Beware the for-profit academic journals and conferences

The NY Times had an interesting article on the rise of pseudo-scientific journals and conference organizations that basically dupe scientists into publishing, speaking at conferences or sitting on editorial boards and charge them a fee for doing so.  These journals have names very similar to well known academic journals but charge ‘page fees’ to scientists for publishing an article online, in an open-access format.  The article singles out the OMICS Publishing group, which publishes ~250 open-access “journals”, as being one of the major purveyors of these journals.  I get endless email from the OMICS journals asking me to submit papers, often from journals that appear to have nothing to do with my research area.  I also get endless emails from conferences in China asking me to give key note speeches on topics I don’t research.

An area the article did not cover, but is a potentially more troubling phenomena I have seen, is when industry groups buy the intellectual property of established but defunct journals and then turn them into mouth pieces for industry interests. A related trick is when industry groups publish a Supplement issue to a journal and use this special issue as a vehicle for industry funded studies.    The Journal presumably takes a fee (1) for publishing the Supplement issue but the editorial stance seems to be controlled by the industry group.   I recently saw a special issue in which the list of guest editors of the special issue almost exactly overlapped with the executive board of the industry group that funded the issue and the findings of the articles supported the stated positions of the industry group.

(1) A couple of years ago I helped organize a conference and when we approached established journals about publishing a special/supplemental issue based on the papers presented at the conference we found the cost was up to $50K.


Career Development: Writing Methods Papers

Writing methods papers/commentaries or primers on study design or study techniques can be a very useful career booster.  A strong methods paper can cite well and will have longevity, thus contributing to your H-index.  These papers can be “back-burner” projects you work on sporadically while there is down time in your substantive research, such as when you are waiting for data collection to be completed or for the lab to finish running assays for you.  They can also be good projects to work on with graduate students. Methods papers also serve the greater good of hopefully reducing the amount of flawed research being done and/or pointing out where prior research may have generated spurious conclusions.

Odds ratios diverge from prevalence ratios as outcome prevalence in the reference group increases.  (Lovasi et al 2012)

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Career Development: Include illustrations in your manuscripts

As a career development tool it is very useful to develop skills in illustration and graphic design. Several journal editors have told me that illustrations in a paper, especially those that depict a key concept, theory or causal path way, can improve the citation rate of the paper.  I think this will be especially true now that PubMed Central has the ability to search for illustrations and includes illustrations in search results.

Another advantage of providing illustrations is that their availability online often co-opts others into describing the concept in question in your terms.  Researchers often download the images from PubMed Central and use them in their classes, lectures and seminars and then explain the concepts using the language in the figure caption.

Here is an illustration of mine that I have seen used in presentations.

(Mutation Research, 2006)

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