Publish and be damned

The online world is awash with trolling, gaslighting and hate speech, and the academic portion is sadly not immune, despite its background in evidence, logical argument and rigorous analysis. For the avoidance of doubt, Simon Linacre establishes fact from fiction for Cabells in terms of Open Access, predatory publishing and product names.


When I went to university as a very naive 18-year-old Brit, for the first time I met an American. He was called Rick who lived down the corridor in my hall of residence. He was older than me, and a tad dull if I’m honest, but one evening we were chatting in our room about someone else in the hall, and he warned me about setting too much store by perceptions: “To assume is to make an ass out of u and me,” he told me sagely.

Twenty years later, while I have come to realize this phrase is a little corny, it still sticks in my mind every time I see or hear about people being angry about a situation where the full facts are not known. Increasingly, this is played out on social media, where sadly there are thousands of people making asses out of u, me and pretty much everyone else without any evidence whatsoever for their inflammatory statements.

To provide a useful point of reference for the future, we at Cabells thought we should define positions we hold on some key issues in scholarly publishing. So, without further ado, here is your cut-out-and-keep guide to our ACTUAL thinking in response to the following statements:

  • ‘Cabells is anti-OA’ or ‘Cabells likes paywalls’: Not true, in any way shape or form. Cabells is pro-research, pro-quality and pro-authors; we are OA-neutral in the sense that we do not judge journals or publishers in these terms. Over 13% of the Whitelist are pure OA journals and two-thirds are hybrid OA.
  • ‘Cabells is anti-OA like Beall’ or ‘You’re carrying on Beall’s work’: Cabells had several discussions with Jeffrey Beall around the time he stopped work on his list and Cabells published the Blacklist for the first time in the same year (2017). However, the list did NOT start with Beall’s list, does NOT judge publishers (only journals) for predatory behavior, and the Blacklist shows considerable divergence from Beall’s List – only 234 journals are listed on both (according to Strinzel et al (2019)).
  • ‘Predatory publishing is insignificant’ or ‘Don’t use the term predatory publishing’: The recent FTC judgement fining the Omics Group over $50m shows that these practices are hardly insignificant, and that sum in no way quantifies the actual or potential hurt done by publishing fake science or bad science without the safety net of peer review. Other terms for such practices may in time gain traction – fake journals, junk science, deceptive practices – but until then the most commonly used term seems the most appropriate.
  • ‘The Whitelist and Blacklist are racist’: The origins of the word ‘blacklist’ come from 17th century England, and was used to describe a number of people who had opposed Charles II during the Interregnum. It is a common feature of language that some things are described negatively as dark or black and vice versa. Cabells is 100% pro-equality and pro-diversity in academic research and publishing.
  • ‘Cabells unfairly targets new or small journals with the Blacklist’: Some of the criteria used for the Blacklist include benchmarks that a very few legitimate journals may not pass. For example, there is a criterion regarding the speed of growth of a journal. This is a minor violation and identifies typical predatory behavior. It is not a severe violation which Cabells uses to identify journals for the Blacklist, and nor is it used in isolation – good journals will not be stigmatized by inclusion on the Blacklist simply because they won’t be included. In the two years the Blacklist has been in operation, just three journals out of 11,500+ listed have requested a review.

Building bridges at NASIG 2019

The theme of this year’s NASIG Annual Conference – Building Bridges – was appropriate for a number of reasons. Not only did the meeting take place in the City of Bridges, but the idea of connecting the various global communities within academia was present in many of the sessions. What’s more, the core mission of NASIG is to “facilitate and improve the distribution, acquisition, and long-term accessibility of information resources in all formats and business models”: in essence, building a bridge to knowledge.

There were an array of sessions building on this “connectivity” theme: discussions on linking to disabled members of the community through greater accessibility, to resource users through technical and customer services, and to future academics through digital preservation, to name just a few. However, the session that caught our collective eye at Cabells was one that focused not so much on building bridges, but rather on blocking the way down a dangerous road …

While there is no debate (we think) that predatory journals are causing problems in the scholarly publishing landscape, there are differing opinions on the magnitude of these problems.  “Minding Your Ps and Qs: Predatory Journals, Piracy, and Quality Questions” was presented by Marydee Ojala, Editor of Online Searcher Magazine and Regina Reynolds, Director of the U.S. ISSN Center and Head of the ISSN Section of the Library of Congress.  Ms. Ojala, a former academic and corporate librarian, spoke of the danger, especially in today’s ‘fake news’ environment, of calling into question the validity of scholarly research by muddying the water with junk science and ‘sting’ articles filled with nonsense.  Ms. Reynolds suggested the problem of predatory publishing is overstated and exists due to a market created by academia through several enabling forces.

