The Toxpod

Publish or Perish (or both!)

September 11, 2019 Season 2 Episode 6
The Toxpod
Publish or Perish (or both!)
Chapters
00:02:40
The reviewing process
00:08:54
Predatory journals
00:18:17
How do journals make money?
00:23:28
Pubmed and other search engines
00:26:28
Forensic scientists should write
The Toxpod
Publish or Perish (or both!)
Sep 11, 2019 Season 2 Episode 6
Tim Scott & Peter Stockham
We talk to Professor Roger Byard about the wonderful world of publishing
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

The world of scientific publishing is a mysterious place - even to many who publish regularly! How does reviewing work? What are predatory journals? Why should scientists write?

We are joined by Professor Roger Byard (forensic pathologist, prolific writer, and editor-in-chief of Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology) as we peek behind the curtain of the publishing world.


Roger's editorial - The forensic implications of predatory publishing

ABC Radio podcast on predatory publishing


Contact us at thetoxpod@sa.gov.au


The Toxpod is a production of Forensic Science SA and the South Australian Attorney General's Department. The opinions expressed by the hosts are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of their employer. 

Tim:
0:00
Hello and welcome to The Toxpod. I'm Tim Scott.
Peter:
0:13
And I'm Peter Stockham. This episode is a little bit different. We wanted to talk about scientific publishing and how it's changed even in a fairly short time, like five or 10 years and where it might be going. You may remember a couple of episodes, Tim and I have played around a little bit about um us being editors and on the boards of various fake journals. That was all tongue in cheek of course, but it's really quite a serious issue. These journals are generated in order to make money. Sometimes it's very difficult to tell the difference between a real journal and a fake journal. So to help us get some clarity on the subject, we've asked Professor Roger Byard, he's a well renowned author with over 900 papers, chapters and books, thousands of citations, and importantly is the founder and chief editor of Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology. So Roger, tell us how you got into scientific publishing.
Roger:
0:58
Look, I'm not sure what happened, I mean English was my best subject and I liked history as well. And then I just got into pathology for reasons that escape me and, um, started writing and researching. And the way I learn about things is I write about it. So you start writing papers, then you start reviewing papers. Then I became the editor of a journal and it's interesting to see the whole process. You know, how it works from beginning to end. And some people are really good writers, but they're terrible reviewers, other people are really good reviewers, but bad writers.
Peter:
1:25
You started up your own journal. Why, why did you actually start your own journal?
Roger:
1:28
Well I didn't actually start it, um Springer decided that they would start a journal and um, um, there were four of us, a guy in England, Germany, US and me. And uh, why do you start it? That's a good, good question. What I thought is useful is a very general forensic journal. Uh, particularly forensic pathology, but you know, one that doesn't have so much genetics or so much anthropology. That's just, just a general read of pathological principles for people. I've got an area in it called images in forensics where people just have, they're not unique cases, but they're interesting cases, well documented. It's sort of a teaching exercise. I have a forensic forum where I'll write a commentary on something, like say shaken baby, and then we'll, I'll invite people from all sides of the argument to contribute. You know, I'll have sort of eight or nine contributors. I got in trouble in a meeting in France, there's a quite uh, an assertive American guy who, um, I could see the microphone going back to him. I'm thinking oh dear, and he stood up and said Roger, this is not so much a question as a comment, how dare you, how dare you actually give these people air space, you know, let them put their uh, their ideas in writing. I said, well, that's the point. You know, now we've got their ideas in, you know, we've captured them at this point. So I like to encourage that sort of debate. So, so it's fun.
Peter:
2:40
So what about when it comes to the actual reviewing process?
Roger:
2:43
Now, reviewing, reviewing is a very strange process. I don't understand that at all. Um, there's no reviewing school. When I was in Ottawa, when I did my training, we had a really good teacher who, we used to have these journal clubs and one day he came in, he just gave us a paper and said, I want you to write a review for that for next week. And he taught me the old way to review and that was to say, you know, you summarize the paper, in this paper the authors have done this, this, this, and this. Their conclusions are this, so that you can actually show them that you've, you've done that and then you say, well, I think that the conclusions are justified, they have done this, this, I would make these recommendations or else the conclusions are not. So very formal. But nowadays people don't do that. They just tend to freewheel. One of the things that's important when you're reviewing is do not say, I think this paper should be accepted or rejected. That is not the reviewers role. That's the editor's role. It's very difficult if I have a paper that two reviewers say is nonsense, I think is nonsense, and I've got some reviewer helpfully saying, I think this should be accepted. Well, you know, your opinion doesn't count because you know, you're supposed to be giving that to me privately.
