22 Apr 2015

Academic spam

Guest post by David Hughes, Systems Librarian, DBS Library

Simply because you’re involved in Academia and therefore, perhaps, a wee bit removed from the real world, doesn’t mean you won’t be bothered by spammers. Yes, the ivory towers of Academic Publishing are just as prone to scammers and spammers as everywhere else. This short note will briefly discuss three forms of such spam.

1. The unsolicited call for journal articles.
Produced an assignment or dissertation lately?  Submitted an article to a reputable journal but can’t get published?  Why not publish in Dave’s Journal of Interesting Research?  Dave’s Journal of Interesting Research is an international peer-reviewed and open-access journal with both print and online versions.  The journal is under the indexing process in numerous databases that can enhance the readability and visibility your author’s work.  Once the article has been accepted for publication, you will be required to pay a small processing fee.  You can pay a little extra to have your publication fast-tracked but we do offer a discount for high quality submissions.

2. The unsolicited call for conference papers.
Along the same lines: did you write a paper rejected by the leading conference in your field?  Are you trying to network and get noticed by your peers?  Why not submit your paper to Dave’s 4th International Conference on Applied and Innovative Research? The conference submissions will hopefully be indexed in a variety of prestigious databases, including Google.  For each colleague you can persuade to attend you’ll receive a 5% discount on the conference registration fee!


The unsolicited calls for articles and papers will come in the form of emails that will probably contain dodgy English, grammatical and typographical errors and an all-round suspect feel.  There’ll be a link to a website that looks like something your neighbour’s enthusiastic teenage offspring put together after having a drink or two for inspiration.  The website will list a lot, and I mean a lot, of journals on a huge variety of subjects (sometimes unexpectedly combined together e.g. the International Journal of Business, Humanities and Technology, although very few will have more than one or two issues (in which there’ll be no more than one or two articles).  Oh and conferences will be a sideline business.

That’s the spam. The scam aspect, as you may have guessed, comes from the fees. To publish in any such journal, you’ll need to pay an article processing fee of north of €1000.  If you want to pay this kind of money to publish in a journal that no-one in their right mind gives a second’s notice to, go ahead.  But be warned, people will point and laugh at you.  Similarly, the conferences are as authentic as my pet unicorn.  But you won’t discover that until after you pay the typical registration fee of around €300-€500 (incidentally, that’s the amount of money you’ll need to give me in order to have a look at my pet unicorn, contact me in the library if you want to see it).

3. Academic Vanity Publishers.
One day, you may, as I did once, receive an email from an acquisition editor working for a “top international publishing group” saying that the company is interested in publishing your work (e.g. your last assignment, a dissertation or even a conference presentation) as a book.  This email will be of better quality than those calling for journal or conference submissions and so will appear to be authentic. Sadly it is authentic, but not in a good way. What will happen if you say “YES PLEASE!  I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A PUBLISHED AUTHOR AND I KNEW, DESPITE WHAT EVERYONE SAID THAT MY WORK WAS ABSOLUTE GENIUS (even if my idiot supervisor only gave it a D)!”?

• You’ll have sold the rights to work your work for virtually nothing
• The company will keep close to 100% of any sales made of your book
• Buyers will be deceived into thinking your work has been proofed by an editor (it’s not, it’s
   published as is, warts and all.)
• Having such a publication on your CV will reflect badly on you (it makes you vain and or gullible)

This is deception. Your work can be downloaded for free from your institution’s institutional repository: who’s going to buy it (from Amazon or other sites)? Well, you might buy it, as the company will offer to sell you copies of your book, the book that you wrote! Is it just me that thinks this is a scam? Surely not.

Basically the golden rule is: if something looks like it’s too good to be true, then it is. If you receive an email calling for papers or offering to make you a published author, the first thing you should do is Google the company/publisher involved. Actually, the first thing you should do is mark the email as spam and delete it, but if you don’t do this, then at least do a little online research or come into the library and talk to us; we can tell you a little more about the workings of academic publishing.

Further reading:


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