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Predatory publishers’ tricks, and how to avoid them

By Catherine Sharp, on 1 July 2022

Think Check Submit logoFully open access journals are on the rise. There are now nearly 18,000 of them listed in the trusted Directory of Open Access Journals. Many of these are so-called diamond open access journals – free of charge for authors and readers – but some of the most popular fully open access journals employ the gold model, where authors are charged a fee (otherwise known as an article processing charge) to publish. This fee may be paid through an agreement between the author’s university and the publisher, as with UCL’s transformative agreements, which include almost 600 reputable gold fully open access journals, or may be paid by the author or their funder.

Funders and universities support fully open access business models. They provide much greater cost transparency than the traditional subscription model (which is based on paying to read, rather than to publish). However, as most authors are aware, it has also opened the door to disreputable publishers who exploit gold open access by charging authors fees for publishing services that they don’t deliver. This is a particular problem for early career researchers, who may find themselves duped into paying a fee and signing away their copyright, only to find the research published in a shoddy journal, without peer-review, alongside poor-quality papers. Disreputable journals may charge authors not only to publish, but also to withdraw their research once they discover the hoax. At best, this is a frustrating and costly mistake; at worst, it damages careers.

How predatory publishers disguise themselves

It’s all too easy for early career researchers who are keen to be published to fall victim to flattering emails offering speedy publication, especially where there’s no mention of a charge up front. Some publishers have very sophisticted techniques for trapping the unwary. A case described by the University of Groningen Library, which UCL SLMS researchers have also spotted recently, is particularly clever and alarming. Here’s what to look out for.

  • You receive an email asking for a discussion about your research, or inviting you to publish in a special theme issue. The email is well-written, and refers to your previous research and/or publications.
  • The email gives the title of the theme issue as if it were the title of a reputable journal. This is designed to convince you that you are being invited to submit to the reputable journal, but in fact the email is hazy about the journal title. The UCL example read: ‘I am helping to plan a special theme issue on [our emphasis] Trends & Innovations in Public Health’; the Groningen one: ‘I am organizing a theme issue on [our emphasis] Trends in Immunology. Note the misleading capitals that make the special issue theme look like a journal title. The Trends journals are reputable journals, but this invitation is about a special issue on this topic, not a special issue in a Trends journal.
  • The publisher/society mentioned in the email has a convincing website, but is actually fake or disreputable. The society mentioned in this example was European Society of Medicine. A quick search for this organisation raises alarm bells: it has been accused of lots of predatory activity, including inviting researchers to submit to very poor-quality conferences.

This sort of sophisticated predatory activity, which has even convinced senior professors, is constantly evolving. Ultimately, authors may find themselves having paid to publish without peer-review or quality assessment in a journal with no academic merit – or to attend a conference promising top-quality delegates and sessions that turns out to be anything but.

How to protect yourself and your research

The ‘Think Check Submit’ initiative is designed to help researchers ensure that they publish in reputable journals. Its guidance, much of which can be applied to conferences, too, has been developed by trusted publishing industry groups and librarians. Below are the key questions that Think Check Submit recommends you ask yourself before submitting to any journal. Follow this guidance whenever you are considering submitting in response to an unsolicited email, even one originally sent to a senior colleague, or to a journal that you don’t know well.

Do you or your colleagues know the journal?

  • Have you read any articles in the journal before?
  • Is it easy to discover the latest papers in the journal?
  • Name of journal: is the journal name the same as or easily confused with that of another?
  • Can you cross check with information about the journal in the ISSN portal?

Can you easily identify and contact the publisher?

  • Is the publisher name clearly displayed on the journal website?
  • Can you contact the publisher by telephone, email, and post?

Is the journal clear about the type of peer review it uses?

  • Does the website mention whether the process involves independent/external reviewers, how many reviewers per paper?
  • Is the publisher offering a review by an expert editorial board or by researchers in your subject area?
  • Does the journal guarantee acceptance or a very short peer review time?

