Saturday 2 March 2013

Petronius, Profiteering, and Peer Review

Prize for the daftest email of the week sent to my work account goes to Ema Collins, ‘Acquisition Editor’ at LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing.

Ema says: 'While searching for dissertations and theses from e-libraries, I became aware of the paper you submitted to the University of Washington as part of your postgraduate degree, entitled 'Greenhouse gas emissions from Pacific Northwest forestry operations: implications for forest management.'

Ema generously offers to publish this fascinating thesis in print form and sell it to people worldwide. She wants me to write back and she will send me a brochure.  I have not yet worked out how LAP LAMBERT make their profits, but they can’t be a competent publisher.  Ema, who seems to have problems spelling her own very popular forename, has also failed to check whatever citation she found against my profile not in USA Forestry but in Classics and the Centre for Hellenic Studies at King’s College London. Do I smell automatic scanning and spamming?

A few years ago I decided to conduct an experiment on another outfit, called Scientific Journals Internationalwhich kept pestering me to submit articles for what it claimed was rigorous peer review. SJI kindly offered to publish my research online at a cost to me of a ‘processing fee’ which would be ‘in the range of $99.95 to $199.95 (add $99.95 for each additional author).’

I submitted an article I had written on Karl Marx’s boyhood amidst the ruins of Roman Trier, which somehow seemed appropriate. But in order to test the peer review system, I included a long and completely irrelevant quotation in Latin of the most obscene passage in Petronius’ Satyricon

Needless to say, neither of the two ‘expert’ reviewers noticed this, but one complained I had not mentioned the one book s/he could think of which had anything to do with German classicism, Eliza Butler’s The Tyranny of Greece over Germany. Since it was published in – ahem –1935,  I  personally thought it slightly outdated. I was asked to resubmit the article in the light of this helpful suggestion along with a couple of others which had nothing to do with obscene Latin. 

Four years later, SJI are still emailing me every couple of months to complain that I have not resubmitted. Their level of professionalism is indicated by the fact that they copy a large number of other addressees into these emails, all of whom can see that my article was initially rejected. (It has since been published in the European Review of History, minus the porn, and I would be thrilled to provide a preprint free of charge to anyone remotely interested).

I fear that this kind of dismal profit extraction from academics whose careers depend on getting a few articles published is going to increase exponentially. Meanwhile, I want to track down the other Edith Hall and her dissertation on forestry. I have always been fond of trees.


  1. Congratulations on your investigation. I'd suggest dropping a link to this report to Jeffrey Beall {jeffrey(DOT)beall[AtT]ucdenver[d0t]edu}, a University of Colorado librarian who is maintaining a list of such so-called predatory open access publishers at It doesn't look like "Lambert Academic Publishing" has made it on to his list yet.
    More constructively, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association is working to maintain standards among its members. A publisher's acceptance into membership of OASPA should be a basic indicator of good practice.

  2. As one might expect, Scientific Journals International is on Beall's list of "questionable, scholarly open-access publishers": Beall's List, 2013.

  3. hahaha! well done! Predatory publishers are certainly having a free-for-all. I live-teach in central Africa and fear these types will be able to dupe many African academics, who may not (yet) be aware of these scams. I just got two notices today and see the numbers seem to be increasing (gravy train of the moment). A bit similar to medications until national and international standards weighed in...
    And yes, I'd me most pleased to receive a copy of your paper: dianabuja2000(AtT)yahoo(DoT)com.