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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

In a world of hijacked, clone and zombie publishing, where shouldn’t I publish?3

 

When we talk to research higher degree candidates and early career researchers about publication ethics, one question comes up repeatedly. Indeed, it is a question we are frequently asked by experienced researchers, particularly those who wish to publish in a new field – where should I publish? That’s a difficult question to answer in the abstract so first we would like to remove some distractions from the decisions that need to be made. In this piece, we look at the other side of the coin and explore where researchers should not publish.

Research institutions often provide their staff with incentives to publish in top-ranking journals as determined by impact factor. Publishing in these journals can boost the university’s standing in some international rankings and national research assessment exercises. Consequently, performance indicators, promotion and recruitment criteria, track records for grant assessment and even financial bonuses may be aligned with these outlets.

Good research takes a long time and we should take care where we place our outputs. If we want our papers to be read, we need to look for a journal that reaches our prospective audience. In some fields, this might mean a niche but highly rated journal linked to a particular professional association; in other cases, we seek a journal that is covered by reputable indexes and databases like Medline, PubMed, Scopus or the Web of Science. Only then would a paper be included by subsequent systematic review or meta-analysis, for example.

However, many researchers may find it tough to break into the top 25%, let alone the top 10% of journals. Even if they can, the process can prove lengthy and frustrating as journals use robust peer review processes and may call for repeated and extensive and perhaps even unwarranted revisions. In the face of this, some scholars may come under pressure to publish quickly, particularly if the award of a doctorate or confirmation of the first job is dependent on having something in print. And, for some purposes (including Australian institutional block research funding until quite recently), quantity may trump quality.

There are traps for the unwary who find themselves in this position. Everyone wants to avoid predatory journals and publishers and, yet, not everyone does. Not even some top researchers manage to avoid these outlets according to one study of academic economists (Wallace and Perri, 2016). Researchers, it seems, can be seduced by an invitation from journal editors, an invitation sometimes filled with ‘flattering salutations, claims that they had read the recipient’s papers despite being out of the journals claimed area of study, awkward sentence structure and spelling mistakes, and extremely general topics’ (Moher and Srivastava, 2015).

While many researchers have been duped, publication scammers are not always given a free ride. A few have come under some pressure from legal authorities. In 2016, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a brief in the US District Court against the OMICS Group and related entities. The brief reveals a little about what is known about these journals. OMICS, for instance, is a Nevada-registered, Hyderabad-based entity that claims to run 700 journals. The FTC alleged that OMICS deliberately misled potential authors by misrepresenting the composition of the editorial board, the process of review, the journal’s impact factor and the fee for publication:

…the academic experts identified by Defendants lack any connection with Defendants’ journals. Further, in many instances, articles submitted for publishing do not undergo standard peer review before publishing. And Defendants’ journals’ impact factors are not calculated by Thomson Reuters, nor are their journals included in PubMed Central. Moreover, Defendants fail to disclose, or disclose adequately, that consumers must pay a publishing fee for each published article. (p.5)

Recently, OMICS has diversified its strategy. In 2016, Canadian journalists reported OMICS had bought at least the trading name of reputable Canadian publishers and appeared to have also picked up their publishing contracts with well-regarded journals. This, it seems, was done so that OMICS could use these names as a front to attract articles to its predatory publishing stable (Puzic, 2016). Some professional associations who found their publishing contracts taken over have declared their intention to break their connection to OMICS.