Are articles indexed and/or archived in dedicated services?

  • Will your work be indexed/archived in an easily discoverable database?
  • Does the publisher ensure long term archiving and preservation of digital publications?
  • Does the publisher use permanent digital identifiers?

Is it clear what fees will be charged?

  • Does the journal site explain what these fees are for and when they will be charged?
  • Does the publisher explain on their website how they are financially supported?
  • Do they mention the currency and amount of any fees?
  • Does the publisher website explain whether or not waivers are available?

Are guidelines provided for authors on the publisher website?

  • For open access journals, does the publisher have a clear licence policy? Are there preferred licences? Are there exceptions permitted depending on the needs of the author? Are licence details included on all publications?
  • Does the publisher allow you to retain copyright of your work? Can you share your work via, for example, an institutional repository, and under what terms?
  • Does the publisher have a clear policy regarding potential conflicts of interest for authors, editors and reviewers?
  • Can you tell what formats your paper will be available in? (e.g. HTML, XML, PDF)
  • Does the journal provide any information about metrics of usage or citations?

Is the publisher a member of a recognized industry initiative?

UCL’s Open Access Team is keen to help UCL researchers avoid predatory publishers, and would like to hear from any researchers who have experienced predatory publishing activity. Contact us at openaccess@ucl.ac.uk.

Office for Open Science & Scholarship Newsletter – Issue 5

By Kirsty, on 8 June 2022

Welcome to the sixth issue of the Open Science and Scholarship Newsletter!

This termly newsletter has updates across the 8 Pillars of Open Science, and contributions from colleagues across the university. If you would like to get involved, give feedback or write something for a future issue, please get in touch using the details at the end of the newsletter.

In this issue:

  • Editorial
  • Update from the Head of the Office for Open Science & Scholarship
  • Community voice – Extreme Citizen Science: Analysis and
    Visualisation (ECSAnVis) project
  • Special Feature – UCL Press Open Access eTextbooks project
  • Deep Dive – Highlights from the Blog
  • News and Events

Go to the newsletter on Sway, or view it below. If you use the version below, we recommend clicking the ‘full screen’ button to get the full experience!

When viewing a Sway, you can turn on Accessibility view. This view displays a high-contrast style for easier reading, disables any animations, and supports keyboard navigation for use with screen readers.

To turn on Accessibility view:

  • If you’re using a mouse or touchscreen, on the More options menu (shown as three dots on the Sway toolbar), choose Accessibility view.
  • If you’re using a screen reader, on the More options menu, when Accessibility view is selected, you hear “Displays this Sway in a high contrast design with full keyboard functionality and screen reader access to all content.”

How does Citizen Science Change us? Write up from the UCL Open Science Conference 2022

By Kirsty, on 26 May 2022

Guest post by Israel Amoah-Norman (IGP Research Intern)

The UCL Open Science Conference took place last month. Thanks to Covid, most of the sessions were online. However, on 6th April, the UCL Office for Open Science and Scholarship invited the Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) to host a hybrid discussion themed ‘How Does Citizen Science Change Us?’. The IGP bases its activities around citizen-led research. For example, it launched its first study in September 2021: where citizen scientists trained by the IGP in qualitative data collection explored the effects of regeneration on household prosperity. The session on 6th April invited members of the research team to discuss how the experience had impacted them. It also invited academic researchers outside of the IGP to present their research and discuss how citizen science (CS) had impacted them and the local communities where their studies had taken place.

A quick side note: open science is focused on inclusive approaches to producing and evaluating research i.e., it opens research beyond the realms of academia to the wider community.

Now, back to the event. The conference was split into three parts:

Dr Rita Campos began proceedings with a thought-provoking opening statement about the benefits of CS. She stated that CS provides an innovative and methodological framework for projects – a move from a top-down approach to a bottom-up approach, and helps to create opportunities for scientists and researchers to learn together.

