Vanity Press Journals

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 11 May 2007 12:54:13 +0100

On Thu, 10 May 2007, [identity deleted] wrote:

> Professor Harnad,
> In my discipline... there has developed
> a plethora of vanity press journals that with time and money virtually
> guarantee a publication. Recently we had a job candidate who had
> capitalized on this process and was comparing his work to that in
> reputable... journals. In reputable... journals, as in most
> disciplines, the acceptance rate for submissions are low and outright
> rejection is the most likely outcome. I am interested in any articles
> or research reports that investigate this issue. Of course in the top
> research universities only an article in an elite journal is acceptable,
> but in second tier universities some faculty attempt to use the vanity
> press route to inflate their resume.
> Are you aware of any articles or working papers that expressly address
> the issue of proliferation of these vanity press journals that attempt
> to sell themselves as legitimate academic outlets?

I am afraid I don't know anything on precisely the question you asked,
but I will forward your query (anonymized, and removing details about
discipline, etc.) to the sigmetrics list.

My general answer would be that it has always been known that the
journal quality hierarchy stretches down all the way to a vanity press
at the bottom, and that the name and established quality standards of
the journal has always been taken into account, rather than just a blind
bean count of publications. In addition, both the impact factor (average
citation count) and more recently the actual citation count of the
article and the author have also been weighed, in evaluations. Still
more metrics will soon be available.

Apart from deliberate vanity-press pseudo-journals (in some fields there
are also homologous pseudo-conference-proceedings) there is also the
question of legitimate new journals that have not yet had a chance to
establish a reputation or an impact factor. I think it would be unfair
to class the latter with the former, though it is probably true that it
is easier to get a paper accepted by a new journal; this too has
exceptions, though, such as PLoS Biology, which explicitly began seeking
to establish the highest standards, and succeeded from the very outset.

In particular, it is incorrect to assume that journals that charge for
publication are all vanity press journals. Open Access journals that
charge for publication, for example, are not vanity press journals.

There have also been some studies on the relation between journal
citation counts and rejection rates (positive correlation) but this
correlation will not be as high as one would expect, as high-quality
journals develop a reputation, and sometimes that means authors
carefully self-select rather than submitting and wasting their own and
referees' time. But even for this there are exceptions, such as the
highest-profile journals, Science and Nature, which receive so many
submissions from authors (who send it there first, like a lottery) that
they have multi-tier refusals, including declining to referee a paper
that does not look as if it has a chance.

So the overall picture is probably more complicated than just the
proliferation of vanity journals, authors trying to use them, and
hiring committees unaware of them.

I did not understand the allusion to "online opinion poll." (There are
indeed some who want to replace peer review by online tags and comments,
but I don't think that has gotten very far.)

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Received on Fri May 11 2007 - 21:11:05 BST

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