Predatory Journals: An Experiment

In my occupation, tenure and promotion are big deals. University professors who want to get tenure or be promoted are usually expected not only to conduct research, but also to publish that research in academic journals. And in the last decade or so, the traditional model of academic journal publishing has been disrupted by the emergence of online-only journals and by open access journals.

This disruption has resulted in some good changes. It has led to the development of alternatives to the anonymous peer review of journal submissions – a process which is supposed to be objective, but often isn’t. It can shorten the often lengthy time between the submission of a manuscript and the publication of the finished article. And it has also provided wider access to information that might formerly have been subscription-only or password-protected.

But the disruption has also led to the rise of so-called “predatory journals”. These are primarily online journals which have little or no academic legitimacy. They exist solely to make money for their owners, and they make that money by charging excessive “article processing fees”. Unfortunately, these journals prey on vulnerable researchers. That includes researchers who are desperate for publications to put on their resumes; researchers who are not confident in their writing ability; and researchers who can’t identify journals where a publication will hurt, not help, their careers. (Jeffrey Beall, who blogs about predatory journals, has an excellent list of criteria that he uses to define a predatory journal; you can find the list here).

Predatory journals regularly send out spam emails soliciting manuscripts. I receive at least three of these emails every week. Other than being annoyed by the spam, I had never really thought too much about how these journals work. But at the end of last year, two astounding stories made the rounds. One was about a predatory journal accepting a manuscript that consisted of nothing but the words “Get me off your f***ing mailing list”. The other was about a predatory journal accepting a manuscript whose text was computer-generated nonsense and which was allegedly authored by two characters from The Simpsons.

These stories blew me away. How could this happen? Wouldn’t disrespectable journals at least try to appear legitimate by rejecting blatantly fake papers? How could even a disrespectable journal miss such obvious signs of fakery? So I decided to conduct an experiment of my own.

The outcome: Two journals accepted a manuscript for publication that was not only nonsense, but also plagiarized nonsense.

Here’s how it happened. (more…)

Human Resource Management and the CBC

One of the biggest stories in work & organizations in Canada right now is the ongoing workplace scandals at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. At first, attention was focused on the firing of former radio host Jian Ghomeshi.  In the first week of 2015, Ghomeshi was charged with three more counts of assault, and  two CBC executives were placed on indefinite “leaves of absence”. But now another controversy has arisen that involves a different CBC employee – senior business correspondent Amanda Lang. According to a report quoting another CBC reporter, Lang intervened in the CBC’s coverage of a news story involving a company that Lang was paid to give speeches to; she also had a personal relationship with an executive at that company.

Before last week, it might have been possible to attribute CBC management’s ineffective strategy of dealing with Ghomeshi – which seemed to be to ignore or downplay signs of trouble for as long as possible – to the challenges of an exceptional situation that even the most experienced executive would have trouble handling. But the news about Lang’s alleged behaviour – which the CBC again seemed to manage by denial and by downplaying dissent – raises the very serious possibility that CBC has a systemic and widespread problem with its workplace culture and its human resource management practices.

A reader of this blog contacted me to point out one part of the CBC story that has largely gone unnoticed. This part involves Todd Spencer, who is CBC’s “executive director, people and culture” and is one of the two executives currently on leave. (more…)

Executives and Harassment in Organizations: An Interview with David Yamada

The New Year has started off with new developments in the story of disgraced CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi. On January 5, the CBC announced that two of its executives – Chris Boyce, the executive director of CBC radio, and Todd Spencer, the “executive director of people and culture” for CBC’s English-language operations – had been placed “on leave until further notice”. Then on January 7, what was supposed to be a routine court appearance for Ghomeshi turned into something more, as three new criminal charges were laid against him – including one involving a former CBC employee.

Ghomeshi now faces seven charges of sexual assault and one charge of overcoming resistance by choking. He has pleaded not guilty to all eight counts, and his next court appearance is scheduled for early February.

When events like this involve a workplace, there’s always the issue of whether the organization responded appropriately to the behaviour in question. In most organizations, executive positions at Boyce and Spencer’s level have the ultimate responsibility for ensuring safety and respect in the workplace. But there might be many layers of responsibility and authority between that executive level and the level at which the unacceptable behaviour is taking place. So how accountable should executives be for workplace events which they might not have had direct control over?

To get some perspective on that question, (more…)

“All About Work” Is Taking a Holiday Break

For the next few weeks, All About Work will be taking its annual end-of-year holiday break.

The blog has been a very busy place this year; thanks to all the readers and supporters that visited it and participated over the past 12 months. The five most popular posts of 2014 are: (more…)

TIPPING POINTS? MALCOLM GLADWELL COULD USE A FEW

Originally posted on Our Bad Media:

In the summer of 2012, just days before a certain columnist was found to have plagiarized from The New Yorker, a staff writer at the prominent magazine itself resigned in the wake of a widespread plagiarism scandal. The journalist, famous for pop-science works that generated scathing reviews, had been using unattributed quotations taken from other people’s interviews. He had copied-and-pasted from his peers. Generally, he had faked his credentials as an original researcher and thinker.