When assessing which journals to target for your work, you might:

  1. Read recent issues of the journal. Are the papers of a quality you would cite? Can you find evidence of good editorial standards? Would your work fit among the papers published there? What, Macquarie University counsels its staff to consider, is its relevance, reputation, visibility and validity?
  2. Check the standing of the publication’s editors. Are they members of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) or, if their journals are online, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers’ Association (OASPA); predatory publishers are less likely to be members. COPE has also created the Check.Submit.campaign to support authors’ decision-making.
  3. Talk to a research librarian, your peers and mentors about the potential publisher. If you know anyone who is on the Editorial Advisory Board, ask them about the journal at the same time that you seek to establish whether whether the journal might be interested in your work. Some leading academics have found their names on Editorial Advisory Boards of predatory journals and have discovered that it is easier to join these lists than have their name removed.
  4. Read the publisher’s policies and editorial review practices. Are they coherent, do they provide detailed information on submission guidelines and peer review processes? If they guarantee a speedy turnaround, that is often a warning sign. Check whether they impose ‘article processing charges’ (APCs). Then, check again.

Reach out to researchers that have previously been published there to discuss their experiences and impressions.

Not every legitimate journal can extract itself from predatory publishers. Where once respected journals are hijacked by criminal enterprises, they can continue their existence as ‘zombie journals’, trading off the reputation built up in the past but behaving like any other predatory journal. There are other kinds of dishonest practices. Some predatory publishers have established ‘clone journals’ who use the same title as a legitimate journal and reproduce the original journal’s website or make minor changes to the title in an attempt to deceive unwary authors (Prasad, 2017). Hijacked, clone and zombie publishing can turn a glowing recommendation into a trap for the unwitting. Analysis of criminal activities in publishing has taken a little time to catch up with offending patterns. In recent work, Moher and Shamseer (2017) argued that the term predatory journal should be replaced by ‘illegitimate entities’, refuting the idea that such entities were entitled to clothe themselves in the language of the legitimate publication industry.

So, what advice should we give to researchers about being prudent with the treasured fruit of their labours? Until recently, one quick answer might have been to avoid journals on Beall’s List, a list of ‘predatory journals’ that Jeffrey Beall, a US-based librarian, had placed on a ‘blacklist’. The list always had its critics (Naylon, 2017). Variables used by Beall such as open access, fees to publish, locations in low- to medium-income countries, and novel peer review practices are not automatically predictors of a predatory publisher. Nor does the converse necessarily guarantee a publisher is a safe choice. However, whatever its longstanding flaws, Beall’s List is rapidly losing its currency. Earlier this year Beall decided to ‘unpublish’ his list; the list is no longer updated and is only available on cache sites. Institutions seeking a successor to Beall’s List can look towards a commercial provider, Cabells, which has announced its own Blacklist. Anyone using a blacklist should also check journals against a ‘white list’ like the Directory of Open Access Journals or even the old Excellence in Research Australia journal rankings (removed from the research council websites, but still circulated discreetly like a samizdat newsletter among Australian academics).

Unfortunately, unless black and white lists are updated continuously, they can never keep up with changes in the publication industry. Some publishers once regarded as predatory genuinely improve their practices over time. On the other hand, illegitimate practices have also changed over time. Over the last few years, we have seen the movement of organised and unorganised crime into the industry, attracted by the roughly US$100m in fees that Shamseer et al. (2017) estimated (very roughly) that predatory publishers might be obtaining.

So, the quick answer to the question ‘where shouldn’t I publish?’ is that since the demise of Beall’s List, researchers need to engage in critical enquiry and reflection about a potential publisher. This should not come as a shock – the same advice would have been true long before the end of Beall’s List.

In recent weeks, we’ve been including in the Resource Library discussion pieces, papers and strategies that propose how to assess publishers.