Peter:
3:45
Yeah.
Roger:
3:45
So you've got to juggle stuff and you've also got to make sure that the reviewers not being vitriolic and horrible to uh, to writers, to authors. Um, so you've got to help people. But then it's so frustrating because I will, I'll get papers that are obviously just put together uh, so randomly, the references aren't even right. And that's one of the things I think is important when I review a paper, I look at the references first. And if you haven't got the references right, like you've got Forensic Science International at one level, you've got Forens Sci Int at another, you've got the uh, the date behind the authors, or at the end. What it means is that you have a very, very obvious lack of attention to detail. So if I come across something in your paper that I'm a bit dubious about, I will assume it's wrong because I know that you don't pay attention and people will rely on Endnote. I had one paper that I sent back four times because the references were wrong. Finally they said, well, we're really sorry, but the Endnote just didn't come out right. Well, no, you're the one that's supposed to be checking that.
Tim:
4:42
Well, I remember when I started reviewing papers that I had no idea how to review a paper except for seeing my own papers and the comments that come back. But that was the only training that I'd had. There was no other training for it.
Roger:
4:53
There's no workshop. There's no book that I know of. I should write, I was getting to write something on how to review, but then I thought I'd get so many emails about it that I think, I can't face it.
Peter:
5:03
I think um, someone in our field, Hans Maurer, has written a document to that effect as well recently.
Roger:
5:08
There are some journals who, with talking about reviewing it just reminded me that, you know, the reviewers have to declare who they are. So it's, you know, the author can see the who reviewers are. I don't actually like that because the, when it's a blinded review, when they're not seeing it, I feel I can be honest and make reasonable criticisms. If authors know who you are, you often get endless emails. I get endless emails sometimes, um, from, from authors saying that say, you know, uh, your journal is completely corrupt. Uh, you know, the review time was so quick that obviously it wasn't sent out for review, you know, uh, which is not true. Um, and it just goes on and on and on.
Peter:
5:47
So the idea of that is to try and give people confidence that this, and keep it transparent.
Roger:
5:51
Make it transparent, yeah.
Peter:
5:52
So that everyone can see, well, this has actually been reviewed by Roger Byard, so it must be ok, but then again I can see your point.
Roger:
5:55
It's a great concept. But then you get into these sort of internecine warfare, which, you know...
Peter:
6:01
And in, in your journal, do you choose reviewers yourself or do you offer the opportunity for the author to choose the journals? Choose their reviewers?
Roger:
6:07
I'll take, yeah I take recommendations. Um, and it's interesting sometimes they're very good recommendations. I'll google the person and I'll think, that's great, yeah, thanks. Other times they're people in their own department! Yeah, right. That's going to work you know. Yeah, no, I missed that one yes. Or their, you know, their mother who thinks that, you know, they're great. Um, but reviewing as I said, it's, I mean, who do you choose? Um, do you, do you pick somebody that's well known in the field? Do you pick somebody that you know? Um, it's, it's very random and uncontrolled I suppose. Um, I, if I see a really good paper that has significant problems then I'll try and pick a very good reviewer, somebody I know they're going to spend a lot of time on it. If I see a paper that I think is, you know, pretty average, then I'll just send it out to somebody who's reasonable in the field but may not be a particular expert. Um, sometimes, very rarely, if it's so bad, I'll just reject it myself cause I won't, I send it out to my senior editors to start with. Then we go for external review. But sometimes it's, you know, it's, it's not written in English. Um, it's been plagiarized from somewhere. The, the references are non-existent. You know, you think there's no point in burdening people with that. I can legitimately just sort of say no thanks.
Tim:
7:18
Do you try and choose reviewers who, cause you have multiple reviewers, I don't know how many you have for your journal, but you might have three or so, but...
Roger:
7:26
Actually I think it was four the last time.
Tim:
7:28
Four. Do you choose reviewers that have different expertise for particular papers? Like okay, I'll choose reviewer 1 is this person because they've got an expertise in this. Reviewer 2 knows more about this aspect of your paper.
