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Masaryk University releases statement on scientific publishing

The university is tackling the problem of predatory journals.

“Masaryk University takes the principled position that the quality of a scholarly work cannot be assessed solely on the basis of the journal- or other publication channel-level indicators, while at the same time respecting that academic work depends on a high degree of freedom and diversity for the pursuit of innovation, the development of individual talents and interdisciplinary cooperation,” says the document, which summarises the arguments relating to the issue of publications in predatory journals, taking into account their context in terms of time and content. Masaryk University welcomes the public debate on the issue, but calls on everyone to “leave the assessment of academic work to professionals and experts, not only in terms of assessment methods but also in terms of disciplinary focus.”

In its introduction, the Masaryk University statement, which was approved by the MU management and Scientific Board, recalls the initiative of University of Colorado librarian Jeffrey Beall, who first drew attention to the existence of potentially predatory open access publishers in 2008. While this does not detract from Beall’s work, it does warn that the Beall’s list is no longer up to date: “For this reason, Masaryk University rejects as a matter of principle any unqualified application of the historical Beall’s list to current problems – which is unfortunately being done more and more often – and as a tool for assessing scientific work by people who lack the expertise and knowledge to understand it in its complexity.”

Predatory publishers are those that prey on scientific publishing to maximise their financial profit while circumventing a systematic peer review process, often through practices such as creating fake editorial boards and imitating the names of reputable and trusted scientific journals. Masaryk University considers publication in such journals and non-periodicals undesirable for its staff and students. MU provides support and training to its staff and students in this area, as well as services to assess whether a particular journal or publishing house adheres to the principles of transparency and good practice.

However, the document also mentions the “grey zone”, i.e. publishers of an ambiguous nature whose journals do not immediately raise red flags as being fraudulent or of poor quality. They tend to respect peer review as the fundamental basis of scholarly publishing, but are problematic in other ways, such as low rejection rates or marketing practices with an excessive number of special issues that suggest an undue emphasis on profit. With respect to the grey zone, Masaryk University believes “[i]t is up to each institution to determine the degree of rigour with which it approaches publication in such journals when assessing the performance of its staff and their research outputs.”

Masaryk University’s statement on scientific publishing also emphasises that “for individuals, the extent, motivations, career implications and impact of such activity need to be assessed”, since researchers can have significant scientific achievements and high quality content behind them even if they have published some of their results in a questionable journal.

MU is committed to ensuring good publishing practices and will also intensify the debate on functional areas, following the example of successful universities abroad, while revising the approach to academic quality and its assessment.

MU’s statement on scientific publishing is available HERE.