Predatory publishers are stealing the intellectual property of postgraduates and the university.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY THIEVES: Predatory publishers stalk postgraduate students for their academic papaers and then rip them off. Photo: Michelle Gumede

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY THIEVES: Predatory publishers stalk postgraduate students for their academic papaers and then rip them off. Photo: Michelle Gumede

Postgraduate students have been warned about “predatory publishers” who lure academics eager to publish and charge them fees while making money from the published work.

“They’re essentially making money off free material,” says Wits Wartenweiler scholarly communications librarian, Denise Nicholson.

Nicholson is part of the Wits Open Access movement which seeks to create an alternative to for-profit academic publishing by removing copyright and licensing barriers to academic work.

Nicholson says that “predatory publishers” exploit students and academics who want their work published.

These predators go on the hunt at African institution repositories where they harvest already freely available dissertations and theses from open access websites. Wits has such a repository where all academic theses and dissertations go up and can be openly accessed.

The predatory publishers then write to the author congratulating them, saying they would like to publish their work. When the unsuspecting victim agrees the process of “publishing” commences.

They sometimes promise royalties, which Nicholson says postgrad students never get.

“All they do is put a cover on it. They don’t edit it or take it for peer reviewing,” Nicholson said.

“You never hear from them again as a student,” she adds.

Librarian and Open Access activist, Jefferey Beall explains in his online videos how predatory publishers are exploiting the open access model to trick authors.

Beall highlights six ways to identify predatory open access journal publishers. These include last minute author fees and no formal editorial review boards.

Normal publishers have a set of criteria with which candidates have to adhere to. Firstly, they accept papers, they don’t generally go looking for papers. They also use editorial boards and peer review.

Predatory publishers disregard all international standards and codes.

There are accredited journals which the Department of Higher Education and Training endorses. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), an online directory that indexes high quality journals, lists over 11 000 journals and over 2 million articles. These are high impact journals that are recognised internationally and where authors receive grants or subsidies for their work. The university also receives a sum of money every time a student publishes in one of the listed accredited journals.

“That funds more research,” adds Nicholson.

Nicholson recommends that students who receive invitations to publish with disreputable publishers to write back to them saying “thank you” for the invitation but the intellectual property belongs to Wits and they should contact the university.

Nicholson adds that asking for payment for publishing work is not limited to predatory publishers. She says there are reputable publishers who will charge anything from US$2 000 to US$15 000.

“Recently, one lady who is an academic here paid R34 000 for an article,” Nicholson said.

Students and academics who contribute to academic books can also get royalties when they use a reputable publisher.

According to a publishing assistant at Van Schaik, Thokozile Machika, with academic publishing there is often more than one author and very often the book is the brain child of the editors and publisher. Contributors are chosen according to the specialty, course they teach, and institution the work for.

“So naturally editors get a little more than every ones else because they came up with the idea and the have to work through all the chapters,” says Machika.

According to Machika, most companies allocate a percentage per chapter for royalties. For example if an author is offered 2% per chapter and they write two chapters they get 4% of the royalty cut.