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:
- The US Federal Trade Commission has filed against OMICS for false advertising.
- The US Department of Health and Human Services sent them a cease and desist letter to urge OMICS to stop suggesting their journals are archived in PubMed, and mentioning employees of the National Institutes of Health in promotional materials.
- Accusations from the FTC that OMICS adds scientists to the “editorial committees” of their journals and conferences without their permission or knowledge.
- OMICS threatened to sue Jeffrey Beall for $1 billion dollars in damages.
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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