Predatory Open Access Archaeology Journals or just poor quality? PAGEPRESS Publishers

Posted on February 11, 2013

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I am in the process of updating Open Access Archaeology’s searchable database of Open Access Journals. Some journals have ceased to exists (online at least) others have moved or change their OA policy etc. During the search I came across one publisher of OA archaeology journals that seemed to fit the definition of Predatory Open Access Publisher. If you are not familiar with the concept it is basically fake journals that will charge “Open Access” fees to publisher your papers, usually with little or no peer review or standards i.e. take your money and run scams. There is a whole website devote to the subject with a list run by Jeffery Beall. While PagePress is not on his official list, they are on his watch list:

“This Italian publisher has some of the qualities of a legitimate publisher and some of a predatory one. It has about fifty journal titles, some with intriguing names like Wine Studies and Antiqua. On the other hand, visitors to the publisher’s website will encounter sloppy housekeeping in the form of dead links, and a prominent link to PayPal on every journal’s home page, supposedly for the author fees but giving the publisher’s real motive away. The publisher claims its content is “indexed” in SherpaRomeo, but that isn’t an indexing service. PAGEPress needs to clean up its act.”

PagePress publishes two OA archaeology journals- Antiqua and Open Journal of Archaeometry. Both webpages are full of the problems that Beall described- click on web statistics for Antiqua and get the stats for astronomy studies (since changed). More disturbing to me was that the editor for Astronomy Studies Development was a member of Pagepress staff and it had no board. That is a classic sign of a predatory publisher, easier to take money if its just you.

Open Journal of Archaeometry has been around for at least two years (mention of it here in 2010) and yet it has published NO ARTICLES. Worst Antiqua, which has published 3 articles but one of which has nothing to do with archaeology- Attitudinal meanings of Judgement in the inaugural addresses by the US presidents during the Cold War. Here is the abstract:

The Appraisal Theory intends to study how the stance, the opinion and the attitude of language users are realized in discourses. This paper discusses the attitudinal meanings of Judgement in the inaugural addresses by the US presidents during the Cold War under the framework laid down by Martin and White. It has been found that the attitudinal meanings of Judgement account for the most part of all the attitudinal meanings in all the 11 addresses, and that the positive Judgements are foregrounded by its high percentage in all the attitudinal meanings of Judgement. The features in the use of attitudinal meanings of Judgement serve the purpose of the presidential inaugural addresses very well, i.e. to convey a new administration’s commitment to their future work and to win support from the audience.

How did this article make it into an archaeology journal? From the Antiqua website-

All of our journals follow the Council of Science Editors about the Integrity in Scientific Journal Publications.The Editorial Board of each journal will immediately screen all articles submitted for publication in that journal. Those articles which fail to reach the scientific standards of the journal may be declined without further review. Those articles which satisfy the requirements of the Editorial Board will be sent to a maximum of three referees. These are experts in the field who have agreed to provide a rapid assessment of the article. Every effort will be made to provide an editorial decision as to acceptance for publication within 4-6 weeks of submission.

So I took a look at their editorial board and while they had some archaeologists they also had a astrophysicist?? What is an astrophysicist doing the board of an archaeology journal? Another classic sign that it would be a predatory journal, what seems like a random collection of people on an editorial board (Usually, they don’t even know their on it. Its a way to make the journal seem real.). Digging a little deeper, via the internet archive, I found that Pagepress had gone from publishing a handful of journals to over 50 in a about 2-3 years, another sign of a predatory publisher.  For a moment, I almost stopped as Pagepress does not currently charge to publish in these journals, they do charge for others. However, I remembered that they tried to charge to publish in them only a year ago. Looking at the list of journals they do not charge for, all were recent and all appeared to be of equally poor quality with no boards or no articles or problems with the webpages. It looks as though they were not charging because no one was paying to publish in those journals, probably because of the poor quality. Not enough, in my opinion to move me to letting them off the hook.

I was about to label them a predatory Open Access Publisher and plaster their name across all of the archaeology listservs to warn everyone to stay away. However before I did that I decided to contact the editors and warn them. A common practice of predatory publishers is to take the names of real academics and put them on their journals as editors, even though they have never been contacted by them and do not know the journal exists. I did not want friendly fire for the editors who may not have anything to do with these dogy journals.