These include:

Not the ‘Beall’ and end-all: the death of the blacklist, AOAG Webinar Series (Dr Andy Pleffer & Susan Shrubb | April 2017)

Beyond Beall’s List: Better understanding predatory publishers, Association of College & Research Libraries (Monica Berger and Jill Cirasella | March 2015)

Black lists, white lists and the evidence: exploring the features of ‘predatory’ journals, BioMed Central Blog (David Moher & Larissa Shamseer | March 2017)

Warning: conmen and shameless scholars operate in this area. Times Higher Education (James McCrostie | January 2017)

Blacklists are technically infeasible, practically unreliable and unethical. Period. – LSE Blog (Cameron Neylon | January 2017)

Beware! Academics are getting reeled in by scam journals – UA/AU (Alex Gillis | January 2017)

References

Moher, D. and Shamseer, L. (2017) Black lists, white lists and the evidence: exploring the features of ‘predatory’ journals. BioMed Central Blog 16 Mar 2017. https://blogs.biomedcentral.com/bmcblog/2017/03/16/black-lists-white-lists-and-the-evidence-exploring-the-features-of-predatory-journals/

Moher, D. and Srivastava, A. (2015) You are invited to submit…. BMC Medicine, 13(1), p.180. https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-015-0423-3

Neylon C. (2017) Blacklists are technically infeasible, practically unreliable and unethical. Period. LSE Blog. https://cameronneylon.net/blog/blacklists-are-technically-infeasible-practically-unreliable-and-unethical-period/

Prasad, R. (2017) Predatory journal clones of Current Science spring up. The Hindu, 14 July. http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/predatory-journal-clones-of-current-science-spring-up/article19277858.ece

Puzic, S. (2016) Offshore firm accused of publishing junk science takes over Canadian journals. CTV News. 28 September. http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/health-headlines/offshore-firm-accused-of-publishing-junk-science-takes-over-canadian-journals-1.3093472?hootPostID=00bc7834da5380548a8b2d58e40c8b29

Shamseer, L, Moher, D., Maduekwe, O., Turner, L., Barbour, V., Burch, R., Clark, J., Galipeau, J., Roberts J. and Shea, B.J. (2017) Potential predatory and legitimate biomedical journals: can you tell the difference? A cross-sectional comparison. BMC Medicine 15:28. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-017-0785-9

Wallace, F. and Perri, T. (2016) Economists behaving badly: publications in predatory journals. MPRA Paper No. 73075, posted 15 August. https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/73075/1/MPRA_paper_73075.pdf

Also see

Examining publishing practices: moving beyond the idea of predatory…
Continuing Steps to Ensuring Credibility of NIH Research: Selecting Journals with…
Illegitimate Journals and How to Stop Them: An Interview with Kelly Cobey and…
Open access, power, and privilege

Contributors
Prof. Mark Israel, senior consultant AHRECS, Mark’s AHRECS bio – mark.israel@ahrecs.com
Dr Gary Allen, senior consultant AHRECS, Gary’s AHRECS bio – gary.allen@ahrecs.com

This post may be cited as:
Israel M & Allen G. (2017, 26 July) In a world of hijacked, clone and zombie publishing, where shouldn’t I publish? Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/research-integrity/world-hijacked-clone-zombie-publishing-shouldnt-publish

Terms and conditions apply0

 

Kids tell us that making decisions can sometimes be hard (anyone who has taken a child to an ice cream shop can attest to this). Adults don’t often give children choices and kids tell us that when they do it can be confusing: ‘what am I being asked?’, ‘can I really say no?’, ‘do they seriously care?’ and ‘what will happen if I make a decision the adult doesn’t like?’ are questions that might spring to mind. After all, they tell us that it’s not usual for adults to seek out children’s views, to let them make big decisions or to give up some of their ‘adult power’ and act on children’s wishes.

And yet children are required to ‘assent’ to research, often with little information about what research actually is and what they will be required to do. In most cases, they know that their parents have already given permission for them to be involved – which may be reassuring but also a bit daunting (how often is it that kids can say ‘no’ when their parents have already said ‘yes’?) – but in most cases a complete stranger comes into their home or schoolroom and pulls out a note pad and asks them whether their happy to answer a few questions. “Um OK?”