Roger:
7:38
So if I have a, a, you know, a forensic pathology paper and I know that somebody has written in that field then I'll choose them. Sometimes what you do is you can, you can look down and see what references the author's citing and think, okay, well that's obviously a person that's well known in the field and you'll just approach them de novo. Um, but yeah, you try and, you try and match the paper to a reviewer as best you can. Um, which is difficult sometimes because sometimes the stuff that comes in is, is quite left field and you know, there's nobody who will review it. And one of the worst things you can do as a reviewer is to say, yes, I will review it. And then after a month say, ah, actually no, I'm too busy because that's delayed the whole review by by a month. And I have had one paper that had five reviewers do that. So we've blown out to five months we were still at square one. That's really unfair. That's one of the things about reviewers, it's not so much in forensics because there's not so much money involved, but some of the big clinical collaborations when there's billions of dollars involved in the drug company stuff, reviewers will can a paper from an opposition group just to sort of put them on hold until they can actually get their work out, or they will take the idea. So, you know, a reviewer is in a very, you've got to be very ethical about it because, you know, you've got a paper that comes in and has this idea and suddenly you've got this person's idea and it hasn't been published. Um, you cannot then go running with it and do it yourself. You know, it's interesting and then the whole thing that Pete mentioned about predatory journals coming along and how we deal with those. I mean, the whole field is in a state of flux I suppose.
Peter:
9:03
Even just in the last 5 to 10 years. It's changed enormously, hasn't it?
Roger:
9:07
It has actually. I mean, if we're going to talk about predatory journals, I mean, what are they, they're basically journals that you can, or they're websites where you can get a paper published on anything as long as you pay. So if I pay $1,000, I can get a paper accepted in these, these journals, they're bogus journals. They're just run as businesses that, by people in the middle of nowhere. Um, you'll never be able to track them down if you try and go through the websites. But the papers come out and they look like legitimate papers. The journals look like legitimate journals. Um, there are so many tricks that they use. I mean, I'm the editor of Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology, which has got a blue cover. There's the Journal of forensic science, medicine and pathology, which also has a blue cover, which is predatory. Uh, and people starting off publishing don't know it. It's very difficult. I mean the, the papers look the same. The journals look good. They say they're uh, they've got an editorial board, they've got an impact factor. They often have their impact factor, which is an assessment of how good a journal is from a bogus impact factor side. So the whole thing is corrupt from one end to the other. You know, online journals, there's some very good online journals and that makes it very difficult to determine what's a real online journal, where you're paying a legitimate fee and what's one where you're just paying to get stuff published.
Peter:
10:19
Yeah we have to really discriminate that there is, in general terms, open access, all these predatory journals are all generally open access, but there are some good open access.
Roger:
10:26
Absolutely. Yeah.
Peter:
10:27
And they're the ones that are really suffering, I guess.
Roger:
10:30
Well, Idon't know, uh, yeah, I don't know how much suffering there is. I mean, it's, for me, the whole thing is disintegrating because, you know, I can work out if I'm, I'm looking for a journal to submit to what's, what's predatory, what's not. But if I'm doing a paper or a review, I've, I've actually pulled in papers from journals and I've thought they're okay. And I've referenced them and then I've realized subsequently no it's actually a predatory journal that I've pulled in. So, you know, even I after, you know, three decades of doing this get, get tricked. Particularly young researchers don't understand the significance of them. And there are some academics who actually encourage their students to publish in these journals because they're getting publications through, it looks good. Um, the academics are paying for it, but it's actually a predatory journal. And when it goes on your CV, it's on there forever. And that's the difficulty. We had an application a couple of years ago from a young pathologist to come and work with us. And I looked at his CV and he had six papers and four of them were in predatory journals. And uh, I said to my colleague, I'm not touching this guy. I said, it maybe not his fault, but you know, he's, he's really got a problem here.
Peter:
11:33
I was speaking to Tim earlier on about this and I don't actually recall ever, I mean I went to uni a fair while ago, but I never actually recall having sessions or any lectures or any direction from the university about how to do publishing, what publishing is all about. Even the very basics of it, how the publishing system works. So I can see...
Roger:
11:49
I don't think they do actually, it's interesting. And I did the editorial on predatory publishing, don't know when it was, a couple of years ago now, and I sent it around, but it's not common knowledge. I would have thought it should be in, you know, you get a, a package when you start uni, and one of these is, you know, this paper highlighted, be very careful.
