An unhappy coincidence ?

by John Quiggin on April 10, 2017

The other day my incoming email included an invitation from an Olla Galal, special issue developer at Hindawi publishers, to be the Lead Guest Editor for a Special Issue of Occupational Therapy International. Nothing too surprising in that, although my knowledge of occupational therapy would barely extend to a paraphrase of the name. I’m always getting invitations like this, and while I had the impression that Hindawi was a cut above the kind of predatory publishing house that does this kind of thing, I wasn’t too sure. (I have received previous invitations of this kind from them, but in fields where I could at least be a plausible candidate.

What made me pay attention was this

In June 2016, Wiley and Hindawi entered into a new publishing partnership that converted nine Wiley subscription journals into Open Access titles. The journals will be published under both the Wiley and Hindawi brands and distributed through Hindawi’s online platform
So, if this is accurate, I could become a guest editor for a Wiley journal in a field in which I am totally unqualified. More seriously, authors of papers in the old version of Occupational Therapy International “very well respected in its field with an impact factor of 0.683” according to Olla Galal, will now be associated with the new one.

Having got this far, I thought I should check Beall’s list of predatory journals, only to discover that it went dark on 17 January* for unexplained reasons. This is certainly depressing. It seems that even supposedly reputable academic publishers are now engaged, with only the fig leaf of a “partnership”, in seriously predatory behavior. How long before we see them pandering to the demand for “alternative fact” journals to give proper credibility to creationism, climate science denial, antivax and so on, if they are not already?

  • Only a couple of days before Trump’s inauguration. Coincidence?

{ 3 comments }

1

faustusnotes 04.10.17 at 7:29 am

I received an invitation to peer review for a Hindawi journal and almost immediately turned it down on the assumption that they’re predatory. So I went to Beall’s list and found that it had not so much gone dark as been possibly retracted. There are lots of criticisms of Beall’s list and of his affiliation with Elsevier, and apparently weeding out the predators from the merely poor quality is difficult. Retraction watch noticed it and had a few other links. If you dig around on the web you can find a lot of criticism of Beall’s list, his criteria, his war with Frontiers, and his uncritical acceptance of Elsevier’s quality (I found a report of him publishing a pro-elsevier article in an Elsevier journal, though I can’t seem to rediscover it).

So I checked the contents of the Hindawi journal that had asked me to peer review and decided it was a legit journal, even if it wasn’t exactly very high quality. All the articles were on topic, the journal had a legitimate editorial board, it was indexed and at least had an impact factor, and the period of time from submission to acceptance was consistent with actual peer review. So I did the peer review and I hope they will continue to improve the quality of their journal.

When I was digging around one thing that was pointed out was that Hindawi publishes a lot of North African and South Asian papers by non-native English speakers, and it’s possible that at least some of the suspicion falling on it is connected to the providence of the authors and the location of the publisher (Cairo, I think) – i.e. good old fashioned racism. So I say well done to Wiley for being willing to take a risk on a growing publishing fold.

I think there are still lots of problems with open access and we definitely need a replacement for Beall’s list – a properly curated one – and we all need to teach our students how to identify predatory publishers. But I’m not convinced Hindawi should be regarded as such.

2

F 04.10.17 at 7:12 pm

Hindawi is … not good. Take, for example, Organic Chemistry International. It has published a grand total of 117 articles over the last 9 years, including just one in 2015 and just 3 in 2016.

Journal of Chemistry is doing a bit better, having published 3299 articles in 13 years, including almost 85 in 2017 so far.

To be fair, the articles in both journals do not appear to be fake or fraudulent, just very low quality. Is there a legit place for very low quality journals, or are these blatant cash grabs from universities near the low end of the totem pole? Maybe and yes are my best guesses.

Their method for hiring editors is completely indistinguishable from spam, though, and almost none of the soliciations I’ve received are any more relevant to my expertise than John’s example. I can’t see how they would be able to maintain (much less improve) quality without editors that actually know the field.

3

Alan White 04.11.17 at 3:06 am

Aren’t these emails prima facie self-promotion and predatory? I get tons of them and view them as junk. If a recognized scholar contacts me personally about something, then that’s one thing. Non-descript phishing expeditions are just that.

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