What was made clear in this session is the fact that more and more librarians are becoming aware of predatory publishing and the dangers it poses. They are also becoming keenly aware that they must rethink how they evaluate collections and what researchers are finding in available databases. Instead of going directly to subscription databases, many researchers turn first to Google or Google Scholar. A quick search on these platforms will make it clear the results contain predatory articles alongside legitimate ones. The use of LibGuides, instructional videos, posters, presentations and even one-on-one communication to educate researchers can go a long way to changing the methods they use.

When discussing whether the problem of predatory journals is overstated (a firm ‘no’ in Cabells’ opinion), Mr. Reynolds made several interesting points.  Enabling market forces such as open access, a rapidly growing number of scholars worldwide, the disadvantages of the those in the global south, and the ‘publish or perish’ mindset have created a fertile ground for predatory publishing activity. To think that it will not be taken advantage of is short-sighted.  Predatory journals give scholars who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to publish a chance to publish; this highlights an uneven playing field in academia that must be corrected to stem the tide of predatory enterprise.

Ms. Reynolds discussed the idea that predatory journals exist as a response to an environment, and market, created by academia itself.  Is the scholarly community willing to turn its collective back on predatory publications?  Is every academic serving on the editorial board of a predatory journal doing so without their knowledge and consent? Of course not, just as not everyone who publishes in a fake publication is duped into doing so. There must be a concerted effort throughout the scholarly community to reject the easy route to publication and CV glory on the back of fraudulent publications. As Ms. Ojala pointed out, there are resources (most notably the Journal Blacklist) that are working to shine a light on deceitful operations to alert researchers, librarians and administrators to stay away; as Ms. Reynolds pointed out, these stakeholders must be willing to heed the warning.

Lasting impressions from another great SSP Annual Meeting

The Society for Scholarly Publishing’s Annual Meeting, the 41st such event, was held this year in beautiful San Diego and the Cabells team once again had an amazing time reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, and attending excellent sessions full of great discussions. The focus of this year’s meeting was on connecting stakeholders from around the globe to usher in a new era of scholarly communication. A common theme that emerged in so many sessions was the importance of previously underrepresented groups and markets being connected to the scholarly community as we move ahead to tackle new challenges and bring about the “New Status Quo.

Having had some time to step away and reflect on the meeting we are imbued with a sense of community and the pressing need to work toward removing barriers that prevent the sharing of research. Things were kicked off on a very high note by Dr. Mariamawit Yeshak, Assistant Professor of Pharmacognosy at Addis Ababa University, who spoke of the disconnect between the rate of publication and impact on societal development in Africa in her opening keynote.  Dr. Yeshak stated that “research is not complete until it is shared” and that was a common theme that could have been applied to many sessions throughout the meeting.  The need to leverage technology to ensure indigenous peoples and their methods in key areas such medicine, farming and animal husbandry are not marginalized was made clear.

Inclusion and diversity can not just be buzz words. They must be the tenets that we use to build the future of scholarly communication.  This thought was also front and center during the day 2 keynote talk by Betsy Beaumon, CEO of Benetech, a nonprofit organization with the mission to empower communities with software for social good.  Ms. Beaumon spoke of the need to think of those with disabilities from the outset when developing technology.  The key to her message was, “everything born digital must be, and can be, born accessible.”  There are one billion disabled people on the planet and the vast majority of them cannot consume information through the traditional methods that have dominated the information sharing landscape.

Technological innovations are opening a world of possibilities to those who were previously denied access to knowledge. While this is a huge move in the right direction, it is also important to think critically of existing technology and examine just how accessible the products and platforms are (or quite possibly, are not) and how they can be made truly accessible to all.  While there has been significant progress made in this area, and more and more technology is being developed to be accessible from “birth,” there is still a great deal left to be done.

Thanks to all who made this year’s SSP Annual Meeting a memorable one, and we cannot wait to see you all next year!

Guest Post: Business Ethics — Challenges and Conundrums

Are case studies about to play a key role in the development of business teaching and cultural awareness? In a guest post Gina Vega, Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Instructional Cases, argues that the need for higher education, the business world and society at large to collaborate is stronger than ever, and invites interested parties to get involved in this critical discussion.


Business includes any transaction that requires money or ownership to change hands. Even in a barter-based society, engagement in business would be unavoidable in our 21st-century world. Business is what we “do.” However, the way we conduct our business is not consistent between individuals or across cultures and nations. Our business conduct reflects our norms and serves as a measure of the moral nature of our society.

We often relegate the topic of the moral nature of society to philosophy, the study of systems of thought. Business ethics is applied ethics, or the study of systems of action to our own actions. Philosophy provides the structure, but the behavior itself emerges from our inherent sense of morality which, in its turn, derives from philosophical perspectives, socio-economic and legal models, and religious training.