Peter:
12:07
So, and I can see what's, what could happen is that, um, eventually because you're, you sort of feel like, oh, well did I just miss that lecture about journals? Okay, I'll just follow whatever my colleagues are doing. And if they're just in the same sort of era as you and, or only a year or two older, they might be also already been sucked into this area. And before you know it, you've got a whole generation of scientists who may not actually know what they're...
Roger:
12:31
Well it's interesting, we sometimes sit with our research groups, and we think, well, okay, we've got this bit of research and you know, we've got a paper that's ready to go, you know, and we'll send the student off to, you know, find some journals that you think will be appropriate, and they'll come back and we'll just say, no, you can't take that one, you can't take that one. You know, that one's okay. Um, yeah, so it is a minefield. I remember I did a year study, which I mentioned in the editorial a couple of years ago. I started on April fool's day and for an entire month I just recorded every invitation to submit a paper. I didn't, I threw out the editorial boards, the, you know, invitations to talk on coastal zones in China and all that sort of nonsense. I had I think nearly 50 invitations in that month and it would have cost me $50,000 US, but I could have had a CV, I could have bought a CV in that month if I'd had that money and had 50 papers. That could look quite, quite good. One of the things too is that, not only are these, sometimes these journals will be set up for three days. You know, the three of us sit together and think, okay, let's start the international journal of toxicology. Um, we'll get some submissions. We'll get $1,000 each and then we'll close in a few weeks and we'll move on. What some people have done is they've actually taken legitimate journals and this happened in uh, in Canada, um, and it's been sold on to these bogus publishers who then are already on pubmed with his journal or whatever. And so it looks really credible because of that. There was a journalist in Ottawa who, um, did an expose and he took a paper on um, HIV or something and he just whited out HIV and put heart attacks, then he put a few bogus graphs in and paid his thousand dollars and got it published. And he said that when you look at it, some of the papers actually have insert heading here. So the people haven't even put the headings in, but they're citing it as a publication.
Tim:
14:10
It is actually a real threat to science, isn't it? Because people who, maybe people who know that field really well will be able to tell the difference. But politicians, et cetera, people who actually make decisions in the world can't tell the difference.
Roger:
14:20
Well it's a threat to the community and to the courts. I mean, you google stuff and you know, with the best intentions possible, you know, dad's got diabetes mellitus, so let's have a look at it and you come up with some bogus paper. Or in the courts, you know, we've, this actually happened, I was in Malaysia, I was talking about it. And one of my colleagues said that the year before he'd been involved in a case of head trauma, I think with a child. And in the middle of the court, suddenly this paper appears that refuted everything that he said and he said it looked really legitimate and you know, just shocked him. Um, but it was in a predatory journal. So my recommendation to him was, well, you know, what you do is you say, I'm sorry your honour, I, I'm not aware of this journal, this paper. Can I have 15 minutes to sort of, you know, read it? You get outside as quickly as possible, you google Predatory Journal and find out if it is.
Peter:
15:08
Unless they pay Google to, so that non-predatory journal comes up the top!
Roger:
15:10
I got an invitation to go to a conference on predatory journals and I thought that'd be great, but maybe it's a predatory conference. How do you know?
Tim:
15:18
These conferences that you get, I mean, we get emails about them all the time, do they actually happen? Are these conferences real or...?
Roger:
15:24
Yes and no. I mean, um, sometimes the only people that will turn up will be the invited speakers, uh, and there'll be five of them.
Tim:
15:31
That's embarrassing.
Roger:
15:32
I got invited to uh, to, this is what started off the editorial, to go to a meeting and talk on coastal zones. And I just sort of said in the editorial my only experience of coastal zones is taking my golden retriever Lucy down to the beach on weekends, which Lucy likes, but it doesn't make me an expert. So you get invited to all of these weird things. Unfortunately. Sometimes it's in your area of expertise. And so you think, well, maybe I should. My next book is on, um, geriatric pathology, forensic pathology and my co-editor in the States sent me an email last week saying, look there's this geriatric conference in London. You know, do you think we should go to it? And I emailed back and said, um, it's predatory. Um, we should keep away from it.
Peter:
16:09
Well, it is hard to pick.
