Validation and credentialing of scholarly publishers

A graduate student sent me the link to an article in the New York Times last week (Kolata, Gina. “Scientific Articles Accepted (Personal Checks, Too).” April 7, 2013). Among its messages was that:

…researchers are now raising the alarm about what they see as the proliferation of online journals that will print seemingly anything for a fee. They warn that nonexperts doing online research will have trouble distinguishing credible research from junk. “Most people don’t know the journal universe,” Dr. Goodman said. “They will not know from a journal’s title if it is for real or not.”

We have recently posted about the practice of predatory publishing, sometimes called the “dark side of open access.” Both our earlier post and the article linked above mention Jeffrey Beall, librarian at the University of Colorado at Denver, who maintains a blacklist of predatory journals. As the article notes, the problem extends to sham conferences and draws in prominent scholars whose names may appear on editorial boards against their will. In other cases, authors are surprised with charges amounting to thousands of dollars for articles (note that the “author pays” model is not necessarily or in itself a problem), only very late in the editorial process.

The student who wrote to me asked “if libraries are doing anything to monitor these things” (such as sham journals and scam conferences). Obviously Beall has taken on this problem directly, but I don’t believe the primary role should be left to libraries. In a recent ACRL blog entry the author notes that the American Chemical Society plans “to emphasize their society role in ‘validation and credentialing.’” I believe that scholarly societies are exactly where this responsibility should rest, with libraries acting to distribute or direct researchers to their sites.

Personally I am not convinced that the problem will go away without more involvement of the scholarly community.

A useful resource is this Guide to Open Access by my colleague, Scholarly Communications Librarian at my institution.

What do you think?

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