The many forms of decision-making are the core of business ethics: how we make decisions, why a decision must be made, how we can evaluate various options for action and select a recommendation, how we can reflect on the purpose of the decision and its potential consequences, which tools we can apply when analyzing an opportunity or an action, the correct identification of the decision to be made, syncretic (reconciled) approaches to harmonizing options and opportunities, and more. How do we apply the lessons learned from a vast array of multi-disciplinary theories to the small, daily decisions we make in business, and how do we wed our various small tactical decisions into a strategic behavioral thrust for our organizations?

We start by asking four BIG questions:

  • Cui bono? (Who benefits?)
  • Who is going to get hurt?
  • How will my decision affect my personal sense of morality?
  • What is the goal of business?

We conclude with an even bigger question:  What actions do our values endorse?

Cui bono?

The Starting Block

Regardless of our role in an organization or business, we are frequently confronted by conundrums that challenge our moral compass, our ability to apply ethical standards, and our actions on the ground. Our goal is to develop and share materials that can help our students learn how to handle the ethical issues that grow from today’s experiences and trials through providing guidance and practice in ethical analysis.

At the International Journal of Instructional Cases (www.ijicases.com), we share a strong commitment to advancing good business ethics curricula for both undergraduate and graduate programs. To that end,  we are sponsoring a competition aims to generate teachable concise cases with expanded teaching notes related to addressing the ethical challenges presented to businesses and organizations internationally for use in the classroom and the boardroom.

Case submissions may focus on any specific ethical theme, as long as the case is four pages or fewer, following the submission guidelines here.   Cases may be submitted in English, Spanish, or French and will be reviewed in English.

Cases may be focused specifically on any area that relates to business or organizational ethics on a wide variety of levels: individual, teams, SMEs through multinationals, even nations or regions. Challenges may come in the disciplines of marketing, management, human behavior, economics, finance/accounting, logistics, and others.

Prize:  The winning case will receive an award of US $250 and fast track review for publication in IJIC. The prize will be awarded in December 2019.

Key Dates:

  • 1 March, 2019, Submissions open
  • 1 August 2019, Submission deadline

We warmly encourage your submissions and your visits to www.ijicases.com where we are pursuing a focus on a wide range of societal forces that have evolved into an increasingly complex web of societal, government and business relationships.  As society is changing and raising its expectations for business and government, the existence, power and changing nature of our relationships and expectations requires careful, and ethical management attention and action.  The need for education, business, and society to work together has never been more critical. We have made our personal and professional commitment to developing tools that encourage the next generation of learners to share our focus on ethical business behavior.

Please join us!


Gina Vega, Ph.D. Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Instructional Cases, taught corporate social responsibility and entrepreneurship for 20 years and is widely published in academic journals. She has written or edited seven books, including The Case Writing Workbook: A Self-Guided Workshop (1/e and 2/e, also in Spanish).  Dr. Vega is a Fulbright Specialist with assignments in Russia (2010), the UK (2012), and Peru (2018). She has been Editor-in-Chief of The CASE Journal, associate editor of the Journal of Management Education, and Teaching Case Section Editor of Project Management Journal. She is president of Organizational Ergonomics, an academic services consulting firm through for writing workshops and technical writing assistance (www.orgergo.com ).

Not all black and white

Two recently published articles by Cabells highlight the problems facing scholarly publishing. Their author, Simon Linacre, summarizes the articles and explains why publishing services are likely to see an increase in demand


Why do people go to a coffee shop? These institutions seem to have been doing a roaring trade in recent years, fueling the growth of multinationals such as Starbucks as well as local stores specializing in artisan coffee. But people going to these places are not there to drink coffee – they are there to meet friends, do some work, read a book or 101 other different things in addition to having a coffee. The success or otherwise of coffee shops is not necessarily down to the quality of the drinks available, but how well they facilitate the needs of their customers.

And in the digital world, those needs are changing fast, as they are for academic libraries the world over. People no longer visit the library to find information, but to do almost everything coffee shop customers also do. Which is why you will often find the best coffee places inside libraries, where 30 years ago you would run the risk of being thrown out for daring to drink the brown stuff.

Changing places

If libraries must adapt quickly, then so do publishers, and simply putting books and journals online doesn’t quite cut it in the brave new digital world. In 2019, the scholarly publishing press has been awash with stories of cancellations and so-called ‘read & publish’ deals that mark the transition from predominantly subscription deals to open access agreements between libraries (and the consortia/governments that represent them) and academic journal publishers. However, this is not the beginning of the end of academic publishing, more likely it is the end of the beginning of the second phase of scholarly communication development.