Roger:
16:10
It is, yeah. And you've just got to work out... what you do is you, you look at the conference and you see who the plenary speakers are. Are they people that are known to you? Are they people in the field? You look at the journals and you see, you know, if you see the editor, google or pubmed, the, google scholar the editor, and just see whether they have any publications, they won't. Um, of course it's interesting the, the ones that, um, I think it was uh, this was, I'll read from it. It was Dear Byard, greetings for the day. Let's exploit yourself to the world because we believe that you are the one that inspires the common to change the recitation of emerging world. Now, I don't know what that means, but I think it's like the...
Tim:
16:49
So you're not changing the recitation of the emerging world, is that what you're saying Roger?
Roger:
16:52
No, well I've given it a bash, but yeah, it's like the things from Nigeria that are misspelled, you know, um, they're trying to weed out people that maybe can't discriminate as well. And so almost by putting in deliberate misspellings, they are getting rid of a certain group of people who think, oh no this is bogus.
Tim:
17:08
Interesting.
Roger:
17:08
So they're selecting people that may be less able to discriminate and that are more vulnerable, which is really predatory and horrible.
Peter:
17:15
So a recent one I've got was, um, asked me to send manuscripts to some journal about food science, but the English is actually quite good. So I don't know if we can use that any more to discriminate. But I guess the giveaway was they said, dear Dr Caitlin, that sort of said to me that probably I wasn't the person they were looking for. Um, but interesting towards the end they say that, uh, if you go to our website, we're currently undergoing some maintenance and so this journal might not come up. And I actually went to, this is one of the first I've actually been to the website cause I'm usually a bit frightened, somethings going to come invade my computer. But nothing happened as far as I know yet. And it looks pristine. It really does look like a genuine editors journal. And then you, they've got various news articles and you click on the particular journal they were asking me to contribute to, this food journal, and there wasn't anything there, it just didn't work. Oh, that's right, they're having maintenance and so that's why that's not turning up.
Roger:
18:10
It's often, you know, Cherry often sends me stuff from Los Angeles, you know, she's the editorial assistant, Cherry.
Tim:
18:17
So I guess the point of all of this is to make money, right? People are trying to make money by doing this.
Roger:
18:21
Oh yeah, they make a lot of money.
Tim:
18:22
So just going back to basics then, how do, uh, publications make money, you know, legitimate publications? What's their source of income?
Roger:
18:29
Uh, yeah, it's a really interesting question. They don't, I mean, my journal for example, um, it's a Springer journal out of New York. Um, you know they sell subscriptions. Um, but then they died off because, you know, people don't want papers so much so, so what Springer does now is, um, Elsevier and the big publishers, they have packages they sell to universities and institutions. So the package will be that if you pay us, you know, 20,000 bucks a year, you can access electronically all of these journals. So that's where the money comes in. But it's, it's touch and go. Um, with book publishing, it's interesting the publishers went through a phase where they were trying to get rid of hard copy. And so one of my books I think was selling for $900 US, um, an atlas, which was really irritating because it was worth about $200, but they were trying to push people into, um, into getting it electronically and they'll say things, you know, they won't do an index for you. And I said, well, you gotta have an index. No, no, people can just sort of, uh, you know, they can just search it electronically. I said well, if you've got a hard copy, you can't. They said, well just take keywords, I said that will give us 40 chapters with the keyword, sudden death, you know, that's not really useful. Um, so I think publishers are up against the wall too. They don't know which way it's going. We've actually written an editorial, I think they'll call it publish and perish at the same time. Um, and it's just the, the agony you go through. I had at one, um, it was a very well known English Publishing House and uh, the editor lost 26 images of their chapter and he said, well, why don't we just cancel them? I said, no, why don't you find them? So he found them, and put them in upside down. Uh, yeah, so he got his revenge.
Tim:
20:03
So open access journals, of which not all are predatory, some are legitimate journals, but they just have a different principle of the way that they work and promote science. They want to promote science to everybody. I suppose, that, you could say that's the principle behind it.
Roger:
20:19
Which is, which is a good principle. Um, University of Adelaide press before it was closed, had that principle, uh, I did a book with them a year or so ago and it's free access, free download, which I think is wonderful. It means everybody can actually access it. So I think that is great. But, um, it's a different approach that they, you know, some of them have very high impact factors. They are, they are doing um, really well, um, because people are publishing with them.
