When e-mail first became available, it was a great innovation that made communication fast and cheap. Then came spam--and suddenly, the innovation wasn't so great. It meant having to filter out irrelevant, deceptive and sometimes offensive messages. It still does.
The same corruption of a great idea is now occurring with scholarly open-access publishing.
Early experiments with open-access publishing, such as the Journal of Medical Internet Research and BioMed Central, were very promising. Set up more than a decade ago, they helped to inspire a social movement that has changed academic publishing for the better, lowered costs and expanded worldwide access to the latest research.
Then came predatory publishers, which publish counterfeit journals to exploit the open-access model in which the author pays. These predatory publishers are dishonest and lack transparency. They aim to dupe researchers, especially those inexperienced in scholarly communication. They set up websites that closely resemble those of legitimate online publishers, and publish journals of questionable and downright low quality. Many purport to be headquartered in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada or Australia but really hail from Pakistan, India or Nigeria.
Some predatory publishers spam researchers, soliciting manuscripts but failing to mention the required author fee. Later, after the paper...
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