November 22, 2017 | Academic Affairs

By Philip Pecorinobird walking into the open mouth of a crocodile, pen and ink drawing

After growing concern over the “Replication crisis”—the difficulty in verifying the results of funded scientific research—there is growing attention to the increase in “predatory” journals and conferences as outlets for dissemination of scientific findings without the standard rigorous review by peer experts.

The Federal Trade Commission has recently filed  an action against “predatory publishers and conferences: publishers who exploit “open access” journals as a means to charge excessive fees to scholars seeking to publish their work. Organizers of predatory conferences include the World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology and the OMICS Publishing Group.

Scholars must guard against the quality of their work being compromised when their findings are disseminated through problematic for-profit journals and conferences. Institutions also need to be concerned when these publications may create a tainted institutional image that would compromise a college’s ability to secure grant funding or recruit accomplished scholars because even  the popular press is now taking note of what has been a growing scandal in the academy that has involved some CUNY colleges. Internationally, some institutions are now publishing guides to Publication Ethics in an effort to discourage the use of questionable outlets for faculty research.

CUNY has recently issued another communication on this matter offering guidance to all faculty and recommended the work of Monica Berger Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Predatory Publishing but Were Afraid to Ask (2017). The Committee on Publication Ethics, the Directory of Open Access Journals, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association and the World Association of Medical Editors have collaborated in an effort to identify best practice for scholarly publications. Academic disciplinary organizations have created lists of possible predatory journals that scholars would do well to consult before answering calls for submission.

It is expected that funding sources will be taking note of where the results of federally funded activity is being published or presented and will be discouraging researchers from using what now even the NIH statement of 11-3-17 below is terming “predatory journals.” The NIH now directs authors to:

  • Adhere to the principles of research integrity and publication ethics;
  • Identify journals that follow best practices promoted by professional scholarly publishing organizations; and
  • Avoid publishing in journals that do not have a clearly stated and rigorous peer review process.

It is highly likely that grant applications will be screened for faculty work as reported on their resumes or listing of past work that has been disseminated via the problematic outlets. It could very well be that future funding applications will be rejected if there are items listed by the applicants that have appeared in such “predatory journals” or conferences operated by for profit enterprises.

Faculty who must, as professionals, care about the integrity of the profession and their academic disciplines and the merit of legitimate scientific inquiry and must avoid contributing to the efforts of those who would discredit those enterprises when they produce findings or take positions not favored by those who now hold the political power to withhold funding for the work of scholars, humanists, scientists and artists.

Faculty need take great care and exercise due diligence in determining the outlets for their work.

Philip Pecorino is a professor of Philosophy at Queensborough Community College, where he chairs the Faculty Executive Committee, and a member of the UFS Executive Committee.

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Drawing by Henry Scherren, 1906.