Predatory publishing in the wake of COVID-19: Advice from an editor
The Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) is one that continues to shake countries across the globe. This pandemic has pushed various countries to issue mandatory quarantine orders for its citizens. These quarantine orders have further led to a shift in the daily activities of people as they require them to stay at home. Some of us have therefore decided to use this quarantine period to improve and bolster our existing research projects. I know a number of my fellow Stratizens who are looking forward to getting published.
When conducting research, a pertinent concern that arises is finding a publisher that will accept, support and publish your research. An example of a reputable publisher within reach is the Strathmore University Press that has been publishing books and journal articles. Thus, due to the important role played by a publisher, it is advisable to exercise due diligence when selecting which one to go to.
Profits before quality
Due diligence should be an imperative since this increasingly capitalistic world has witnessed the emergence of predatory publishers. Predatory publishers exist for the primary purpose of making profits without considering the quality of the scholarship that they are releasing into the market and without letting you, as an author/researcher, earn a fair share of those profits.
Predatory publishers actively seek for undergraduate and postgraduate students to give them offers about publishing their theses or other research works. They compromise research integrity as they don’t have adequate peer- review mechanisms in place that a publisher of repute is required to have.
‘Research integrity means conducting research in a way that allows others to have trust and confidence in the methods used and the findings that result from this’. And, peer-review is the way towards achieving this.
A while back, as I was attempting to get my quarantine life in order, I received an intriguing email. The email was titled ‘Research project affiliated to Strathmore University’. It read as follows:
‘I am Luminita Vetrici from Lambert Academic Publishing, a publishing house founded in Germany in 2002 and now in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. It is my distinct pleasure to invite you to publish your research projects in the field of Law. Taking into account your expertise in this field of work, affiliated to the Strathmore University, we hope you will be interested to share your knowledge and experience with others as well. For this purpose, you may publish the works that you’ve already written or even more interesting – new data that you’ve collected on Law…Would you like to receive more information about this publishing offer?’
On the face of it, any researcher or student with no prior knowledge of predatory publishers would take this as a golden opportunity and seize it right away. And, looking at the global reach of Lambert, I have to confess that I almost did act on this offer. Lambert Academic Publishing is reported to have been releasing about 59,000 books each month and selling them via e-commerce, among other marketing avenues.
Fortunately, as I was asking Ms Vetrici about their editorial policy and style guidelines, I consulted some of our lecturers and friends of Strathmore University Law School about pursuing this offer. The advice I received is summed up as follows:
‘Urgently: I advise you to think twice about pursuing publishing with Lambert. They are deemed predatory: Read more here.
They are not a peer-review journal with reputation for your future academic pursuit. Please exercise some caution and patience.’
As you will see from this link, predatory publishers therefore pose a threat to research integrity. I found the reason for this to be twofold. First, predatory publishers are unable to effectively peer review one’s research work. Researchers who thus use predatory publishers unknowingly tend to find their research work often characterized by errors of style and, mainly, of substance.
In simple terms, their research work potentially amounts to ‘fake news’. Unfortunately, one may still legally get away with this kind of news as a classmate, Abdulmalik Sugow, has convincingly shown in ‘The Right to be Wrong: Examining the (Im) possibilities of Regulating Fake News while Preserving the Freedom of Expression in Kenya’. But, the danger that may be caused by a non-peer reviewed research is that it may be relied on by professionals to make critical decisions that could result in harming people’s lives.
Another way through which predatory publishers pose a threat to research integrity is by harming the academic respectability of the institution to which you are affiliated as a researcher or a student. In my case, this was to be Strathmore University. Yet, the University has for vision ‘to become a leading outcome driven entrepreneurial research university by translating our excellence into major contribution to culture, economic well-being and quality life.’
As a budding researcher, I thus found it essential to share this advice with the Strathmore University family as anyone could have received such a publishing offer or might have received it already. In my view, it seemed that being associated with the Strathmore brand is the threshold that has to be met to be eligible for such an offer.
So, to all those taking this COVID-19 quarantine period to write, let’s exercise some caution and patience while looking for a publisher.
This article was written by Nciko Wa Nciko Arnold, 4th-year Strathmore Law School student and Editorial Assistant at the Strathmore University Press.
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