Open Access Publishing in Radiology Journals: Navigating Treacherous Waters
Open access publishing expands access to scientific knowledge but authors should be wary of predatory publishing practices.
Over the last few years, you may have received an email like this one:
"Dear Dr. Narayan,
Given your recent paper entitled "XXXX" and expertise, we invite you to submit a paper for publication for the next issue of XXXXX journal. XXXX is a peer-reviewed, open access journal dedicated to publishing innovative research. We invite you to submit an original research article, review, commentary or case report.
We look forward to your response.
Sound familiar? Your academic colleagues have told you that publications, editorial board memberships, and speaking invitations will launch and promote your career. And voilà, now you have started getting emails offering you those exact opportunities. However, though you are eager to jump on these opportunities, you have never heard of this journal before and the email looks eerily form-like. The purpose of this blog post is to tell you why YOU are getting these emails.
In the modern era, anyone with an Internet connection can access an incredibly broad variety and depth of information for free. By expanding access to information, this technological revolution has catalyzed innovation and reduced barriers to accessing knowledge. The open access movement has pushed publishers to expand access to scientific knowledge by making journal articles available online for free. Many radiology journals are offering authors open access options with some journals being exclusively open access.
While open access publishing has expanded access to scientific knowledge, many authors have highlighted some potential negative consequences.In traditional publishing models, authors or institutions are required to pay fees for subscriptions to access journal articles. Journals use revenues from these fees to support a variety of editorial activities (e.g. peer review, editorial staff, publishing costs, etc…) and authors submitting articles often are not required to pay fees for article submission.
Open access publishing uses a different financing model for editorial activities. Open access publishing dramatically expands access to journal articles by allowing readers around the world to view articles online at no cost. To support editorial activities, however, open access publishers typically charge investigators a fee if their articles are published. In our study, we found that fees for published articles range from $50 to $4,000 in radiology journals. One potential downside of this model is the creation of a new incentive structure in which publishers are incentivized to publish as many articles as possible.This possibility raises concerns that submitted articles will not be subjected to the same level of rigor and quality control as they would by traditional publishers that have established editorial and peer review processes and are supported by access fees.
Investigators concerned about the scientific quality of open access publications have conducted a series of studies evaluating the scientific quality of open access publications. Davis et al submitted two research papers to an open access publisher from a random text generator designed to "maximize amusement, rather than coherence". One of these papers described an online process entitled "Trifling Thamyn" and was accepted by the open access publisher. Similarly, Mark Shrime's article entitled "Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs" was accepted by 17 open access journals. Bohannanon et al submitted a fake medical paper using a "scientific version of MadLibs" to 304 open access journals that was subsequently accepted by 60% of open access publishers. Finally, Sorokowski et al. submitted fake applications for editorial positions for Anna Szust (Szust is Polish for fraud) to 360 open access journals. Her qualifications were intentionally threadbare – she had zero editorial experience and had never published a paper. Despite those qualifications, 40 of these journals accepted her as an editor, often within days or hours of her application. These studies raise questions about practices of some open access journals. For authors interested in open access publishing, how can authors separate legitimate open access publishing practices from illegitimate ones?
Jeffrey Beall, a researcher at the University of Colorado in Denver, published a list of publishers with potentially negative editorial publishing practices. Beall identified negative editorial practices including limited peer review/quality control, misleading information about publishing fees, aggressive marketing campaigns, mimicking established journals, citing fake impact factors, and/or listing fake academics as members of editorial boards.Several organizations such as the Directory of Open Access Journals have created lists to identify open access journals with high quality publishing practices.
Many radiology journals have adapted and embraced aspects of the open access movement. Over the last few years, we have seen an explosion of legitimate and illegitimate open access publishing. This blogpost should provide authors with some guidance about how to navigate these treacherous waters.