Following her opening remarks, citizen scientists and academic researchers discussed their research projects. In total, we had the pleasure of listening to 7 presentations. It was clear that from a societal angle, CS allows the examination of issues that really matter in local communities. It also builds stronger connections between members of communities who might not have otherwise spoken to each other. In terms of the individual impacts of CS, one of the presenters who was researching air quality in a community in Liverpool realised that a data-only approach would not help mobilise communities to make a difference. A former citizen scientist trained by the IGP who is now a local council candidate expressed how CS had built her confidence in public speaking.The final part of the conference invited Pye Nyunt (left) (Former Head of Insight & Innovation at the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham) and Dominic Murphy (right) (Principal Participation Officer from the London Borough of Camden) to discuss how CS work had impacted them and policy processes in their boroughs.

Dominic discussed his involvement in the Good Life Euston program and explained how the initiative made him realise that there is a route in understanding the issues of planning and regeneration based upon the experiences of Camden citizens. He also made a comedic analogy to citizens being like the councils’ nervous system (I enjoyed that). CS work also gave him the desire to replace public consultants with citizen scientists to survey local people about their experiences in Camden.

Pye explained that CS had taught him the importance of qualitative research. Realising that in his council, a qualitative data team was non-existent, he hired service designers to fix this.  He also noted that CS initiatives such as the Community Food Club created in his borough not only help local people but indirectly relieves the financial burden on the council.

The final segment opened the floor to members of the audience – other citizen scientists and researchers asked important questions about CS. Methods for assuring that CS is inclusive, whether CS training should be standardised, and the benefits and potential drawbacks of CS were topics of discussion.

Apart from the technical difficulties of the hybrid event, it went incredibly well. I had never heard of citizen science until January of this year. I always thought of scientific research as an area which could not be accessed by local people. This event made me realise how important it is for citizens to be included in research.

Catch up on the session in full below, or on UCL MediaCentral.

Using games to engage with Open Access (and beyond!)

By Kirsty, on 18 May 2022

Guest post by Petra Zahnhausen-Stuber, Open Access Team, UCL Library (LCCOS)

In recent years, ‘Gamification’, the use of game elements in non-gaming settings to improve user experience, has been embraced by Research Support Services at Higher Education Institutes. Research Support Games cover various topics including research data management, copyright and/or open access and address an audience ranging from early career researchers and academics to support staff.

For the organisers of the Research Support Games Days (RSGD), games can be an effective tool to communicate with scholars about often complex concepts. In its third instalment since 2019, this event promotes the use of game-based learning among Research Support Services by presenting games, online tools and platforms that could be beneficial for training purposes. Here it was also highlighted, that most of these games were designed to be played in person. However, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 was a catalyst for developing more virtual games as a way of continuing the engagement with researchers when face-to-face training was not possible. Despite any the challenges of creating digital games, their advantage of reaching a wider audience outside the physical environment of research institutions becomes apparent in the following examples of Open Access themed online games.

The Publishing Trap (UK Copyright Literacy), this game about scholarly communication focuses on helping researchers understand the effect of different publishing models, copyright and finances on the dissemination of their research. First launched as a board game in 2017, in response to the pandemic a digital version was created in 2020. In both versions participants form up to 4 teams representing four scholars in different career scenarios and make decisions about how to best publish their research. Retaining most of the original features, the online version uses interactive PowerPoint slides and can be played via any virtual classroom software with a break-out room functionality, so that the element of team discussions from the board game is being replicated.

A group of people doing a jigsaw puzzle on the floor

Open Access Escape Room in action at the 2022 EARMA conference

Similarly, in 2020, the role-playing Open Access Mystery game developed by Katrine Sundsbo uses downloadable slides. It was also designed for online platforms (i.e. Zoom) to allow for immediate verbal interaction between players who are tasked with finding the culprit responsible for a global lockdown of all research. The Open Access Escape Room, also by the same author, was originally created in 2018 as a physical game and digitally adapted in 2020 under the name The Puzzling Hunt for Open Access. Both versions follow the narrative of all research being locked away by a villain and are aimed at academic staff to gain an understanding of the concepts of Open Access. The players have to find clues and solve various Open Access themed puzzles in order to unlock research. Despite not replicating the original escape room format, where participants interact with each other in teams, the online game offers more flexibility as the mixed media-based puzzles can be completed by a single player at their own pace. Like most Research Support Games, all materials are published under a CC BY licence resulting in both versions having been played and adapted further in and outside the UK.

