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  • The World View

    A blog from the Center for International Higher Education

A Plague of Journals
January 15, 2012 - 11:50am

Clever people have figured out that there is a growing demand for outlets for scholarly work, that there are too few journals or other channels to accommodate all the articles written, that new technology has created confusion as well as opportunities, and (finally) and somewhat concerning is that there is money to be made in the knowledge communication business. As a result, there has been a proliferation of new publishers offering new journals in every imaginable field. The established for-profit publishers have also been purchasing journals and creating new ones so that they “bundle” them and offer them at high prices to libraries through electronic subscriptions.

Scholars and scientists worldwide find themselves under increasing pressure to publish more, especially in English-language “internationally circulated” journals that are included in globally respected indices such as the Science Citation Index. As a result, journals that are part of these networks have been inundated by submissions and many journals accept as few as 10%.

Universities increasingly demand more publications as conditions for promotion, salary increases, or even job security. As a result, the large majority of submissions must seek alternative publication outlets. After all, being published somewhere is better than not be published at all. Many universities are satisfied with counting numbers of articles without regard to quality or impact, while others, mostly top-ranking, are obsessed with impact—creating increased stress for professors.

A variety of new providers have come into this new marketplace. Some scholarly organizations and universities have created new “open access” electronic journals that have decent peer-reviewing systems and the backing of respected scholars and scientists. Some of these publications have achieved a level of respectability and acceptance, while others are struggling.

Not surprisingly, however, there are now a large number of “bottom feeders” who are starting “journals” with the goal of earning a quick profit and presumably little else. One of these new journals charges prospective authors a “transaction fee” of US $500 to be published.  Others have different ways of exploiting unsophisticated authors. All have impressive sounding names and lists of prominent advisory editors—some of whom have in fact never been asked to serve.  Clearly, authors are not served by these “journals” that have no academic standing and will not be read nor cited by anyone. These new publications have only one purpose — to enrich their owners. It is, however, increasingly difficult for potential users to discern respectable journals from the new fakes.

Technology and globalization have brought anarchy to the communication of knowledge in academe and have created serious problems for the academic profession in a time of increased competition. 


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