks to overcome these limitations. For a start, unlike gold open access, authors do not need to pay. Second, the final publication is immediately accessible to the public.

DOA publishing has emerged as a policy intervention and reflection on current issues related to OA publishing. It incorporates the following key questions about OA publishing:

  • What role should OA play in the future of academic publishing?
  • What should the future of academic publishing look like?
  • What academic policy reforms are needed in OA publishing?

Admittedly, the debate on OA has thus far lacked vision and the incorporation of innovative social practices. Therefore, there is a need to trigger a new level of debate with questions directed at contemporary policymakers, the writing and editing fraternity, publishing houses, and OA publishing associations and librarians.

Publication Pollution by Predatory Journals

Publication Pollution by open access publication mode

In a commentary published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings Journal New York University bioethicist Arthur Caplan convokes scientists and physicians to take a stand against predatory publishing, plagiarism, and fraudulent publications, which are polluting the fields of science and medicine. He also warns that if the medical and scientific communities continue to remain in denial of these trends, the trustworthiness, utility, and value of science and medicine will be irreparably damaged.

In this era of digital publication of research works, the popularity of online scholarly journals has led to the emergence of an open-access publishing mode in which authors are often asked to pay to get their accepted papers published. This mode has become so widespread that some online journals have started misusing it. They use deceitful practices to cheat the author and pollute the network of scholarly publications. This is why they are categorized as predatory journals.

When the problem of predatory publications was posed to Jeffrey Beall, the well-known librarian and associate professor at Auraria Library in the University of Colorado in Denver, he stated that researchers, science communication, and science itself are the victims of this publication pollution.

How do such predatory journals thrive?

In the initial stage, these publishers approach authors through personalized and deceptive spam e-mails to persuade them to publish their research works in their journals. They also falsify impact factor rankings to allure researchers and authors. However, they hide the names of the owners, editors, and reviewers, and don’t even disclose their business address. They deliberately hide the fact that an article processing fee has to be paid prior to the publication of the paper. Thus, authors remain unaware about publication charges until they receive the invoice from the publication office. Later, they are forced to pay because of a sense of obligation and the urge to get their research published. This style of publishing pressurizes the author to search for alternative means to cover the unforeseen expense. The publishers also include a list of reviewers and editors on their journal pages without seeking their consent.  The journals pay no heed to the requests of authors to remove those names.

This trauma adds to the highly stressful experience of authors as they struggle to publish their research for better job prospects. In a bid to make their CVs more impressive by increasing the list of published works under their belt, authors fall easy prey to predatory journals.

The eagerness to publish articles has led many authors to the path of open-access publishers operating hundreds of journals. Barely four years earlier, the market share was dominated by larger, long-established institutions, each with 100 or more different journals in the field of science. However, according to a survey mentioned by Cenyu Shen and BoChrister Bjork in their research on predatory publications, approximately 8,000 journals of 963 predatory publishers have published nearly 420,000 articles.

These predatory journals are not only deceiving the authors, but are also polluting the academic and scientific research world. Here are some glaring problems in these predatory publications.

Misconduct in Research

Predatory journals encourage plagiarism, self-plagiarism, image and data manipulation, salami slicing of one research into several papers, and host and honorary authorship. Though some of these practices also occur in legit journals, the frequency is much more in fake ones because the prime driver of spurious journals is revenue growth. Therefore, predatory journals publish articles without subjecting them to a stringent review process. As a result, non-science and fake research articles are published in science journals with manipulative data and findings. This weakens the process of academic research. Moreover, the whole scientific research world experiences a breakdown when such articles are cited in other scientific articles in cyclical effect.

Subpar publications

Predatory journals gradually turn out to be a tool for unscrupulous authors who desperately want to obtain the annual published articles margin in their names. With fake journals offering to publish articles within a short span of time, the complicit authors succeed in publishing subpar articles. They don’t even hesitate to publish articles authored by others in their name.

Sudden blackout of such journals

In case the journal disappears from the academic community, authors not only lose their publishing fee, but also their published research work.

Therefore, in order to shield yourself from this pollution, you must carefully review contracts with your publishers and assess the publisher’s rights and assertions. That will help you ensure a long and durable relationship with your publishers. Even if the process of getting your paper published in well-known real journals is tedious and painstaking, it is definitely worth it to protect your research from being misused.