At the start of May I attended the EMWA (European Medical Writers Association) conference in Vienna, an event that aims to inform medcomms professionals and aspiring medical writers on industry trends through seminars and workshops. The event is heavily weighted toward their graduate attendees, and as such we were able to meet potential candidates and offer advice on recruitment processes in the medcomms market.
One of the highlights of the conference for me was the talk given by journalist Peter Hornung, who spoke about the latest developments in the world of predatory publishers – exploitive businesses that publish pseudoscientific journals; publishing virtually anything that an academic researcher submits, and charging them a fee to do so.
In masquerading as genuine scientific journals, these companies are tricking graduates and medical writers into submitting the rights to their work, which when published can tarnish their reputation. In April of this year, Omics International, a publisher of journals in medicine, chemistry and engineering, lost a $50 million court judgement for violating prohibition on deceptive business practices and misleading audiences about the legitimacy of its journals. A report by The Guardian suggested that as many as 175,000 scientific articles published by the top five predatory journals bypassed basic checks for scientific research. Peter spoke about how graduates are particularly susceptible to submitting their work to these publishers, and what they can do to ensure their research is only published by reputable journals.
Predatory publishers can make it incredibly difficult for those hoping to enter the medcomms space. Upon graduating, it’s key for academics to have their work published in order to make the first steps in their career. An eagerness for publication can sometimes lead to submitting works to predatory publishers, who will often publish the submitted work even if the author doesn’t pay the fee. Once their name is associated with a journal known to have published false scientific material, the integrity of the author is compromised and it can hurt their chances of employment in the future.
When checking the legitimacy of a scientific journal it’s important that in depth research is carried out, and there are a few things to look out for when choosing publishers to submit work to. Pre-publication fees and membership fees aren’t common, so if you’re paying a fee to a publisher you should be clear on exactly what you’re paying for. The companies often cite office locations around the globe – which are often holdings or virtual offices – so you should carefully check these addresses to make sure they are legitimate. Journals are often named to imitate a reputable scientific journal, so as to appear with their search results online, so it’s important to thoroughly check you’re in correspondence with the publisher you think you are. Check if your colleagues or other graduates have heard of the journal, or if they’re familiar with their editorial board, and scientific journals should always be transparent with the types of peer review they’re using.
It can be difficult to navigate the process of securing your first publication, but taking the time to ensure you know exactly who has the rights to your work is essential for any medical writer – a little bit of research could mean you avoid having your name associated with an irreputable publication.