That’s when things got interesting. After a brief, awkward exchange with one of the editors (turns out they were aware of the journal and proud to be the editor), in which I explain why there were problems with these journals, the Pagepress team contacted me with the following email:

Thank you for all the effort you are putting into the field of Archeology. We do share your goals of spreading knowledge concerning Archeology through the Open Access system.

PAGEPress aims to provide the best Open Access service possible. We as PAGEPress collaborate with many different scientific associations, and Italian and International universities and our professional attitude and behaviour enjoy the loyalty of the scientific community.

We were notified about your labeling PAGEPress as an Open Access Predatory Journal Publisher for archaeology journals. Precisely, Open Journal of Archeometry’s and Antiqua’s Editors-in-Chief (in cc) made us aware of your points, to which we are replying you below.

We would like to point out that PAGEPress was listed in the “watch list” (meaning not listed as a sure Predatory publisher as Bell says “we do not consider the following publishers to be predatory, open-access publishers, but they may show some characteristics of them, and we are closely monitoring them”) in 2012. Currently (2013), we are not present in that list any longer. Please see at: http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/12/06/bealls-list-of-predatory-publishers-2013/#more-1036

This means that PAGEPress is no longer under monitoring, having demonstrated to work well and following all the Open Access publishing criteria.  For clarity sake and your awareness, both Open Journal of Archeometry and Antiqua are exempt of any charge.

The papers published in both the Open Journal of Archeometry and Antiqua are strictly compliant with the Aims and Scopes of the journal they belong to. I suggest you to follow these links to closely examine the Aims and Scopes:

Open Journal of Archeometry’s Aims and Scopes: http://www.pagepress.org/journals/index.php/arc/index

Antiqua’s Aims and Scopes: http://www.pagepress.org/journals/index.php/antiqua/index

Concerning the paper you are mentioning please be informed that this work was presented to Shanghai International Conference on the Social Sciences (SICSS 2011), where Antiqua was one of the associated academic journals.

Further: Antiqua’s faulty link may have been the result of an error occurred when a software change has been made. Thank you for letting us know. We have immediately put it right, as you can see here: http://www.pagepress.org/journals/index.php/antiqua/pages/view/stats

Concerning the composition of the Editorial Board of Antiqua:  we do not think that the editorial board is a “random professor list”. The EB members have been personally chosen by the EiC, trying to join expert scientists in different technologies of analysis and screening. The proposed editorial board is a multidisciplinary one and covers all the methodologies that can be applied in the field.

We are sure this answers your concerns.

For any further information/clarifications/details you might need please feel free to get in touch with me.

I was not too happy with the response. I don’t see how the one paper is in the scopes and aims of any of the journals. I also question how any of the archaeologists on the board would have let the article though, as it is stated on the website they all review the articles. Not being on the current list does not automatically make them not a predatory publisher and they could at some point charge again for articles (they already tried once). I have emailed them back several times asking if they will charge in the future and again to explain how an article that is not archaeology related made it into the journal. Well it has been two weeks and no response leaving me with concerns.

At the current moment I am a little bit torn. On one hand, I do like that they are trying to make an interdisciplinary journal but this has resulted in articles that don’t belong. They don’t charge but have tried to in the past.

What is clear is that the journals are neglected and appear to be of poor quality (two years and one of the journals has yet to publish a paper). I personally think that where one publishes is irrelevant, it is the content that should matter. However, that is not the world we currently live in.  Maybe in a few years that will be the case but currently people judge quality on the quality of the journal. Open Access already has a bad stigma of poor quality, these journals will just feed this problem. As such I have removed these journals from Open Access Archaeology’s list of journals and placed a warning against publishing in those journals. I have not labelled the publisher as a Predatory Publisher but they are borderline. Should they tried to charge again ( I doubt it, it looks like they are letting the journals die) and still have these problems I will not hesitate. I believe that after being on the watch list they have semi-cleaned up their act so as to not harm their medical journals while abandoning their less profitable ones. Does this make them predatory, not in my opinion, just a poor publisher.

PS-  disturbing side notes. One, the editors are not concerned that two years have passed and no one is publishing in their journals (not even themselves). Two, some of the board members list themselves as editors on their websites and resumes. All looks like some of the editors and board members are padding their resumes, in my opinion, dishonestly.

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