Invitations to write masterworks

Dr Philip Welsby discusses some recent invitations to contribute to a range of lesser-known journals…

I read a paper dealing with predatory or low-quality journals1 with interest. Having written about 100 papers on a wide variety of topics I have obviously been included in multiple commercially distributed lists. Between  6th October 2019 and 23rd April 2020 I received 78 e-mail requests to contribute papers by journals dealing with neurology, bioengineering, psychiatry, criminology and society, pregnancy, reproduction, genomics, stem cell technology, eye disorders, dental disorders, yoga and physiotherapy, molecular and cell biology, nanotechnology, stokes, medical cannabis, endocrinology, diabetes, and gynaecology. My favourite invitation to contribute. “Tittle: (sic) Membrane Proteomic Insights into the Physiology and Taxonomy of an Oleaginous Green Microalga.”  I cannot claim any professional or amateur expertise in any of these subjects.

Requests were often effusive and often combined with an invitation to speak at conferences, symposia or colloquia. The initial greetings used in these requests were all encouraging. “Hope you are doing well! Hope this email reaches out to you in good health and blithe spirit. I hope your morning is as bright as your smile! I was surprised to be told that “I had a great eminence in the field.”

The reasons for the opportunities offered were music to my ears if not to my brain. Four examples “A potential crew member in the World’s most revolutionary journey towards the best possible future, a borderless World of Eutopia and Cornucopia.” “Congratulations on the nomination to join your country’s most prestigious team, you are one of your country’s best Experts.”  “We hope 2-page article isn’t time taken for an eminent like you.” And “It will be a great honour and privilege to invite you to submit your research work in the fields of Medical science, Community medicine, molecular medicine, Reproductive medicine, pulmonary medicine, Internal medicine, Family medicine, Forensic medicine, Emergency medicine, Addiction medicine, Geriatric emergency medicine, etcetera.” I love the etcetera. Where will my potential end?

What are the clues to such financially predatory journals? Only a minority initially mention that I would have to pay. Talents for my talents? Internet searches revealed a high proportion were recently created journals. One journal even was honest enough to admit “All the short/full length manuscripts are accepted for publication in the journal.”

Some combined the titles of well-established journals. Thus a legitimate Rockall Journal of Epidemiology and Rockall Journal of Microbiology now become the Rockall Journal of Epidemiology and Microbiology (Rockall is a solitary uninhabited granite outcrop in the North Atlantic Ocean).

Some journals also request me to write peer reviews but only offer a small non-expandable box that would entitle them to claim they are peer reviewed.

Another publisher requested my contributions to The Annal of Limnology and Oceanography. Truly an honour to be asked for my thoughts or research on limnology, a subject that I needed to look up in a dictionary (limnology is the study of bodies of fresh water). Also the Journal of Business Administration and Management and the Journal of Plant Science and Phytopathology. I was hoping that the International Society for the Liberation of Colonic Miasma would have sought my wisdom invite me to contribute a series of reports (I made that up).

People are inclined to be critical of such money-making approaches and feel that authors would not have to pay if their work were meritorious. Indeed I feel a sense of pride that I have never paid to have published anything I have written. But before I become consumed with self-righteousness I pay to play in an amateur orchestra that gives concerts. So what is the difference?

REFERENCE

Current perspective on predatory or low-quality journal. Misra DP, Ravindran V.  J R Coll Physicians Edinb 2020;50:224-225.

 

Philip Welsby is a retired consultant in Infectious Diseases based in Edinburgh. He is an Assistant Editor of the Postgraduate Medical Journal.

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