A story on the front page of the New York Times a few days ago cleverly smeared open access scholarly publishing as somehow responsible for the rise of low-quality, pseudo-academic conferences and OA journals.
The piece noted a mini-trend of hustlers announcing conferences and open access journals that trade on the names of respected conferences and journals – and then charging academics high fees to participate in a process of dubious scientific value. Such scams represent “the dark side of open access,” according to the article by Times science reporter Gina Kolata.
There is no question that such phenomena exist. But the idea that the Public Library of Science and other OA journals are somehow responsible for these scams is absurd. As Michael Eisen, a UC Berkeley biologist and a cofounder of the Public Library of Science suggests in a recent blog post, “suggesting, as the article does, that scam conferences/journals exist because of the rise of open access publishing is….the logical equivalent of blaming newspapers like the NYT for people who go door-to-door selling fake magazine subscriptions."
“The real explanation for the things described in the article,” said Eisen, “is that it’s insanely easy to create conferences and journals and to send out blasts of emails to thousands of scientists hoping a few will take the bait. It’s science’s version of the Nigerian banking scams – something far more deserving of laughter than hand-wringing on the front page of the NYT.”