In a previous Grassroots Outreach column, Robert O’Mochain (2013) responded to our article (Brown & Cook, 2013), the purpose of which was to inform researchers about the growing number of journals soliciting manuscripts on a pay-for-publication basis. We are pleased that our ideas have been a springboard for more discussion on this topic, as we are in complete accord with O’Mochain that the conversation is far from over.
As O’Mochain points out, access to employment, and in some countries the very right to graduate, is tied to academic publishing (Hyland, 2012). Access to published work has also been restricted for readers through prohibitive subscription costs (Harnad et al., 2004). It is also true that the academic publishing world has been largely part of the “range of old boy professional networks” (O’Mochain, 2013, p. 68) and that these networks have a strong gate keeping function which tends to act as a barrier to off-networked or under-resourced writers (Belcher, 2007). However, it is important to note that significant and far-reaching changes are underway. While the changes may be slow in coming, the exclusive and exclusionary standards of the center are not what they once were.
Firstly, throughout academic publishing there is a growing respect for alternative voices and alternate means of expression including non-standard English prose. In some fields at least, more personalized and simplified discourse is replacing rigid center scholarship norms (Rozycki & Johnson, 2013). In fact, some say that strict adherence to disciplinary norms of communication leads to a kind of narrow vocationalism (Carter, 1995). This is giving more and more freedom to scholars to publish their work in their own voice.
In addition, the central position of high-powered journals based in the West is being diluted by a growing number of active regional communities where local scholars form both intra- and international networks of practice (Lillis & Curry, 2012). In our own regional context, who can doubt the dramatic growth and vibrancy of groups like FEELTA in Russia or CamTESOL in Cambodia?
Technology is also changing the way we interact with academic publishing, both as producers and consumers. On-line publishing models allow more flexibility in the relationship between author and reader. This has lead to widespread acceptance of the access to knowledge movement and the rise of open access publishing. Even in cases where articles are published behind pay walls with major journals, self archiving is allowing a growing number of authors to share their work for free (Guedon, 2004), whether on personal websites or academic archiving sites such as Academia.edu or Research Gate.
Finally, a fundamental change in attitude is underway. There is widespread criticism of the status quo in mainstream academic publishing. Boycotts against Elsevier, a major publisher, (Whitfield, 2012) and growing questions about how the impact, and thus status, of journals is assessed (Kennison, 2009) show that academics are moving away from the mainstream model of publishing.
Our field, and in fact all of academia, is in a state of flux as cracks develop in the old guard system and new, possibly more vibrant, ways of sharing knowledge evolve. As this evolution progresses, a sideline of predatory publishers is developing in the shadows. This is not entirely unexpected. In recent decades, whenever a new communications channel opens, a predatory minority is ready to take advantage of it. Thus email led to SPAM and on-line banking led to phishing. And now the access to knowledge movement and the advent of open-access publishing are being taken advantage of by predatory publishers of disreputable journals. Preying on scholars under pressure to publish, these journals hope that the unsuspecting will mistake them for legitimate publications. Our original column was written in response to those in the shadows; we hoped to cast some light on their practices.
Belcher, D. D. (2007). Seeking acceptance in an English-only research world. Journal of Second Language Writing, 16, 1-22.
Brown, H., & Cook, M. (2013). Unscrupulous journal solicitations: What they are, what they do, and how you can protect yourself. The Language Teacher, 37(3), 48-50.
Carter, R. (1995). Keywords in language and literacy. London: Routledge.
Guedon, J.-C. (2004). The “green” and “gold” roads to open access: The case for mixing and matching. Serials Review, 30(4), 315-328.
Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallieres, F., Carr, L., Hitchcock, S., Gingras, Y., Oppenheim, C., Hajjem, C., & Hilf, E. (2004). The access/impact problem and the green and gold roads to open access: An update. Serials Review, 34(1), 36-40.
Hyland, K. (2012). Welcome to the machine: Thoughts on writing for scholarly publication. Journal of Second Language Teaching and Research, 1(1), 58-68.
Kennison, R. (2009). If Only: Pushing the Limits of Impact Factor. Presentation School of Social Work’s Faculty Development Seminar. Columbia University. April 27, 2009.
Lillis, T., Curry, M. J. (2012). Academic writing in a global context: the politics and practices of publishing in English. London: Routledge.
O’Mochain, R. (2013). A response to Brown and Cook on “Unscrupulous journal solicitations”. The Language Teacher, 37(4), 67-69.
Rozycki, W. & Johnson, N. H. (2013). Non-canonical grammar in Best Paper award winners in engineering. English for Specific Purposes, 32, 157-169.
Whitfield, J. (2012). Elsevier boycott gathers pace. Nature News. Retrieved from <nature.com/news/elsevier-boycott-gathers-pace-1.10010>