The single-player Open Axis: The Open Access Video Game (UCLA) was always designed for a remote learning environment intending to reach a worldwide audience of graduates and undergraduates. Created in 2020, this “choose your own adventure” can be played in a web browser, is predominantly text based but features classic 8-bit video games. The player chooses between several characters portraying scholars of various backgrounds. Following a non-linear narrative, the player’s decision impact the course of the in-game stories around themes of open access, scholarly publishing and research practices.

Choosing another approach of getting scholars interested in Open Access, the team at Robert Gordon University developed five online puzzles in 2021, including memory, crosswords and a scavenger hunt. Since puzzles can be played quicker than games, it makes them suitable for bite-sized learning during icebreakers or coffee breaks.
These games form by no means an exhaustive list and it is worth delving into the manifold resources of the Research Support Games Day Proceedings (below), where the benefits and challenges involved in taking games online are further explored.

For more information on Research Support Games Days and Gamification:

Adaptions of the “Open Access Escape Room”:

New Elsevier transformative agreement

By Catherine Sharp, on 25 April 2022

Following a two year negotiation between Jisc, on behalf of UK institutions, and Elsevier, the UK has reached a transformative agreement that allows UK corresponding authors to publish open access in most Elsevier subscription journals. This is the largest UK transformative agreement yet negotiated.

UCL has a number of other new transformative agreements this year, including with society and not for profit publishers, across a wide range of disciplines. These include Cambridge University Press, Royal Society, Bristol University Press and John Benjamins. Details of UCL’s 32 agreements are on our transformative agreements webpage.

The negotiations

In 2021, the UK’s total spend with Elsevier totalled more than £50m, but only 25% of UK-authored articles were published Gold open access. The negotiations focused on reducing costs to sustainable levels, and providing immediate open access (on publication) to UK research. The new agreement has achieved significant savings, while allowing 80% of UK research in Elsevier journals to be published Gold open access at no additional cost, thus raising the visibility and impact of UK research. This also provides UKRI- and Wellcome-funded papers in most Elsevier journals with a publishing route that complies with their funder’s open access policy.

Using the agreement

To use the agreement, your paper must be of an eligible type, your journal must be covered by the agreement, and the submitting corresponding author must be affiliated with UCL or another UK institution.

The agreement covers most Elsevier subscription journals, including Lancet and Cell Press titles. There is a list of journals in UCL’s agreements on our transformative agreements webpage. Research and review papers are eligible (along with certain other types – see the same webpage).

The submitting corresponding author should use their UCL affiliation and email address in the manuscript and in Elsevier’s submission system. After acceptance, they will receive a link to Elsevier’s ‘post-acceptance author journey’, where they will be given the option to choose Gold open access under the agreement. Research funders require the CC BY licence, so this option should be chosen as appropriate.

We look forward to supporting UCL academics with this agreement.

UCL Open Science Conference 2022 – Day 2 Recordings

By Kirsty, on 11 April 2022

Thank you to everyone that attended the UCL Open Science conference last week. We had a great time and hope you did too. We have sent all of the left over questions to our speakers but we wanted to share the recordings right away! If you missed the day 1 recordings, they are already available.

UKRI Town Hall

Host: David Price
Panellists: Duncan Wingham, Rachel Bruce, Margot Finn, Jonathan Butterworth.

Open and the Global South

Host: James Houghton
Panellists: Katie Foxall, Wouter Schallier, Sally Rumsay, Ernesto Priego.

Don’t forget, you can get full details of all of the speakers in the programme.

