We hear that it’s increasingly difficult to find reviewers for journal articles. Peer review is probably a hallmark of science, but the incentives are not exactly working out. Despite efforts to counter this (e.g., DORA, slow science), we still have plenty of incentives to publish articles other than the desire to share our findings with the research community (e.g., job applications when we are asked to count the number of publications, reputation drawn from publishing in a certain journal).
While open access is undoubtedly a good thing, I’ve always had some reservations about so-called gold-access: research teams pay publishers to have an article published. Obviously the idea is that we keep rigorous peer review in place, but the incentives are staked differently. We’ve seen the incredible growth of open-access publishers like Frontiers and MDPI, at times with questionable efforts like spamming researchers in a way that fraudulent journals do. It’s a grey area.
Even though publishers like MDPI engage in peer review, we frequently hear about questionable papers getting published. To be fair, that’s something that can happen to all publishers. MDPI are incredibly fast — but a pre-print will still be faster! — and they are actively unpleasant from the perspective of a reviewer. They put a lot of time pressure, which increases the chances of a rushed review.
But having reviewed for one of their journals once, now they keep spamming me with invitations to review. I use ‘spamming’ because of the frequency, and the fact that these invitations to reviews are all about work that has absolutely nothing to do with the work I do. This is not what a serious publisher does, irrespective of what we might think of article ‘processing’ charges and commercial profits. So definitely a dark shade of grey this.
We’ve seen great work in terms of diamond or platinum open access, but for it to catch on, we also need senior colleagues to come aboard (e.g., by clearly defining how junior colleagues are selected and evaluated, by submitting their work there) — ideally before commercial interests break the system completely…
https://magazin.nzz.ch/nzz-am-sonntag/wissen/profit-statt-wissenschaftliche-qualitaet-ld.1710205 (German, paywalled)
Wow, I’ve just been awarded a random honorary membership… to entice me to submit to a predatory journal? I don’t think so.
I mean it had everything going for, a membership of a journal (!), a membership number(!), and even an expiration date (obviously they weren’t that impressed to only offer a single quarter). I could identify two past honoraries… Shame I never heard of the journal, or the publisher, and shame it’s listed on this funny page here: https://predatoryjournals.com/publishers/ — because they also offer some great benefits, like “Indexing: In all relevant organizations”, an “artificial intelligence” 3rd reviewer which can (I quote) “can detect writing styles, plagiarism (for the second time), grammar, contextual spellings, vocabulary, and quality of the article without any human biasing” (?!). All this on top of priority during reviewing.
I have just received an invitation to review an article by a publisher that’s — let’s say “less established”. Given that they have been accused of being a predatory publisher in the past, I was at first positively surprised: There was none of this silly flattering of being a leading expert etc. and they apparently did try to get a proper review. Then came the title and the abstract. It had “public attitudes” in it, and a “scoping review” — so if you allow for synonyms in the keyword search, I can see how their machine picked me, but if no human is involved, neither am I (irrespective of the fact that this was utterly out of my expertise). Maybe we should react with automatized reviews, a fork of SciGen perhaps?
Funny thing: Just as I’m doing some light reading on metrics, impact factor gaming, and predatory journals with no real peer-review, I get a revised article to review where there were six (!) reviewers solicitated, all of whom made substantial recommendations.
Even though it’s become fairly common, scientific spam still annoys me. Today I’ve been “invited” to join a grandiloquent sounding society nobody has ever heard of. Key draw, being able to publish in journals nobody has ever heard of. Why would I want to do that?