Since the Helsinki Declaration there has been an expectation that children provide assent to their participation in research. Often this entails providing them with a long-winded, legalistic and ‘pretty boring’ information letter, telling them that if they agree they might get a movie voucher or at least a packet of chips and a can of soft drink before asking them to tick a box to show that they agree. As a child in one of my studies reported, the process is ‘kinda like’ the terms and conditions process they go through when downloading a new app from i-Tunes. Like 73% of Terms and Conditions non-readers, kids in research often have no idea what they are signing up for and what their rights are when things go wrong.

In a recent study my colleagues and I conducted for the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse we got advice from children and young people about how to best help kids understand and consent to participating in research on a fairly sensitive topic. Based on this advice we conceptualized consent as an ongoing process that included six steps: (1) present information in a child-friendly and accessible way; (2) make sure they understand what research is and what they are expected to do; (3) give them the choice to participate (or not) and ask them to formally agree; (4) give them lots of opportunities (and the skills or tools) to bow out of the research (particularly after they’ve got a ‘feel’ for what they are being asked to do) or to change the way that they are participating; (5) be aware of the ways that kids resist or ‘dissent’ (yawning or sneaking out of the room might give it away) and constantly ‘check in’ with them in child-friendly ways (6) Get an agreement with them at the end of the research activity that they are still happy for their input to be included in the study and negotiate what, if anything, they’re happy for the researcher to share with their parent, teacher or older sibling who is standing behind the door.

In the paper “More a marathon than a hurdle: towards children’s consent in a safety study” my colleagues and I outline how we went through these steps with kids, we describe how we used felt toys, ‘stop signs’ and ‘rights posters’ to help children and young people consent and, most importantly, quote advice and feedback from children and young people on how adult researchers might best help kids to make decisions within the research context.

One tool we feature in the article is our “Charter of Rights” poster which we provide kids in our studies. The poster informs them of what they should expect from us, as researchers, and what to do if they are unhappy. The poster is given to the children prior to them meeting with our staff and is further explained before assent is sought. On the advice of children and young people who have advised our projects, the rights charter has also been used as the basis of a series of games and activities that can be used to help children understand their rights in research (and in welfare practice). More detail about these can be found here. My team at the Institute of Child Protection Studies are working with peers from the Centre from Children and Young People (Southern Cross University), UNSW and the University of Melbourne to progress ethical research with children and young people. We’re currently hosting a survey on ethical decision-making – take a minute to fill it in! We’re keen to chat with others who are grappling with how to meaningfully engage kids in research (and support them to make good decisions) and would love to hear from you. *Terms and Conditions Apply.

Contributor
Dr Tim Moore
Senior Research Fellow | Institute of Child Protection Studies, ACU
Bio page at ACUTim.Moore@acu.edu.au

This post may be cited as:
Moore T. (2017, 21 July) Terms and conditions apply; Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/human-research-ethics/terms-conditions-apply

PID Power: Persistent Identifiers as Part of a Trusted Information Infrastructure0

 

We live in a world where fake news and alternative facts are, unfortunately, part of how we share information. Expertise is becoming less valued and, in some cases, is even seen as a liability. In this environment, how do we engender trust in scholarly communications?

Developing a strong and sustainable information infrastructure, which enables reliable connections between researchers, their contributions, and their organizations, is critical to building this trust. Many of the pieces we require are already in place, but work is still needed to ensure that they operate the way we need them to, and that all sectors – funders, publishers, and universities, as well as vendors and other third parties – understand the vital role each plays.

Persistent identifiers (PIDs) play an important part in making the research infrastructure work, and doing so in a transparent way, which builds trust.  Wikipedia describes persistent identifiers as: “a long-lasting reference to a document, file, web page, or other object … usually used in the context of digital objects that are accessible over the Internet. Typically, such an identifier is not only persistent but actionable … you can plug it into a web browser and be taken to the identified source.”

In the scholarly communications world, PIDs enable clear identification of and reliable connections between people (researchers), places (their organizations), and things (their research contributions and works). Examples of PIDs in common use in research and scholarship include ORCID iDs, ResearcherID, and Scopus IDs for people; GRID, Ringgold, and Crossref Funder Registry IDs for organizations; and DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers) such as those minted by Crossref and DataCite for publications and datasets.