The first phase was subscriptions themselves and their dominance and growth during the 20th century; the second phase began with the Big Deal which almost inevitably has ended with the move to free access and open access to research. The next phase is likely to focus on a shift towards the taxonomizing and facilitation of research, so that the huge boom in available content will in some way be more manageable for researchers. This is why they will likely want to use the library as a resource – as well as for getting a decent coffee while they do so.

User case

In two articles recently published in EON, the journal of the International Society of Managing and Technical Editors (ISMTE), I have set out how the Cabells Whitelist and Blacklist are geared up for this third age of publishing in supporting academic libraries to meet the challenges currently facing them. In the case of the Whitelist, it helps academics understand the myriad of options they have where once they had a relatively simple choice of which journal they should choose to submit their research articles. Now they have a much more complex picture before them. Depending on where they are based as a scholar, there may be Open Access mandates in place directing you to choose Open Access-only journals, or lists of designated journals from your Dean in given subject areas, or repositories or platform-based outlets that do not operate like traditional journals at all.

So, for the user of journals or any kind of research platform, the picture is a complex one. However, in addition, there are risks inherent in this complexity as predatory publishers prey on uncertainty and lack of knowledge of this new, changing publishing environment. In this respect, the Blacklist also supports the work of librarians, research managers and authors themselves by providing a reliable, curated list of 11,000+ predatory publishers that researchers should steer well clear of.

Combined, use of the Whitelist and Blacklist can act as a safety net for those involved in the decision-making process for article publishing. This process will never be a black and white process, but it hopefully adds at least some clarity to the blurred lines that have rapidly emerged in recent years.


References

Linacre, Simon (2019) ‘Life Without Journals? Platforms, Preprints, and Peer Review in Scholarly Communications’, Eon (March 2019) https://doi.org/10.18243/eon/2019.12.2.2

Linacre, Simon (2019) ‘Hiding in Plain Sight: The Sinister Threat of Predatory Publishing Practices’, Eon (April 2019) https://doi.org/10.18243/eon/2019.12.3.1

Two worlds collide

Two events this week in the UK have little in common at first glance, aside from the fact that the Cabells team are attending both of them. In his latest post, Simon Linacre compares and contrasts #UKSG2019 and #ICAM2019 in order to tease out how such events can remain relevant in today’s changing scholarly environment.


The life of an academic, and those who make a living supporting their work, can be a nomadic one at times, thrusting you in and out of both familiar and unfamiliar scenarios at breathless speed. This week, I joined one of my colleagues at Cabells at the UK Serials Group (UKSG) conference in Telford, and while the location lacked a certain glamour, it made up for it in interesting debates and the feeling that at least some progress was being made to improve the lot of librarians and the work they do.

Cabells was very pleased to sponsor the pre-conference seminar, which was organized by the Society of Scholarly Publishers (SSP) with the theme of “’We’re Not Who We Used to Be’: Shifting Relationship Dynamics and Imbalances in an Open Access World”.

Image by SSP

There were a number of great talks on the development of open access (OA) and what the next steps were likely to be for industry initiatives such as Plan S, as well as more macro happenings such as Brexit.

No limits

A discussion afterward on how people saw their roles changing in the light of the anticipated OA developments – be you a publisher, librarian, academic or industry professional. Of particular note was reference to the notion of a ‘facilitated collection’ – discussed in Lorcan Dempsey’s recent blog post which relates to how libraries main focus has shifted from acquiring research for their academics to use to facilitating the use and access to a much wider variety of resources, some of which are acquired but some of which is increasingly available through the myriad of open access resources now available. However, the reality of almost limitless resources is that increasingly limited librarian resources struggle to support academics find their way.

Helping hand

This scenario is familiar to us at Cabells and is one of the reasons we developed the Journal Blacklist to help both librarians and researchers understand not all open access journals and articles are of good quality, and indeed can contain bad science or lack any form of peer review. Thanks to a shout out from Ebsco’s Sam Brooks in his plenary at UKSG, where he recognized Cabells’ contribution to identifying predatory journals that even the most skilled researchers had trouble doing so.

And so, after returning home from Telford we have a quick turnaround before heading North to the beautiful city of Edinburgh and the AACSB’s International Conference and Annual Meeting. Attended by the great and the good of business schools globally, its theme is ‘Challenging Core Foundations’, which similarly addresses the changing landscape of the modern digital age, and what it means for its delegates and institutions. For business schools, these changes mean that they are being pushed to explore new perspectives on how business education could and should develop to meet new demands, and one hopes the ideas exchanged in the old city of Edinburgh next week can match the new thinking put forward by librarians this week.