Should software companies choose not to work with predatory publishers?

Jake Beal

With so many journals out there, it can be hard to know which ones are legitimate, and which ones have adopted so-called “predatory” practices – publishing anything as long as authors can pay. In this guest post, computer scientist Jacob Beal at BBN Technologies highlights one way he believes software companies may indirectly endorse questionable publishers by working with them– and why they should stop.

If you are a researcher, there’s a pretty good chance that you know Editorial Manager, the manuscript-handling system used by a vast number of journals, including Nature and the PLoS family of journals. In a publishing environment made increasingly murky by so-called “predatory” and other low-quality publishers, it used to be the case that seeing Editorial Manager was a clear signal that a journal was at least legitimate, whatever other pluses or minuses it might have.

Unfortunately, that appears to no longer be the case. A few days ago, I received yet another paper solicitation from a journal published by OMICS Publishing Group, a member of Jeffrey Beall’s now-defunct list of predatory publishers. This one, however, had cloaked its origin, nowhere mentioning OMICS but prominently inviting submissions through Editorial Manager. Only by actually following their submission link do you find that it is an OMICS publication. Nor is this the only one: A little bit of poking around finds other OMICS publications on Editorial Manager, and it’s unclear how many others may be out there.

OMICS is also not shy about announcing its relationship with Editorial Manager. On the part of its site called “Reputation Gaining,” OMICS says (sic):

The open access journals are tracked and handled using standard tool such as the Editorial Manager® system by a vendor, and a credible quality check team.

When contacted about this issue, Aries Systems, the company behind Editorial Manager, wrote back, in part:

Our brand is indeed damaged when there are questions about the business practices of any of our customers. However, as a software developer and vendor, Aries is not in a position to be an arbiter, monitor or to sanction the practices of otherwise independent publishers. Aries would undoubtedly face criticism and potentially legal consequences if it tried to do so.

OMICS Publishing Group, however, is not just any publisher. They have earned quite a bit of notoriety over the years, and their history reads much like that of any scam organization, including highlights such as:

Aries, like any company, is in a position to choose who it does business with, as long as those choices do not infringe on legally protected categories. Moreover, any business has a responsibility to exercise a reasonable degree of due diligence in its transactions with other businesses. I believe that it is incumbent upon Aries, as a responsible member of the scientific publishing community, to exercise a modicum of judgement in which organizations it chooses to contract with for access to Editorial Manager.

Freedom of speech is absolutely critical in the scientific community, but we must not forget that one of the choices you make in exercising your freedom of speech is whose voices you choose to amplify. Removing OMICS from Editorial Manager would not be Aries declaring itself “an arbiter or monitor,” but rather Aries would simply be declining to actively promote OMICS with their platform. OMICS could then find other means of “reviewing” papers, as it did before it started using Editorial Manager.

I hope that Aries will reconsider their promotion of OMICS. Until then, Aries will continue to be publicly associated with the misdeeds of OMICS, and all of us will need to remember: Editorial Manager is alas no longer any sort of indicator of legitimacy.

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6 thoughts on “Should software companies choose not to work with predatory publishers?”

  1. In other words, we should also ask the US government to stop issuing $US because some questionable people pay for questionable activities with this currency. Nuts. The software to operate a journal process can never provide a legitimacy halo to the contents of a journal.

  2. If the US Government was handing $US directly to some questionable people who were paying for questionable activities, we certainly would ask the US Government to stop doing so (in fact this precisely did happen during the Iran-Contra fiasco).

    If the software company was doing business directly with a party using the software for questionable activities, software company members should exercise their moral duty to distance themselves from said questionable actors. If that means the questionable group has to get the software through a third party, then them’s the hoops an illegitimate actor needs to jump through. Said questionable actor can either clean up their act if they want to maintain a direct link with a stand-up software company, or turn to the third-party vendor arena otherwise.

    As you say, the software company should not be expected to stop producing the software just because some outside group figured out a questionable application for the software. But the software company will suffer consequences if they maintain close and direct ties to such parties.

  3. Aries leased Editorial Manager to OMICS in 2008, before the term “predatory journal” was even coined. See this newsletter announcement:
    I doubt OMICS was legitimate at first and then adopted their nefarious practices; I am sure they had the model for publishing in 2008 that they are using today. And with an almost decade-long business relationship, I also doubt that Aries will dump OMICS anytime soon. Which is all the more reason for authors to be vigilant in their due diligence of journal assessment and selection for a publication venue.

  4. It’s a shame I was considering Editorial Manager but why deal with those who knowingly enable crooks. If you sell housebreaking tools to someone you have a good reason to think is a burglar then you are an accomplice before the fact to any burglary they commit. That’s how I see it.

  5. I’m sorry, the suggestion that Aries is knowingly, and ok with these publications practices is completely misguided. An analogy for these comments would be: Microsoft should be held responsible for hackers. I agree, what can be done should be done, but, at the end of the day it’s the cunsumers responsibility to use the system correctly. Short of reading and verifying all articles on every publisher site, there is not alot that can be done.

  6. Presumably, Aries knows now that it is assisting crooks. Surely there’s a learning curve but claiming “immunity”. The “have to read” “all articles” is a risible ‘argument’.

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