So, how exactly can PIDs help build trust in the research infrastructure – and the scholarship supported by that infrastructure?

Tackling the problem of fake reviews and reviewers is a good example of the power of persistent identifiers in practice. While the vast majority of reviews and reviewers are legitimate, unfortunately some individuals and organizations deliberately attempt to manipulate the system to their own, or their client’s, advantage. Industry organizations such as COPE – the Committee on Publication Ethics – recognize that this as an issue and it’s also found its way into mainstream media, where it’s often seen as more ‘evidence’ that science isn’t working.

But imagine a world where all research institutions routinely connect their organization ID to their researchers’ ORCID records and, at the same time, assert their affiliation. That institutional validation makes information about those researchers significantly more trustworthy.

And now imagine a world where researchers routinely use their ORCID iD during the manuscript submission/review process. Where publishers routinely include those iDs in the metadata for DOIs for the papers/open peer review reports authored by those researchers. And where that information is automatically pushed back into the author’s ORCID record, for example by Crossref or DataCite. Those trusted connections (assertions)  between each researcher and her/his publications and reviews could help editors and publishers build up an authoritative picture of each researcher, creating an even higher level of confidence that they are who they say they are. Adding in information from funders about the reviewer’s awards would add an even higher level of certainty. Taken together, the use of PIDs in this way could be a powerful tool in combatting the fake author and reviewer problem.

This scenario clearly shows that tackling the issue of trust in scholarly communication requires a community approach.. Each sector plays a role: institutions connect and assert affiliations to ORCID records; publishers connect and assert works; funders connect assert awards; and PID organizations including Crossref, DataCIte, and ORCID provide the “plumbing” that enables those assertions and connections to be made, easily and reliably.

Of course, researchers themselves also need to be involved in improving trust in scholarly communications. Using PIDs is a good (and easy!) first step – the technology is already in place across hundreds of systems that researchers interact with.  So, for example, researchers who use their ORCID iD when publishing or reviewing a paper, can authorize Crossref or DataCite to automatically update their ORCID record every time a DOI for one of their works is minted (provided that their publisher includes the iD in the metadata). Likewise some funders are already collecting ORCID iDs during grant application and then connecting information about awards granted back to the applicant’s ORCID record. And, in an exciting new opportunity, it’s now possible for researchers to sign into ORCID using their institutional credentials and, at the same time, grant their university permission to update their ORCID record, including asserting their affiliation. Vendor systems across all sectors – grant application, manuscript submission, CRIS systems, and more – are supporting all these efforts.

As Simon Porter of Digital Science pointed out in his keynote at PIDapalooza 2016, the challenges of achieving this goal are at least as much social as technical. Understanding why PIDs are important is every bit as critical as implementing them in researcher systems. So, if you’d like to  play your own part in making  our vision of a trustworthy PID-enabled research infrastructure a reality, please help us spread the word about the power of PIDs in your own organizations!

Contributor
Alice Meadows | Director of Community Engagement & Support, ORCID
Alice’s ORCID staff page and Alice’s LinkedIn page
a.meadows@orcid.org

This post may be cited as:
Meadows A. (2017, 27 July) PID Power: Persistent Identifiers as Part of a Trusted Information Infrastructure Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/research-integrity/pid-power-persistent-identifiers-part-trusted-information-infrastructure

 

Building beneficial relationships when conducting research with migrant communities0

 

In my experience, projects that involve working with migrant groups and communities reveal a range of complex issues with regards to ethics and the types of the relationships between the researcher and participants. While acknowledging the importance of formal ethical requirements I also believe that the concept of research ethics has a dynamic nature which means that many dilemmas that will emerge during the study will require an individual approach that does not necessarily fit into set rules. In this context, researchers working with migrant communities may need to think about how they can do this in a way that benefits both sides and reflects well the research situation. One of the dilemmas here is how to balance the pre-designed with the spontaneous elements of this kind of academic research project, thus avoiding an instrumental approach to gathering data that could lack sensitivity to participants’ needs and situations.

