Monday, December 31, 2007

Write-only publications

A former student who is currently doing his dissertation at another school asked me yesterday if I had ever heard of the publisher IGI-Global. They were spamming a database research mailing list asking people to write a chapter for a book. He just started his dissertation, but was pretty sure that you don't get asked anonymously by a publisher to write a book, but personally by some respected editor.

I clicked on the site and was surprised to see that they call themselves "The industry leader in delivering scholarly knowledge in computer science and information technology management". I had never heard of this publisher before.

Okay, so maybe I don't read the right books. The topics looked interesting - E-Learning was right at the top, then I saw the prices in a very small print: $1,750.00 (6 volumes), $94.95, $565.00 (2 volumes), $165.00

Who in their right mind would pay prices like this? I surfed a little further, as I had never heard of any of the editors and authors of these books. The Wikipedia entry read just like the advertising blurb - and quoted only articles that reprint press releases by the company.

I looked for peer reviewed articles in the ACM Digital Library that quote some book published by this publisher - no results. That's odd. I can google people who have their publication lists online and include books published here, but I can't find any serious quotation of any of the books. Of course, that doesn't mean it's not there, it just means I can't find anything right off.

Is this a case of write-only publication? With the pressure to publish so high, I am wondering how we can tell if publishing houses are legitimate, or only there for people to pad their publication lists, much as these fake conferences that keep popping up in interesting vacation spots. Step up, pay your price, get your publication.

Since I sit on a number of search committees, how can we tell if the publication lists of the applicants are "real" publications and conference papers or not? I am beginning to see the point in citation lists, although they, too, are not very reliable.

Digging deeper into the IGI site I find that they offer free online access to the books to libraries who purchase one of the overpriced books. Ah, this seems to be the thing. The authors do seem to exist; however, they teach at minor schools. The business model seems to be: young academic writes book, publishes here, library purchases overpriced book, academic now has a book published, gets a new job at another university, has library there purchase book, etc. etc.

Any thoughts on this? Am I being too pessimistic? Is this the only way for non-major-players to get published these days?

14 comments:

  1. Got into a good discussion with the author of the Wikipedia article on this publisher. He noted that I should research the old company name, "IDEA Group", so I did that in the ACM Digital Library.

    I got 27 hits.

    Okay, a quick test of 3 showed that all 3 citations were self-citations, that is, the authors of papers were citing their own books published by this publishing house.

    So I sat down and looked at all 27 results. 5 were nonsense one (word "idea" and word "group" found, but no citation to a book by this publisher). 15 of the references were self-citations, only 7 were by researcher groups that had none of their authors as authors of the IDEA book. I did not check if they had published together with them, though.

    I then checked "Springer Verlag" - over 25.000 hits on this German publisher, and that's for an English-language set of journals.

    Puzzling.

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  2. I have a chapter that will be published in an upcoming volume (http://www.igi-global.com/reference/details.asp?ID=7441)
    I didn't think it was a major publication and I was concerned about the price. They only offered contributors a 1/2 price discount, which I thought was a bit tacky, but I wanted the article in print so I could cite it in another article and I wanted the grad student I was working with to have a publication on her CV. One strange thing was that the editors asked the contributors to peer review the other contributions. I found that strange as well.
    I received another email, which wasn't really a spam, asking me to contribute to another volume, but once is enough for me.
    Joel Bloch

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  3. Thanks for your comment! Half-price is then a normal book price for some of the volumes, but when I publish a book I get an author's copy, and when I publish an article I get some copies of the article to send to colleagues. This used to be 20, nowadays I tend to get 2 or 3 and a pdf.

    I am glad to see some sort of peer-review. Was it a pre-condition to having one's own work published?

    For me the problem is, that I fear that some people are capitalizing on the need to publish and organizing "conferences" and "journals" and now, apparently, "publishers" to manufacture publications.

    If you can't get a publication into a known journal, maybe you ought to consider Open Access: Directory of Open Access Journals - Registry of Open Access Repositories

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  4. I don't remember if it were a requirement. I didn't find this out until after we submitted the paper, so we had already done the work. Another thing was that I had to submit a library request form to buy the book. I've found that our library is usually sensitive to requests from faculty, so I felt that the publisher was exploiting this a bit. I was suspicious that the publisher might not have the credibility so that the library would just buy the book if it came from a reputable publisher. I don't know what the acceptance rate was or whether they published everything. The whole process didn't sound authentic. My own book just was published by a university publisher in the States and I didn't have to go through any of this. It felt more like self-publication rather than an authentic review. Self-publication is fine if your goal is to get your ideas out but not if you are worried about tenure, which I'm not.