Peter:
20:43
And there's, of course, the other model with is a sort of a hybrid model. So if you want your paper to get more traction, get more viewers, you can submit to a traditional subscription type journal, what used to be subscription type, and pay a bit extra money or quite a bit more money, about a thousand to $3,000, and it'll be a free access to everyone.
Roger:
21:00
That's right, yeah.
Peter:
21:01
That's obviously better than paying a predatory journal.
Roger:
21:03
It is, but it is a lot of money.
Peter:
21:04
And it still goes through the entire, um, review process.
Roger:
21:08
That's right.
Tim:
21:08
So one thing about these open access journals is that at least they're available for all the scientists who aren't working in academia. Because if you're working for a university, you obviously get access through the subscriptions that you're talking about. But a scientist who is working in a forensic lab, let's say, who doesn't necessarily have links to a university and their organization might be fairly small. They can't afford these subscriptions to journals, they're basically locked out of science. How do they become aware of what's going on? Or people in the developing world even, scientists in the developing world.
Roger:
21:37
I think that's where pubmed is good. And you know with pubmed and uh Google scholar you can actually get people's addresses and you can email them and just say, could you send me a pdf of your paper? And you know, I think that's a legitimate thing to do. Um, but yeah, I think it is very difficult. I remember the first time I ever saw Internet access, I was in Germany, uh, sitting at a colleague's desk and she just clicked up and there was the paper, cause when I started off you would wander over to the library when the pubmed books, the Index Medicus book came in, you'd thumb through it manually, you'd fill out a form, you'd take it to the librarian, she'd sort of fax it off somewhere and then it would come back on a donkey about a year later.
Peter:
22:12
It seems unbelievable. And I imagine the publishing process would also be massively sped up through that. So it used to be, if you wanted to send a package internationally to get reviewed, send it off to the journal, then it gets sent off to three different people all over the world can take probably over a year to get published.
Roger:
22:29
It's interesting. Yeah. There's one sort of major American forensic journal. It didn't do, um, online submissions and reviewing until about probably six years ago. It was extraordinary. Yeah. So they were still doing hard copy.
Peter:
22:44
It's a lot of work.
Roger:
22:44
Oh, it is, yeah. No it's, it's, you know, it's good and it's bad. I mean, it, uh, it certainly speeds the process up, but of course you'll get, for example, with, um, I was editing one book and, uh, this publishing company had a particular software and to download an image of figure that an author submitted would take five minutes and this was a, um, 300 chapter contributor encyclopedia. I was talking to some of the, uh, the opposition publishers and they were all laughing saying, yes, it's going to be really interesting to see how this works. So the opposition knew how bad it was, but not the publishers themselves. So yeah, sometimes it can be really frustrating.
Peter:
23:21
I want to go back to what you said a little bit earlier about, you used to have to go and look at the, what'd you call it?
Roger:
23:26
Oh Index Medicus yeah. As it came out in hard copy.
Peter:
23:29
And so that's the sort of job that pubmed and even Google scholar does now. Can you tell us how, how does pubmed choose it's journals that, for example, or Scifinder or any of those sort of companies, do they choose, um, will they accidentally pick up the predatory journals?
Roger:
23:43
Some, uh, it's interesting with the various um, databases. Some will only take journals affiliated with their company. Um, pubmed is, is of course really good and it takes a fair bit to get into pubmed. And there are some, you know, national forensic journals that are still not on it. Google scholar on the other hand takes a lot. And unfortunately they do take predatory journals, they take, they take blogs, there's all sorts of weird stuff on Google scholar. And you know, I find it fascinating, you know suddenly, you're sailing along and you've suddenly got 300 less citations. Um, where did they go? Presumably they're weeding out some of the stuff. But yes, I don't know how they function. Probably Pubmed is the best of the lot, although I use both. Um, I just use Google. It's interesting what turns up on Google that uh, you know, may not necessarily be in one of the other databases.
Peter:
24:31
So often Google will give you, I mean if you know you're looking for good journal, you search that through Google scholar first and it, often it'll have a pdf link immediately. Yeah, that's quite handy.
Tim:
24:40
So you mentioned impact factors before and that's one way to assess the quality of a journal. And now there are, there are a bunch of different um, types of algorithms and things. So it's like a weighted impact factor.
Roger:
24:52
Yeah.
