Friday, 20 March 2015

Predatory Science Journals

The scientific method is probably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, ideas that mankind has ever embraced. It is for this reason that I am disheartened by creationist pseudo science journals such as Answers Research Journal. But, this is an easy journal to criticize as its based on a very evident pseudo science and any one with half a brain can easily dismiss anything published in this journal as faux. Unfortunately, the problem becomes more severe when we consider what is called predatory open access journals.  Before I delve further, maybe I need to explain some what open access is.

Open access, is the idea that an author pays a fee to publish in a journal. Now, while this may seem like a bad idea as it can get abused. The idea originally is for science (which often is publicly funded) to be available to anyone anywhere. Based on this original idea, research can progress even in poorer institutions, as they have access to journals which normally would be too costly. Additionally, the public who pays for the research can get to see the results and learn at the same time.

So, all in all its a great idea. But, like anything you get people that are willing to corrupt great ideas. This is where predatory journals come in.

A predatory journal works like any good business should by pushing various sales technique. One technique is to go out and entice scientists to publish in their journals. For example, they will send out invitations to get you to publish with them, by asking you to write a highlight pieces etc. However, all they care about is getting your money and the article is just paperwork that gets rolled out. Another technique is to just ignore peer review or do really bad peer review and not listen to reviewers opinions. For example, there have even been cases where these journals have accepted unscientific/fraudulent papers sent as part of a sting operation by Science magazine. Its problems like this that can lead to false results being published and pseudo scientific ideas being propagated.

In closing, the reason I am writing this post is to basically promote skepticism on all levels. When something is published in a science journal it may not always be trustworthy if the publisher is not trustworthy. The idea of open access is good, but we need to be careful.

Science goes forward, but we still need to be careful of the people that want to take it backward.