One of the ways of thinking about the research process in ethical terms is to approach it by focusing on the following key elements: characteristics of the researcher and his/her social background, characteristics of the researched community, research methods and settings, research aim and wider agenda. What I also found helpful from my experience of conducting small-scale community-based qualitative projects was defining them through the prism of building relationships between the researcher and the participants in which the purpose and boundaries are clearly identified at all stages. While the characteristics of the researcher and his/her social background play an important role in defining their position within the group and should be taken into account, it is also important to consider how s/he wants to define the roles of researched community and engage with the participants. Would the participants be treated as anonymous interviewees, or act as full collaborators? In case of collaboration will their time be acknowledged and/or compensated, and how? How will the benefits from participation be communicated to the community, before, during and after the study?

Thinking and defining participants’ roles within the study can also help to distinguish different levels of formalisations of relationships between the researcher and the participants, for example, in the situation when one collaborates with community leaders and activists (as well as thinking whether it would be useful/appropriate to use them at all). Other factors to consider when identifying types of relationships could refer to levels of vulnerability of the participants in relation to state policies, immigration status, and media attention and, subsequently, in relation to the aim, subject and scope of the conducted research and its place and connection to wider contexts and networks.

The ‘research process as relationships’ approach also helps to acknowledge the dynamic nature of established connections and perceive them as something that can change and continuously develop throughout the study. The level of closeness, trust and involvement can differ at various points of the study depending on the range of individual and social circumstances of all involved parties. If the project allows, spending more time within the community before, during and after the fieldwork and identifying modes of engagement with community at each stage can help to establish positive relationships and ensure that participants benefit from them as much as the researcher. Working within community-based/migrant contexts can require additional levels of flexibility and sensitivity towards people and their lives, their concerns, tensions, experiences and stories. Integrating these complexities into the research process in the way that would benefit all groups involved in the study is an important ethical task. So, one should think how the benefits from participation will be communicated to the community, will the participation be recognised and how, whether any events will be planned after the fieldwork and whether any further opportunities for contribution to the project will be created? Furthermore, the conditions of the study itself can have an impact on time required to establish positive relationships, such as, the location of the interview (at participants’ home, community centre, public space); whether any visual methods are used and which ones (participant or researcher generated photography); number of the interviews or focus-groups, whether additional methods such as observation are used; what and how to be recorded (audio or video); whether researcher approaches the whole families or specific family members; etc.

Certainly, each project has its own unique elements and conditions and there will always be aspects of the study that will only unfold during the fieldwork when researchers are actively engaged with the participants. At the same time, thinking of the value and impact of the study and how researcher-participant relationships can improve it should be as important as designing interview schedules, consent forms, and invitation letters.

Please see the detailed discussion on ethics and positionality when conducting research of migrants’ homemaking practices:

Pechurina, A. (2015) Material Culture, Migrations, and Identities. Chapter 3. Researching Russianness: A Discussion of Methods. London: Palgrave.

Pechurina, A. (2014) Positionality and Ethics in the Qualitative Research of Migrants’ Homes. Sociological Review Online. Vol (19) 1.

Contributor
Dr Anna Pechurina – Leeds Beckett University | Senior Lecturer in Sociology in the School of Social Sciences
Leeds Beckett profile: http://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/staff/dr-anna-pechurina/ Personal webpage: http://www.annapechurina.com/
A.Pechurina@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

This post may be cited as:
Pechurina A. (2017, 26 July) Building beneficial relationships when conducting research with migrant communities Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/human-research-ethics/building-beneficial-relationships-conducting-research-migrant-communities