Tim:
24:52
I don't know how any of those, I don't know if you know how they work, those algorithms?
Roger:
24:55
I don't think anybody does actually. I think mathematicians sit in small offices and look at stuff, but you know, the impact factor, for example, people have now said the impact factor is very useful for comparing journals within the same discipline. So you can't compare, say my journal, which has got an impact factor around 2 with the New England Journal of Medicine, which is what, 70 or something. Um, because it's different fields. Forensics, we have very low impact factors, which is a measure of, you know, how often papers are cited because forensic people don't write. So if you don't write then you don't cite and therefore you don't get, you know, good, uh, good coverage. Whereas in say genetics or internal medicine or cardiology, they are writing all the time and they've got, you know, huge reference lists. Mathematics, you know, they might have a paper with, you know, one or two references. So you know, their impact factors, and I haven't checked them, I'm sure they're quite low. It doesn't mean that their journals are actually any less important. It's just, it's not the right parameter to judge it. Um, but in a field, I think that it just shows you, you know, where you're sitting. But other things like, you know, how well distributed is a journal, it may be a society journal that everybody reads, doesn't have an impact factor at all, but everybody looks at it. So that's useful.
Tim:
26:05
I guess there's no one measure that really can capture all of it. How it, the impact that a publications is having and the quality.
Roger:
26:11
No, well, I was a bit distressed um, this last round cause our um, Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology dropped below 2, um, which I was cutting my wrists about, but my editor in New York said, no, no, don't beat yourself up, you know, the journals doing really well, there are other parameters. And I thought, I don't want to know about them.
Tim:
26:29
So why don't forensic people write, do you think? Is it just because they're too busy doing the case work? I mean, you've been a practicing pathologist throughout your career and involved in academia.
Roger:
26:38
I don't know why people don't write. I think that they're not trained to do it. The best answer to me is, you know, I can't be bothered. You know, um, just do the job and go home. That's fair enough. Um, I write because I think it's important because I like doing it. Um, and I encourage my colleagues to do it.
Tim:
26:55
When you started out as a young pathologist...
Roger:
26:57
No, I never was a young pathologist.
Tim:
26:58
Never young? Did someone mentor you in that and say this is how you write and, or this is why you should write even, or was that just something that you had inside?
Roger:
27:07
No, I had a couple of good mentors. I really like writing and I found that I, as I said, I learned about stuff as I wrote, but, uh, I had a very good, um, I decided to do a research elective in, uh, when I was in Ottawa. And, uh, my uh mentor there, um, gave me a project, cause other people were saying, you know, you come and tell me what you want to do. Well, I don't know what I want to do. He had this very, very circumscribed project on salivary glands, but Irv said to me, um, I don't care if you don't do this, uh, you know, I'm not gonna lose any sleep. And he said, if you want to do it at, you know, three o'clock in the morning and just sleep during the day, that's fine. Um, and then at the end of it, we did actually really well with it and he said what he wants out of life is for his students to do better than him. And I think that's a really good philosophy. Students are not grist for the mill. They should be shown how to do stuff and they should be promoted. One of, I've had a couple of really good students in recent years. One of them spent 18 months in Harvard, um, and came back with some amazing results. Uh, so that was really pleasing. That was probably the best day of my academic career when these two young students got their PhDs together cause I felt, you know, they were going to go forward and really achieve stuff.
Peter:
28:11
Excellent.
Tim:
28:12
So you're involved in university life as an academic, do you feel that, you obviously publish a lot anyway, but do you feel that pressure or do you sense that pressure among your fellow academics that you must publish? Because I guess that's what leads to people perhaps falling into the trap of putting things into predatory journals and so on.
Roger:
28:31
Yeah, the publish or perish idea, um, there's certainly a pressure to publish. Getting grants is important as well. I mean, you've got to, you've got to actually do that, but it's not, um, there's a lot of assistance and the university milieu is, you know, here is really good in terms of collaborations and I think that's one of the things for forensic people is, it's very hard for us to get grants on our own. And so if you can actually buddy up with, um, an established research group. I, uh, when I moved to the university, got involved with the neuroscience group and we, uh, we came with all sorts of interesting things. You know, I'll be sitting down with them, I'd be talking about the effect of alcohol on head trauma and how we believe, you know, if you're drunk, less trauma can kill you. And, um, one of them said, oh we've got data on that. Um, you know, they had some animal studies showing that, um, it was related to magnesium levels. So we actually then developed an experiment and data to show that alcohol does impair your response to head trauma. So when I go to court sometimes, the lawyers will say, you know, have you ever, you know, can you tell us about this? Is there research on this? Have you actually done research yourself? So if you're doing research yourself, that sometimes is handy in court. So yeah, I think the university, I think the Europeans have got it right. Having the sort of combination of university and forensics and often the facilities are based in the university, like with Charity University in Berlin. So I think that's one of the, one of the problems with the English system now is that the forensic sort of buildings have moved away from universities, because I think the cross-fertilization is great.
