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Open Access or Closed Minded

May 27, 2012, 7:59 AM

The open access movement has come to academic journals in full force. The debate has recently been invigorate by governments moving to requiring publicly funded research to be published in open access journals. This concept has been going around the US legal circles for years too. 

The point of these movements is to allow more research to get into the hands of those who can benefit. With regards to journals, open access allows for anyone, anywhere to access articles so that the knowledge is not locked in the halls of ivy but free to the world. This sounds great, I agree. But is there a cost? If so, how can we mitigate those costs? 

Here is why I ask. Last week I received a request to review for a new open access journal. I agreed and in 2 days time I received the article and began reading. 

The abstract was horrid. Not only was it written in broken English, but the content simply was not there. I trudged on. From the first sentence I smelled a rat. The English got much better yet the ideas seemed somewhat disconnected. I then Googled "plagiarism checker" and found this one. The result? Hit after hit of directly lifted phrases from published work and Internet sources. I was livid. For better or worse, I shared those thoughts with the editor. :)

In theory, an article housed in an open access journal should have gone through the same double-blind peer-reviewed process. Yet there are editors (the initial and final gatekeepers) who are not catching (or do not care about) these blatant displays of academic dishonesty. I wish this were the first bad experience I had around open access journals. Last year I reviewed an article, giving copious amounts of feedback, only to find the article published as is without any of my comments (even mundane ones focused on grammar and formatting). 

So, I ask....how can we better gauge the quality of these journals? Will there be (or is there) a quality ranking? An integrity ranking? I know the 'system' is supposed to weed out the bad journals but I doubt this will happen. Authors around the world need to publish to keep their jobs so bad open access journals will always exist as a last ditch effort.

We are at a cross roads and we need to sort this out. Academic writers are all part of the solution (and part of the problem).


Photo credit (CC) Flicker user electriclibrarian


Open Access or Closed Minded

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