    Joel Bloch

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  5. The old IDEA group actually is the publisher for the IRMA conferences, that was the first ever conference I submitted to. After the conference when I was reading the proceedings, I'd thought that they should have an acceptance quote of more than 100 per cent - proceedings with more than 1200 pages having 4 page articles .... so really, I would not recommend to got there, however, I'd like to give a comment on the books by IDEA or whatever they call themselves now. I think mostly, it really depends on the editors. I have submitted to a book by editirs from the Fraunhofer IESE which was really nice, they really made a lot of efforts tp make a real good review having only high-quality chapters. But if you are invited by someone who really does not knwo you, thats perhaps different.

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  6. I am currently holding a book published by IDEA (now IGI Global) in my hands. Though it feels like a Xerox version of a book whose original has been printed in economy mode. Real bad quality, can't say anything about its contents.

    But it was pretty cheap - only 75 $ for approx. 300 pages. It looks that the book has been done completely in Word, you can even see the small dots on bitmap images that are not as white as Word thinks white is.

    The main advantage of the book: It has the following remark on every(!) page:
    Copyright (c) 2006, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing expressly prohibited....

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  7. Having recently gone through the process of publishing a chapter in one of the IGI books myself I wouldn't make the same mistake again.
    I was pleaded with to write a chapter for this book (after meeting the author at a conference), and when I mentioned that I didn't have time currently was told that a rehashed journal paper would suffice (not so explicitly, but you get the idea). Against my better judgement I agreed (publication counts are important after all!). After submitting I was asked to review other authors work - which I found strange - but what the hey, there was actually some good articles in there. The editor was actually quite good too. Unfortunately, after submitting a pdf generated by latex I was told to resubmit to accepted chapter in word format.... I found this very strange as I don't know anyone in my field who writes articles / chapters in word. It was a complete pain.
    I then received a pdf proof to see that they had done a complete bodge job - the images looked terrible (as in unreadable), equations had been altered (making them incorrect) and subscripts had been put into regular text - they even left in some of their annotations like "[INSERT FIGURE 1 HERE]". To top this off we were given 2 days to send faxed copies of "corrections".
    I can't say I'll be tempted to write another chapter for them (although I have been asked). I have nothing against the editor or other contributors, but the company verges on incompetence!

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  8. I had a terrible proofreader at Springer introduce dozens of mistakes into a chapter I wrote. From the grammar I could tell the proofreader was Indian. Springer probably subcontracts the work. So even good publishers don't always do things well. But I'd avoid IGI - it would only hurt my reputation to publish with them.

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  9. Yes, one needs to be very careful with this publisher. They do have a few well-known and established editors. I will only publish my papers in their journals that are run by well-known editors. I will not consider invitations for book chapters or to edit a book.

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  10. IGI's focus is technology, which moves fast. I appreciate the fact they get publications about technology-based topics out quickly. I realize there may be some concerns with rigor, but I would not judge until you've investigated the content.

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  11. Jodi: IGI Global has 100+ journals and they also publishes many books a year. How to find so many good papers a year? Rigor is definitely a problem. Many of their journals and books have unknown editors. I think almost anyone can edit a book with IGI Global. One can work with IGI but only with those journals and books that are edited by established editors.

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  12. Only 2 or 3 of their 100+ journals are in the ISI database (SCI or SSCI). I would only submit papers to these 2-3 journals. The rest are not counted in my school.

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  13. I know a number of the folk who act as editors. These folk are professors and dissertation chairs at numerous universities. These folk are scholarly, many with years of experience. A number of them have held their terminal degree for more than 20 years. I also know that the articles accepted for publication are not self-published book works. I just reviewed an articles for one of the journals, as a guest reviewer. It was a follow-on research project by several holders of doctorate degrees. I, myself, am a terminal degree holder. As for rigor, I reviewed the article and then provided feedback on the content and scholarly level of the research. I doubt there is any substantively greater rigor in the IEEE or ACM process. I might add, I am a member of IEEE and ACM myself. I respect the organizations. However, there is so much work in technology, I believe there to be plenty of room for other journals, as the IEEE and ACM cannot publish all that is being done in the fields of study. I also believe it good there are other voices in the technology arena, not just IEEE and ACM

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    Replies
    1. I received a second entry by Richard Livingood that is pretty much the same, except that it states "The IGI Global family of journals have their place in the academic world."
      I disagree with the rigor of the IEEE and ACM process. Time and again they are found to publish plagiarized articles or ones generated by SciGen. IEEE had to retract 120 of these recently. Of course there is room for other journals, but there is no way to tell on the surface if the rigor of the peer review is good, or if the organization is just in it for the money. I explicitly include "traditional" publishers in this. We need to see that a post-publication peer-review is necessary, and we need to move away from write-only publications.

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