When you’re a librarian working with open access publishing, there is a question that comes up a lot. It’s one that many of us dread, because it tends to come with a lot of baggage, and it can be tricky to answer in a way that satisfies the querent. The question is, “What about predatory open access publishers?” Sometimes it’s asked as an attempt to discredit OA publishing as a whole, in which case it’s likely that no amount of logical argumentation and no set of facts will be acceptable as a response. More often, though, it’s asked in the context of problem-solving. Predatory OA is a threat – to vulnerable junior scholars, to authors in developing countries, to the enterprise of scholarly publishing as a whole – so what should we do about it? It’s tempting to toss off a quick, “Don’t give them your work to publish. Problem solved!” It has the advantage of brevity, but it doesn’t do much to address the very real fears of scholars who don’t have the training and the experience to confidently evaluate the worth of a given publication. To give me something to point people to when the question comes up, and to provide a useful alternative to lists of predatory publishers (more on this in a minute), I decided to share my own understanding of what constitutes a ‘predatory’ publisher and offer a set of criteria by which authors can evaluate publications. It doesn’t provide any easy answers, but hopefully it provides some useful guidance.
Why can’t I just look at a list?
Before we get to the good stuff, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the many lists in this space. ‘Tis the season, so we’re going to call them “nice” lists and “naughty” lists.
The OSU Libraries WordPress Users Group recently met to discuss a topic near and dear to my heart: multi-author blogs. As you may have gathered from my last post on the topic, I’m a big fan of the group blog format. It allows for a broader perspective on a topic and a range of voices, and good multi-author blogs are truly more than the sum of their parts. You may have also noticed that I don’t recommend that everyone venture blithely into the group blogging realm, because it comes with a set of built-in challenges that some folks will be happier dealing with than others. Based on the Users Group discussion, here is some advice to help you get the most of of your multi-author blog.
What can a group blog do for you?
The major benefits to working with the group blog format are interest, connections, and efficiency. Having multiple authors can make your blog more interesting by incorporating different perspectives and writing styles, and allowing you to cover a broader range of topics. It may give you an opportunity to connect with people you don’t otherwise have many opportunities to work with – inside of your organization and elsewhere. Finally, if writing time is limited for you, or you find you are more adept at the editing side of things than the authoring one, facilitating other people’s posts may allow you to more efficiently create a great blog.
What won’t it do?
Having multiple authors isn’t a sneaky way to ‘outsource’ your blog, and it won’t necessarily cut down on the total time you need to spend on it. If you have an opportunity to contribute to someone else’s group blog, congratulations! Most of us, if we want to work in that space, need to make it happen ourselves, and will therefore find ourselves in an editorial role. Being an editor means that you will need to articulate a vision for your blog, set it up, do a bit of writing yourself, and then recruit content. And then recruit some more content. And then follow up with the folks you recruited so that they actually turn something in. Depending on your own work habits and the level of investment on the part of your authors, it can be just as time-consuming as writing content yourself.