UCL Open Science Conference 2022 – Day 1 Recordings

By Kirsty, on 11 April 2022

Thank you to everyone that attended the UCL Open Science conference last week. We had a great time and hope you did too. We have sent all of the left over questions to our speakers but we wanted to share the recordings right away!

Day 2 recordings are also available!

What does Open Science mean to me?

Host: Christiana McMahon
Panellists: James Hetherington, Aida Sanchez, Sasha Roseneil, Steven Gray.

Kickstart your research: Open Data and Code

Host: James Houghton
Panellists: Anastasis Georgoulas, Ralitsa Madsen, Oliver Duke-Williams

How does Citizen Science change us?

Host: Hannah Sender, Alex Albert, Saffron Woodcraft

Don’t forget, you can get full details of all of the speakers in the programme.

Bookings now open for UCL Open Science Conference 2022

By Kirsty, on 15 March 2022

We are very pleased to finally be able to announce that bookings are officially open for the UCL Open Science conference 2022!

The conference is taking place online across two days, and as a special trial run this year we have selected one session to be run as a hybrid event, which will be available online and in person on the UCL campus. If you want to attend the conference online, and the Citizen Science session in person you will need a ticket for both.

Tickets are free and open to everyone that is interested. Sessions will be recorded and the recordings will be shared on the blog and via social media after the event.

Download the programme

DAY 1 – 6th April –

Morning Session: 10.00 -12.30 ONLINE

What does Open Science mean to me?

Here at UCL, the phrase ‘Open Science’ routinely refers to the steps taken to open up the research process to the benefit of the wider research community and beyond. Consequently, members of the UCL community are being actively encouraged to embrace open science practices – and the cultural changes that inevitably follow. Plus, we are subsequently well placed to explore related potential opportunities including greater transparency of the research process, maximising research potential of existing resources and embedding a greater sense of trustworthiness and accountability to your research.

However, it seems the deeper we delve into the concept of Open Science, the more we seek to contextualise this phrase and question what it means to an individual’s working practices.

Kickstart your research with Open Data and Code

This session will look at some of the approaches you can take to go beyond simply sharing your data and code and instead making it Open and FAIR – Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable. Assuming little prior knowledge, we will hear from researchers and research technology professionals about how they approach making research software open source, techniques for openness when dealing with computational research, the role that can be played by Electronic Lab Notebooks, and data repositories in the Open Science ecosystem

Afternoon Session: 1.30-3.30pm ONLINE & IN PERSON:

How does Citizen Science change us?

Recent research about the impact of citizen science projects tends to focus on how public ‘participation’ in scientific research enhances knowledge outcomes for projects, or enhances the scientific literacy of participating citizen scientists. The benefits to participating individuals and communities are often assumed, and very little literature examines the personal dilemmas and challenges that individuals negotiate, or how citizen science projects change the behaviour of policymakers.

We aim to explore these gaps by inviting different perspectives on the question “How does citizen science change us?” Discussions will examine how participation in citizen science projects impacts on the different individuals involved – the citizen scientists, academic researchers, community members, policymakers – and ask how impacts on individuals can translate into wider political, societal and organisational transformations

This session will be online using the same link as the main conference. If you want to join this session in person, please also register on Eventbrite.

DAY 2 – 7th April – ONLINE 10.00 -12.30

10.10-11.20 UKRI Town Hall

The new UKRI Open Access policy has dominated discussions of the future of Open Access in the last year. This session proposes to allow the audience free rein to openly discuss the new policy with key members of the team at UKRI. After a brief presentation of the policy and guidance as it stands, the audience will be invited to pose their questions in an open forum.

11.20-12.30 Open Science and the Global South

Open Access publishing has been broadly embraced as a solution to the issue of paywalls which are often barriers to accessing research articles and, therefore, barriers to research itself. Open Access publishing removes the cost for those that may wish to read an article, but the publication process must still be paid for. Finding sustainable ways of doing this is a challenge, especially for institutions based in the global south where budgets may be more limited.