The New Yorker itself had a doozy on its hands. The scandal had tarred the magazine’s famed fact-checking department, despite claims that its procedure was “geared toward print, not the Web.” Editor-in-chief David Remnick was embarrassed. He’d initially kept the writer on board, distinguishing one bout of self-plagiarism from the more serious offense of “appropriating other people’s work.” Now, his magazine was losing a star that had been groomed as “Malcolm Gladwell 2.0.”

That…

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When Sexism Maybe Isn’t Sexism

Earlier this year, the University of Alberta announced that former Canadian prime minister Kim Campbell had been appointed “founding principal”  of the Peter Lougheed Leadership College. In an article about her leadership style, for the University’s alumni magazine, Campbell wrote,

When women led in [an] interactive style, it was not recognized as leadership and they did not get credit for it. Men, meanwhile, were being trained to be interactive leaders and were rewarded for their ability to manage in this new way….it was clear that I had an interactive style of leadership. It had been the key to my success in passing contentious legislation as Canada’s minister of justice and attorney general from 1990 to 1993….This approach enabled me to pass a record amount of legislation when I was in the justice portfolio, but I was sometimes perplexed at the lengths journalists would go to to avoid giving me credit for these efforts….Journalists did not recognize my leadership as such because I was not making the noises they associated with leading.

Campbell didn’t provide any specific examples of where or how journalists had allegedly downplayed her achievements because of her gender.

More recently, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark alleged (more…)

I’m not taking career advice from old white dudes anymore.

Fiona McQuarrie (@all_about_work):

A powerful, passionate and very well-argued post about the changing realities of academic work, and the inability of some academics to understand that things do not work as they once did. Thank you, Acclimatrix!

Originally posted on Tenure, She Wrote:

Recently, a senior emeritus professor called me out because he hadn’t seen me at a talk in a different department (let’s say it’s Astronomy). “I’ve never seen you at a single Astronomy talk,” he admonished. “You really need to go to those.” I patiently explained that I typically have a teaching conflict, which he brushed off, and repeated his imperative that I really needed “to go to those talks.” He was angry at my laziness in failing to attend these critical seminars in a tangentially related field, and didn’t respect my explanations that 1) I couldn’t, and 2) even if I could, I have to make hard choices and don’t always have the luxury of doing everything I’d like to.

Now, I’m an interdisciplinary scientist– in fact, my position is split between a departmental home and an interdisciplinary institute, which means I go to twice as many faculty meetings and probably four times as many…

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“I’m Not An Expert”

A number of American media commentators have recently taken aim at the fallacy of the “I’m not a scientist” argument. “I’m not a scientist” is an increasingly popular statement from American politicians who don’t believe in climate change. Whenever these politicians are presented with evidence that suggests climate change is real, they say “I’m not a scientist”, and think that excuses them from commenting on the evidence that contradicts their position. But, as several commentators have pointed out, it’s not acceptable for politicians who make legislative decisions on climate change to not be informed about it – and they don’t have to be scientists to do that. Politicians don’t have to be experts on everything, and they shouldn’t be expected to, but they do have the responsibility to know something about the issues they vote on.

North of the border, we in Canada now seem to have our own version of the “I’m not a scientist” argument. It’s the “I’m not an expert” reasoning. The “I’m not an expert” reasoning tends to arise whenever a member of the Conservative federal government uses questionable information, and then claims that the information must be accurate because it came from “experts”.

A few weeks ago, Finance Minister Joe Oliver used this reasoning while testifying at Canada’s House of Commons Finance Committee. At the Finance Committee meeting, he was asked about (more…)

Bigger than We Ever Dreamed: Some Covers of “Royals”

I first heard Lorde‘s song “Royals” the same way I hear a lot of music for the first time – at the skating rink, on a CD made by one of the younger skaters. I remember being struck by the unusual lead vocal, and by how the song was so stark and sparse – with only drumbeats and snapping fingers as instrumentation – but also so rich, with the chiming backing vocals.  However, as with many CDs at the rink, that particular CD had no label, so I couldn’t find out who did the song. I tried to describe it to one of my friends, and she said, “Oh! That’s Lorde! Her record is phenomenal, you really have to get it.” So I bought Pure Heroine, and my friend was right – it is phenomenal. And “Royals” has since won Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards, and has charted all over the world.

One of the signs of a great song is (more…)

Protecting the Workplace “Star”

Last week, in light of the ongoing revelations in the story of former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi, the Financial Post ran a column entitled “Don’t be the CBC: How employers should handle allegations of violence and workplace harassment”. The column contained some good basic recommendations for employers on dealing with incidents of harassment or abuse against their employees: e.g. knowing the law, training front-line managers, involving unions, and using outside experts to conduct investigations and assessments. However, one of the column’s recommendations – “avoid protecting the ‘star’” – really deserves a column of its own. Because that recommendation touches on a key issue that’s often overlooked in identifying and preventing workplace harassment –  counteracting workplace cultures that implicitly support harassment and abuse.

The CBC, unfortunately, seems to be providing a very good example of how these sorts of workplace cultures can flourish. Although much of the discussion of the Ghomeshi story is around Ghomeshi’s non-work behaviour, one of the women who spoke out after his firing is a CBC employee. She alleges (more…)