Name the journal. Shame the publisher.

September 11, 2020

Here’s an odd thing. Over and over again, when a researcher is mistreated by a journal or publisher, we see them telling their story but redacting the name of the journal or publisher involved. Here are a couple of recent examples.

First, Daniel A. González-Padilla’s experience with a journal engaging in flagrant citation-pumping, but which he declines to name:

Interesting highlight after rejecting a paper I submitted.
Is this even legal/ethical?
Please note that if you wish to submit a manuscript to [REDACTED] in future, we would prefer that you cite at least TWO articles published in our journal WITHIN THE LAST TWO YEARS. This is a polict adopted by several journals in the urology field. Your current article contains only ONE reference to recent articles in [REDACTED].

We know from a subsequent tweet that the journal is published by Springer Nature, but we don’t know the name of the journal itself.

And here is Waheed Imran’s experience of editorial dereliction:

I submitted my manuscript to a journal back in September 2017, and it is rejected by the journal on September 6, 2020. The reason of rejection is “reviewers declined to review”, they just told me this after 3 years, this is how we live with rejections. @AcademicChatter

My, my question is, why in such situations do we protect the journals in question? In this case, I wrote to Waheed urging him to name the journal, and he replied saying that he will do so once an investigation is complete. But I find myself wondering why we have this tendency to protect guilty journals in the first place?

Thing is, I’ve done this myself. For example, back in 2012, I wrote about having a paper rejected from “a mid-to-low ranked palaeo journal” for what I considered (and still consider) spurious reasons. Why didn’t I name the journal? I’m not really sure. (It was Palaeontologia Electronica, BTW.)

In cases like my unhelpful peer-review, it’s not really a big deal either way. In cases like those mentioned in the tweets above, it’s a much bigger issue, because those (unlike PE) are journals to avoid. Whichever journal sat on a submission for three years before rejecting it because it couldn’t find reviewers is not one that other researchers should waste their time on in the future — but how can they avoid it if they don’t know what journal it is?

So what’s going on? Why do we have this widespread tendency to protect the guilty?

Update (13 September 2021)

One year later, Waheed confirms that the journal in question not only did not satisfactorily resolve his complaint, it didn’t even respond to his message. At this stage, there really is no point in protecting the journal that has behaved so badly, so Waheed outed it: it’s Scientia Iranica. Avoid.

9 Responses to “Name the journal. Shame the publisher.”

  1. Pandelis Says:

    Well, I think it’s because we are afraid of the possible consequences. We are so dependent to publication in these journals that we don’t want to do anything that could put at risk our future relationship with editors. If this is true, it’s just another indication of how shaky are the foundations of the current system

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    In some cases, yes; but it hardly explains holding off on naming the journal that took three years to do a Reject Without Review. Who would want to submit to that journal again?

  3. Pandelis Says:

    It takes a much better psychologist than me to understand human (academic) behaviour…

  4. dale mcinnes Says:

    Why the widespread tendency to protect these seemingly fly by night journals ? Well, for one, if you didn’t know them, and you went ahead and sent them in several papers, you might be a little nervous in publicly denouncing their shoddiness. Just saying …

  5. Fair Miles Says:

    I’m highly tempted to make several analogies with arguments and examples coming from feminism and other socio-political movements that struggled/gle to reveal and denounce inequalities and abusive power relations (even among those most affected by them but that have just normalised it for different reasons), but i think will just redact them: [—————————————-]

  6. Matt Wedel Says:

    “Abusive power relations” pretty much sums up traditional barrier-based publishing. For some reason, many academics have a sort of Stockholm Syndrome that makes them downplay how bizarrely exploitative the situation is, even when they are individually on the receiving end of abusive behavior, as in the examples presented here.

    As usual, sunlight in the best disinfectant.

  7. Mike Taylor Says:

    This is Mike, leaving a comment from an anonymous browser session to see if anything goes wrong

  8. Peter Suber Says:

    On naming and shaming journals that behave badly, I couldn’t agree more!

    FWIW, here’s my call for naming names.

  9. […] Again, somehow this tweet is free of cursing. He is a better man than I would be in that situation. He also doesn’t call out the reviewer by name, nor the spineless handling editor, which again shows great restraint — though I am not at all sure it’s the right way to go. […]

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