 

UKRI open access policy – slides and recording

By Catherine Sharp, on 4 March 2022

UCL’s Open Access Team has been glad of the opportunity to give presentations on the new UKRI open access policy to nearly 2,000 staff at more than 60 department and faculty meetings this session. We were recently joined by Lara Speicher (UCL Press Publishing Manager) for two more UCL-wide briefings on the new policy that were attended by nearly 150 UKRI-funded researchers. The recording and slides from these sessions are below. We’d encourage all UKRI-funded PIs, and anyone involved in submitting UKRI-funded articles, to take a look at them so that they’re prepared for the start of the policy on 1 April.

We’re grateful for UCL authors’ engagement with the policy, and for the questions that we’ve been asked about particular non-compliant publishers, including Nature (for Nature portfolio journals), IEEE, American Physical Society, American Chemical Society and Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Central UK negotiations are happening with all non-compliant publishers, and we are sharing your feedback with the negotiation teams. We hope to have more information about these and other publishers over the coming weeks and months, but in the meantime we will provide support for authors who wish to submit to these journals/publishers after 1 April. Please check our UKRI/Wellcome open access webpages and our What do I need to do? quick guide for more information.

New UKRI policy: key information

As well as our briefing sessions, we’ve recently contacted all UKRI and Wellcome PIs with the following key information.

UKRI-funded research articles, review articles and conference papers that are submitted from 1 April 2022 must be made open access on publication, under the CC BY licence (or, if UKRI grants an exception, CC BY-ND). A key change is that Gold open access in subscription (hybrid) journals will only be funded if the journal is in one of UCL’s transformative agreements.

What the policy means

The following types of journal comply with the policy:

  1. fully open access journals and proceedings (funds are available through UCL’s Open Access Team): check the Directory of Open Access Journals
  2. subscription (hybrid) journals that are in UCL’s transformative agreements: check UCL’s list of transformative agreements
  3. subscription journals and proceedings that allow you to make your final accepted manuscript open access on publication under the CC BY licence (e.g. Science, Association for Computing Machinery)

If your journal is not in these categories, you may want to consider submitting elsewhere. Alternatively, you will need to retain the right to make your final accepted manuscript open access on publication under the CC BY licence, by including UKRI’s submission wording when you submit, and negotiating a compliant publishing agreement.

See our What do I need to do? quick guide.

Other information

UKRI does not support publication charges (for instance page and colour charges). Authors should ask their journal about publication charges, and request a waiver of any mandatory charges, before submission.

The UKRI open access policy for long-form outputs applies to monographs, book chapters and edited collections published from 1 January 2024. More information will be available in due course.

Office for Open Science & Scholarship Newsletter – Issue 5

By Kirsty, on 3 March 2022

Welcome to the fifth issue of the Open Science and Scholarship Newsletter!

This termly newsletter has updates across the 8 Pillars of Open Science, and contributions from colleagues across the university. If you would like to get involved, give feedback or write something for a future issue, please get in touch using the details at the end of the newsletter.

In this issue:

  • Editorial
  • Update from the Head of the Office for Open Science & Scholarship
  • Community voice – Creating a digital organism through Open Science
  • Special Feature – UCL Press announce the launch of a new translation initiative
  • Deep Dive – Highlights from the Blog
  • News and Events

Go to the newsletter on Sway, or view it below. If you use the version below, we recommend clicking the ‘full screen’ button to get the full experience!

When viewing a Sway, you can turn on Accessibility view. This view displays a high-contrast style for easier reading, disables any animations, and supports keyboard navigation for use with screen readers.

To turn on Accessibility view:

  • If you’re using a mouse or touchscreen, on the More options menu (shown as three dots on the Sway toolbar), choose Accessibility view.
  • If you’re using a screen reader, on the More options menu, when Accessibility view is selected, you hear “Displays this Sway in a high contrast design with full keyboard functionality and screen reader access to all content.”