10 October 2013

The conference mill

Not long ago, a friend of mine asked for help preparing an English translation of her article for publication in a German academic journal. I worked hard editing and proofreading her translation, but it was worthwhile--it was a fascinating article on teaching perspective and planes of vision to future artists, designers, and architects.

Then she asked me to help her figure out how to transmit her fees to Germany to get the article published. That's when I realized what a naive and sheltered life I've been leading. After all the work she did on the article, she also has to pay nearly $200 to get the article into print. And the only real reward she gets is the right to list this article in her credentials. No requirement of peer review; no guarantee at all that it will ever gain an audience.

In much of the world, academic advancement depends to a significant degree on scholars' ability to publish peer-reviewed articles. Here in Russia (and I'd like to know where else), there seems to be a whole layer of academic publishing that's not peer-reviewed and not even published in the usual sense. It all seems to begin with the top-down pressure on institutions of higher education to show evidence of "research," and in turn pressure on individual academics to help their employers produce this evidence. The stakes are high; evaluations of faculty quality and of "educational effectiveness," and even re-accreditation might depend on these factors.

For this reason, a brisk trade in publication opportunities has begun. It used to be that at least there were actual conferences at which these papers were read and questions entertained by the authors; now "correspondence conferences" (заочные конференции) have become popular--no actual conference at all, just send in your paper, pay the fee, and your paper (maximum four pages, in some cases!) will appear in a nice paperback volume of "proceedings." And you can then list this in your required annual self-report on research activity.

This conference, which is scheduled to not-take-place in Chicago over two days (?) in December, has the vague but ambitious title of I International Conference "Global Science and Innovation"; its themes cover almost every conceivable field from philosophy to veterinary sciences. The real theme is made clear by the "arrangement fee" of $110" as specified on the "registration" page.

Our own Institute also holds conferences, both actual and "correspondence," and I've contributed papers to them. The proceedings are available online, listed here and on individual faculty members' pages. So far, nobody has asked me to pay, thank goodness, and I'm proud to say that the editor of these resulting volumes, Marina Nikolaeva, has been a genuine editor, improving my work through her requests and suggestions. The resulting books include fascinating examples of my colleagues' interests, such as Gennadi Utyonkov's studies of U.S. presidents' inauguration speeches. I'm going to try to persuade my colleagues at least to publish the non-conferences as online forums, so that we can more easily read and respond to all this hard work. Not exactly peer review, but a bit better than vanity publishing for the sake of academic survival.

The latest news from Marafiki: Retha McCutchen plans her return to Israel and Palestine. Let's support her!

"Why Don't We [Christians] Find Bloodshed Repugnant Anymore?"

Tara McKelvey writes sensitively about the "human factor": "The Writer and the General: What the Petraeus Affair Exposed About D.C."

Rebecca Solnit, "The Age of Inhuman Scale."
My heroes are now people who can remain engaged with climate change’s complex and daunting facts and still believe that we have some leeway to determine what happens. They insist on looking directly at the black wall of water, and they focus on what we can do about the peril we face, and then they do it. They do their best to understand scale and science, and their dedication and clarity comes from connecting their hearts to their minds.
In Russia, "Torture By Filth: Prison Reforms Which Never Took Place." (Here's your American anti-smug pill.) And in what Amnesty International labels an "odious" return to Soviet psychiatry-as-punishment practices, a "Bolotnaya Protester Ordered to Undergo Psychiatric Treatment."

Recently I used some music by Hans Theessink and Terry Evans in my classes here in Elektrostal. Here's a live glimpse of these wonderful collaborators:


Meg said...

The keeper of the list below was threatened with a lawsuit by one of these "publisher". Canadian librarian Dale Askey was sued by publisher for saying "dubious" in a review.
I wouldn't say vanity so much as entrapment. I know experienced faculty who have been approached by these journals. It's why I keep the list bookmarked.

Johan Maurer said...

As distinct from the traditional vanity-press market, I do understand that people who resort to these conference mills to publish their papers feel trapped. Is there any difference in the role these mills play in a government-driven system, where academic credibility seems to play little if any role?

Johan Maurer said...

PS: Thank you for the link to Beall's list of predatory publishers and to his fascinating site generally.

Some of the sites on his list seem like paragons of academic virtue compared to the one I cited, which has no journal at all, as well as no identifiable conference site beyond "Chicago." Just now I put "bogus conferences" in a search engine and came up with an eyeful of interesting references.

One of the articles was this NY Times article about Jeffrey Beall and related topics--along with many instructive comments from readers.