How to talk about “Predatory” Publishing: Reclaiming the Narrative

A few weeks ago someone urgently shared on the Summon ListServ that a keyword search for the word “Transgender” on Summon produced a obscene and pseudo-science article as the first search result. The community immediately echoed this frustration when many of them discovered they got the same result.

Summon, echoing the community’s outrage,  immediately scrambled to get this article removed from their search results and reached out to the Vendor hosting this article to see if they could remove it from their end as well (Summon aggregates its search results from a knowledge base of resources hosted by third-parties). This Vendor quickly responded that they were shocked how this Predatory Journal managed to get through their indexing process and that they would remove it from their database completely.

Algorithmic bias and its affect on search terms is a serious issue. It’s frustrating how these incidents keep happening with our search tools and terrifying to think about the affect these kind of findings have on our users.

There is a lot happening in this situation that would benefit from a critical analysis (e.g. Who is more responsible here? The librarians who activated it this resource? The search tool provider? The Vendor? The Journal?), but I just want to focus on one particular bit for this blog post. Namely, that the Vendor immediately responded to this problem by calling the journal predatory.

You see, I don’t think this journal is predatory. Yes, this article and others published by this journal are mostly offensive, incorrect, and non-scientific. However, this is because this is a bad publisher, not a predatory one.

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Protect Fair Dealing – Canada’s Upcoming Copyright Act Review

I’m starting to get a little worried. The Canadian Government is set to review the Copyright Act at the end of 2017 and it looks like – despite a large number of evidence-based court rulings supporting it – that there is a chance that the user right of fair dealing might be severely limited.

Most recently we’ve seen a column in the Globe and Mail arguing that Fair Dealing encourages piracy and takes revenue away from writers. Before this there was a Public Policy Report, Shattered Mirror, about we can help news media survive in the digital age. This report recommended tightening fair dealing provisions in favour of creators. Before that there was an Open Letter to Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly from the who’s who of Canadian writers, artists, and publishers, who (rightful) ask for more funding and support from the Government. While they don’t make any direct claims about how this support can be provided, they do strongly hint that the Copyright Act Review can be used to change the act to “divert the flow of revenue back to the hands of the idea generators”. The Copyright Act is a balance between users and creators. Money money to creators will be at the expense of user rights like Fair Dealing.

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Open Access: The Half-Revolution Continues

Wiley recently announced that is launching a pilot of what appears to be the exact same article sharing feature, SharedIt, that Springer-Nature put in place about a year ago. This is after a pilot using only Nature journals was judged successful. Wiley’s pilot and SharedIt both allow  authorized users to share a copy of an ‘enhanced’ PDF of any article through Readcube. This article can’t be downloaded or printed, but it can be read online and once you have a “shared link”, you can share that link with anyone else. Here is a nice little video summary from Springer-Nature that shows how it works.

I wrote a blog post about the launch of the SharedIt last year. In it I mostly expressed  my worry about these Readcube enhanced, DRM restricted, PDFs becoming the standard way articles are used and shared. I also worried about how SharedIt will affect inter-library loan and this just being another way we are moving from owning content to just having access to content. Graham Steel also wrote a good blogpost about this, discussing some of his issues with finding/using these shared links (which seem to be resolved now) and some similar concerns to mine about these Readcube enhanced PDFs.

It’s  a bit interesting how these shared links work. For instance, try and access the full-text of this article. Unless you are under an institution’s network with an subscription to this journal, you can’t access it. There are no open access pre or post prints in repositories for it either. (At least at the time of writing this).  So if you want to read this article…Nope. Not happening. You can empty out your wallet to purchase it, or you can wait a couple days for an inter-library loan.

But wait! Try this link! You can now see the full article!

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In Defense of Discovery Tools

About two months ago I made a twitter poll to try and get an idea about how Librarians currently feel about discovery tools:

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So you want to purchase a Scholarly eBook for your Library?

A patron requests a newly published book that your library doesn’t have a copy of. You, as the Librarian, could maybe inter-library (ILL) loan them a copy? Unfortunately, as more and more libraries are choosing to purchase books only in eBook format, it has become harder and harder to get a ILL of a print book published after 2012. There are some attempts to solve this ILL eBook problem – like the exciting Occam’s Reader – but nothing that has yet broken into the mainstream and has been widely used by libraries.


Image Credit: Tina Franklin

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Can we build something better than Scopus and Web of Science?

Scopus and Web of Science (Wos) are the two most used tools right now for doing biblometric/data analysis on publications. Mostly because there is not really any other alternatives out there. With Return On Investment (ROI) projects becoming a large and important task of academic and research institutions, there are a lot of problems with the only large-scale citation index being the two of them.


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Counting Elsevier Publications Indexed in Scopus

I took part in a recent Scopus training webinar about a month ago where it was casually mentioned that Scopus doesn’t index all of Elsevier’s journals. This sparked my interest: Why wouldn’t Scopus, who is owned by Elsevier and tightly tied in with other Elsevier products, index all of Elsevier’s journals? The necessary metadata is all right there. So why not?


Also, asking the question why not all Elsevier journals are in Scopus is kind of a ‘dammed if you dammed if you don’t’ trick question. A bit like asking “Does your mom know you’re an idiot?”. Elsevier prides itself on only indexing high quality publications in Scopus, and if doesn’t index all of the journals it publishes, isn’t that admitting that not all of the journals Elsevier publishes are not high quality? …So, it is a good question to ask. Continue reading

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