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The Paid Journal Trend: A Roadblock To Quality Higher Education

By Adfer Rashid Shah, Mohd. Rais Khan, Swaleha A Sindhi & Aparna Dixit

26 August, 2013


“The aim of this article is to emphasize upon the menace of racketing journals and proliferation of low standard publications that publish everything and thrive on payment basis without caring for the research quality or research methodology adopted. Currently such journals are being published round the globe turning the intellectual exercise of knowledge production (publication) merely into a business venture. Such a devastating trend has negative ramifications on the quality of research and higher education itself.”


Actually it is the research in higher education that leads to a quality higher education itself. The quality higher education in turn comes from the current research and new innovations that are brought forth and highlighted by relevant journals and books in any field of study. We cannot achieve quality in higher education if the research supporting the very education is not quality. In the contemporary times, we see scores of such journals and publication houses coming up and thriving upon the research and publications that lack quality, methodology, relevance and need but are simply reproduced on payment basis. Such journals and book publication houses have actually sabotaged the whole research ethic and quality in research and higher education especially in India.

The Economy of Publications

Are our scholarly journals really so scholarly? I think not all for money factor has crept in. The new idea of subscription and subscription fee paid not by readers as one would have expected but by writers themselves who want to see their name and gather publications in their credit in a plethora of such quality less but all quality journals. Writers write and pay not just the subscription fee but actually the publication charges and get anything published even without an iota of objective analysis, relook, revise critical assessment, review, rejection or academic ethics though peer reviewed labels on such frivolous publications remain intact. Now editors of such paid journals have made it a booming business where people are eager to publish anything to enrich their profile and strive for promotions or for well paid jobs in academia (now a lost tradition but well paid).Such a devastating trend has tarnished the standard of research in the contemporary times and turned the whole exercise meaningless and most importantly commercial. Now the 'Reader Pays' pricing model is fading but writer pays and sees himself published model is flourishing. Such an 'Author Pays' pricing model has certain negative fallouts like compromise over research quality, factuality, objectivity, empiricism, careful editing, error free jottings, lack of writings with impact, writings for change, writings for contribution to the body of research or knowledge, etc, in the stuff published in such a fake peer reviewed journals. Further reproduction of a plagiarized content where there is open Access to one and all thereby diminishing the rapport of quality research work for the cheap trend of ‘write anything and get published and read yourself’ is flourishing too fast. In many cases the writer gets only two readers, both himself/herself and the journal owner. It sometimes gives a feeling that an editor/owner of such journals is hardly different from a truck owner.

Why Should a Writer Pay?

Why should a researcher pay when he takes lots of pains to conduct a study and sends free of cost to a journal just to see his name? He/she does so for circumstances demand so now. In fact journals should pay the author for they always get the free material (even not raw material) and make good business without actually investing much. This reflects sheer exploitation in publication business. But it is the powerless researcher/writer who hardly gets space just on quality (quality to big journals means what suits them) basis today thereby falls prey to such exploitation.

Factors Responsible

Such a trend has also got boost by API score pattern introduced by the UGC by virtue of which a rat race has started among the academics and they write anything trash/Google/plagiarized and get it published at all costs simply to meet their scores for the promotion. In this game cheap and quality less journals have evolved that publish on payment basis from authors thereby defeating the actual cause of academia and research and excellence. It has had adverse impact upon the research quality as well for most of the times it is nothing but internet material/content that is churned and re-churned with some language changes and reshaped in such journals. Also in the name of interdisciplinary approach, some journals even publish one article from management science, another from environmental science and the other from chemistry or zoology in the same edited book or journal which is totally of no utility.

The ISSN/ISBN Dilemma

Just consider the unchecked increase in the number of journals. Using Ulrich's Periodicals Directory, it was observed that publications grow at a rate of 3.26 percent per year (i.e., doubles about every 20 years). The main cause: the growth in the number of researchers and now by some policies of UGC and International agencies they are the responsible for rate race of publications at any cost by the researchers. In certain countries, all serial publications covered by legal deposit must have an ISSN. ISSN is automatically assigned and publishers should ensure that it is printed on each issue. When a publication (print or electronic, scholarly or non scholarly) is assigned an ISSN, it means that it is a continuing resource according to the ISSN criteria (a serial, a website, etc). ISSN does not provide any guarantee as to the content of that resource, or any evaluation of its content and does not provide evidence of its validity. The difference between ISSN and ISBN is simply that ISSN is assigned to serial publications while ISBN is assigned to monographs ("books"). An ISSN can be assigned to a series of monographs as such and an ISBN will be assigned to each separate book of the series.

Now- a-days due to UGC and other International regulations researchers are trying to publish their works in refereed and reputed journals but people don’t know about real phenomena of research journals. The publishers are earning big money on our work - even ask us for extra money to be paid to them for extra pages or full color pictures. While we the authors get absolutely nothing. Instead, we are even asked to pay the subscription to the journal we are publishing. Would this make sense to a book-writer?

Suggestive Rectifications

Especially in India, the paid journal menace can be stopped by following:

First, limit the number of papers to the best three, four, or five that a job or promotion candidate can submit. That would encourage more comprehensive and focused publishing.

Second, make more use of citation and journal "impact factors," from Thomson ISI.

Third, change the length of papers published in print: Limit manuscripts to five to six journal-length pages, as Nature and Science do, and put a longer version up on a journal's Web site. The two versions would work as a package. That approach could be enhanced if university and other research libraries formed buying consortia, which would pressure publishers of journals more quickly and aggressively to pursue this third route. Some are already beginning to do so, but a nationally coordinated effort is needed.

There may well be other solutions, but what we surely need is a change in the academic culture that has given rise to the oversupply of journals. For the fact is that one article with a high citation rating should count more than 10 articles with negligible ratings. Our suggestions would change evaluation practices in committee rooms, editorial offices, and library purchasing meetings. Hiring committees would favor candidates with high citation scores, not bulky publications. Libraries would drop journals that don't register impact. Journals would change practices so that the materials they publish would make meaningful contributions and have the needed, detailed backup available online. Finally, researchers themselves would devote more attention to fewer and better papers actually published, and more journals might be more discriminating. Best of all, our suggested changes would allow academia to revert to its proper focus on quality research and rededicate itself to the sober pursuit of knowledge. And it would end the dispiriting paper chase that turns fledgling inquirers into careerists and established figures into overburdened grouches.
Last Word

The UGC and other National and International agencies must look into this menace seriously and such exploitation must stop immediately so that we can improve the quality of research in India. Such a trend has also set a different impression among the young researchers who manage good number of publications through these journals without actually knowing about their publications seriously. It is s imply a mad race and needs to be stopped. Moreover, the fact remains that the academic publishing market is tuning more exploitative/commercial wherein hardly any space is reserved for young researchers by credible journals, who later in search of identity and pressures publish through payments. At least the conscious society must not let such a devious trend prevail that has already wreaked a silent havoc and still goes unchecked. Young researchers should not fell prey to these commercial journals but must try to contribute their writings in quality publications.

As a result, instead of contributing to knowledge in various disciplines, the increasing number of low-cited publications only adds to the bulk of words and numbers to be reviewed. Even if read, many articles that are not cited by anyone would seem to contain little useful information. The avalanche of ignored research has a profoundly damaging effect on the enterprise as a whole.

(Authors are the doctoral Scholars of Sociology, History, Education and Women’s Studies respectively. Record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, at adfer.syed@gmail.com).



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