Peter:
30:02
Yeah, it's always good to get a broad range of different people, different experience. So getting back to predatory journals and the whole concept of, of that scary industry, uh, what do you think we can do about it? How can we raise awareness amongst our peers and university students?
Roger:
30:19
I don't know, I mean, I tried writing this, this editorial, I talk to people, I've got a, how to publish, um, presentation, which includes predatory journals. And I've, I've spoken to, it's interesting, I spoke to the national coroner's meeting on it and um, they were astounded. They'd never even thought of this. But I don't think that's getting the message across actually. Um, cause I think there's just this huge number of new postgraduate students and recent graduates who just aren't aware of what's going on.
Peter:
30:46
And I think even not just recent graduates, people who are already in the system and they're not necessarily paying attention to what's been going on.
Roger:
30:51
That's true. No, I, I did talk about it in Malaysia, um, I think earlier this year and a couple of senior pathologists came up and said, you know, we've really not thought of this. Um, and if you look at the, um, the people who get caught, it's recent graduates in nonwestern countries who need to actually get some runs on the board. And of course these journals often give quite good discounts to places like India, you know, whereas it will cost me $1,000 to get published, it may cost them just a hundred. So there's that incentive as well. So the, predatory is a good name for them. These, these are not nice people.
Peter:
31:26
Yeah.
Tim:
31:27
It's kind of like the scientific equivalent of fake news, right? But how do you solve that problem? No one's come up with a solution to that.
Peter:
31:34
The worst thing is I think if someone does accidentally submit their paper to one of these journals, then that research is lost because they can't really publish it again.
Roger:
31:42
Well, we got caught, it was about two years ago and I was really interesting. It was with some of the herbal medicine stuff I do. And the, I got a, an email from uh, my mate who said streuth, they want us to pay $4,000. I said, what is it predatory? He said, yeah, yes. I said I didn't realize. Of course we didn't. And that's the thing, you know when you get this sort of, it's going to cost you this, then you know, that's when you stop and you say, well I'm not gonna pay.
Peter:
32:06
Is it okay to ever, cause I've seen um when we recently got a grant, part of the money was for information dissemination and someone said, oh that's probably for publishing in journals. And I said, but you don't have to pay money to publish in a journal. is that what you think it is? And they said, yeah, everyone does it.
Roger:
32:21
I think it's just something that, you know, you need to sit down with your research group and just say, okay, you know, we've looked at these, um, this is, this is not on Jeffrey Beall's list. Excellent. We're okay.
Peter:
32:30
So for more information about Jeffrey Beall's list, you can just do a Google search on that. But that's, um, I don't think he's actually publishing anymore. I think someone else has taken it over because it was a bit...
Roger:
32:37
Is that right?
Peter:
32:39
I think it might have been a bit too overwhelming.
Roger:
32:41
Yeah. I haven't checked it for a while, I know he was taken offline for a bit. Um, yeah, but if you just put predatory journal into Google, it'll bring you up various websites and you know, there are whole, um, really good sites that will show you how to identify a predatory journal and, you know, bad spelling, you know, people you've never heard of in the field, all those sort of things. Um, yeah.
Peter:
32:59
We'll put some references in the show notes, there's a really good podcast by a local media organization here. And Roger's review, uh sorry Roger's editorial. We'll put in there as well. So thank you very much, Roger. We really appreciate you coming in. I think this will be valuable for a lot of people who are listening to this podcast, it was valuable for me, so thank you very much.
Roger:
33:19
Good-o.
Tim:
33:19
All right, thank you. And if you want to contact us, you can email us at thetoxpod@sa.gov.au. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time.
The reviewing process
Predatory journals
How do journals make money?
Pubmed and other search engines
Forensic scientists should write
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