The Dirty Western is a blog that is exposing faculty members who have published in — and are taking academic credit for — crummy papers published in predatory journals.
The blog has covered Western Illinois University (WIU) in Macomb, Illinois since August, 2009. Recently, the blog ran a series of exposés that critically examined the tendency of about 9% of the WIU faculty to publish in predatory journals. These faculty are not named in the blog, but the blog does link to their publications in predatory journals.
The advantage to faculty of publishing in predatory journals is this: the journals are basically vanity presses and have little or no peer review. Thus one can write a paper, submit it, pay a small fee, and see it published in a month or so.
Faculty are generally evaluated on teaching, research, and service. Quickly hammering out and publishing a couple of journal articles can fulfill one’s research requirement for a year.
In fact, I’m told that earning tenure at WIU actually involves very little published research on the part of the candidate and that the tenure and promotion process has no external review.
Moreover, a WIU bonus system rewards faculty based on research quantity rather than quality.
This blog is significant because it’s the first one I know that examines the research output of a single university in the context of predatory publishing. More such analysis is greatly needed.
The blog also points out some WIU-sponsored journals including the Western Journal of Criminal Justice. This department-run, open-access journal is extremely low quality and barely qualifies as a journal. It contains mostly the work of graduate students, including one article about the Koran that misspells the word holy as holly throughout the paper.
The blog reminds us that everything we publish in journals, especially open-access ones, will always be subject to scrutiny. Thus all university faculty should only submit their best work to journals and should never engage in author misconduct.
It is possible that some of these faculty members were fooled by the predatory publishers — that’s what these publishers do. Predatory publishers masquerade as legitimate publishers seeking article submissions from all faculty to boost their revenue. They are experts in deception.
However, in this case, it’s probably a good idea for faculty members to withdraw any papers that they unwittingly got accepted in predatory journals. Also, faculty today need to develop a greater awareness of predatory publishing and avoid it.
We congratulate the Dirty Western on its work. University faculty should not publish in predatory journals, and the blog has done a great service by exposing these lazy faculty.