Saturday, December 10, 2011

Quality of commercial scholarly publishing: what role for the industry?

As discussed in the June 30, 2011 issue of The Dramatic Growth of Open Access, we are seeing what looks like the emergence of a welcome competitive market in open access scholarly publishing. I would argue that this situation is creating new challenges as well as opportunities, such as the attempted entry of both new serious players and outright scam artists, as Jeffrey Beall notes in his highly useful list of predatory open access publishers, which I previously commented on here.

Beall's list highlights an obvious pitfall to watch out for with the article processing fee approach to open access, that is, scam artists who collect these fees without actually providing peer review services. Since this particular issue is associated with new commercial entrants to scholarly publishing, the purpose of this post is to query what role would be appropriate for the commercial scholarly publishing industry to take on with respect to monitoring their own sector? For example, the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM) is (from the STM website) the leading global trade association for academic and professional publishers. It has over 110 members in 21 countries who each year collectively publish nearly 66% of all journal articles and tens of thousands of monographs and reference works. STM Aims and Objectives include:
  • to assist publishers and their authors in their activities in disseminating the results of research in the fields of science, technology and medicine;
  • to assist national and international organisations and communications industries in the electronic environment, who are concerned with improving the dissemination, storage and retrieval of scientific, technical and medical information;
It makes sense to me for an association like STM to take on a role of monitoring quality of scholarly publication for the commercial sector.  STM and its members should never have the role of monitoring quality of scholarly publication, as this is a role that should be reserved for scholars. A number of traditional STM members are now actively involved in STM publishing, and new open access publishers such as Hindawi are members as well. It is in the interests of STM memberships to ensure that "commercial" in scholarly publishing does not become synonymous with "scam".

[Disclosure: just sent off an application to become a corresponding member of STM].