Tuesday 5 April 2016

SciHub, sharing and predatory journals: how can publishers justify their existence? Rachel Maund reflects...

Rachel Maund, Owner of Marketability and tutor on ALPSP's Introduction to Journals Marketing course, reflects on the increasing importance of the relationship with your editorial board.

"At last year’s meeting of the Asian Council of Science Editors the talk was all of ‘predatory journals’, and how they damaged the reputation of the rest of us by charging author processing fees but not then adding editorial value in return.

Their actions fanned the flames of the argument that publishers exploit academics and are increasingly redundant in an age when sharing, self-archiving and self-publishing is so easy. 

Witness a spate of wonderful retaliatory articles about ‘xx things publishers do’ (various numbers as different authors came up with more) on sources such as The Scholarly Kitchen. Do look up a few of these if you need a bit of reassurance that all is not lost (and inspiration for future copy).

This year it’s the actions of SciHub that are getting journals publishers hot under the collar. And that genie is well and truly out of the bottle. SciHub’s founder, Alexandra Elbakyan, is convinced she has right on her side by making your research content available free to all, and let’s face it, those of us with an inside knowledge of what goes into publishing quality journals are in a very small minority. How much of your content is already being accessed via SciHub? 

But despite the scary headlines, all is not lost. We can distance ourselves from predatory publishers by constantly making clear how much value and credibility is added through the publishing process, and a majority of the research community does accept this in principle.

SciHub is a tougher proposition, because it’s your content they’re making available. 

And even if they were closed down, free sharing of information (as articulated as Google’s mission many moons ago now), is the future. We have to find ways of promoting why working in partnership with a publisher, whether as an author, researcher or librarian, gives an extra quality of service that’s worth paying for. In other ways, we have to find ways to co-exist, as book publishers have had to do with Amazon.

The key may lie with our editorial boards. 

It’s never been more important to work in partnership with them to bring positive messages to the wider research community. A percentage of our audience may be sceptical about what we have to say, but editorial board members are fellow academics, and their views have credibility with their peers. Simple tactics like having campaigns fronted by the Editor-in-Chief (written by you, naturally) can really help.

It’s always been important to work in partnership with editorial boards to deliver marketing to our audiences. But today that’s true more than ever before.

We’re in this together, regardless of what you might read in some of the headlines.

None of us has definitive answers as to how to tackle these challenges, but our Introduction to Journals Marketing workshop is both a reality check for some of the simple tactics that will still work for you, and a great chance to hear what other publishers are doing to mitigate the effects of initiatives such as SciHub.”

Rachel Maund is an international publishing consultant specialising in marketing training, with over 30 years’ practical experience, and is the founder of Marketability.

Introduction to Journals Publishing will run on Wednesday 20 April in London. Book online or further details are available from melissa.marshall@alpsp.org.