The shift in publishing to electronic data over the more traditional format of paper journals has continued to escalate as we get further into the Digital Era. Open access (OA) publications are preferred by readers for the convenience and, of course, the fact that they are free, and writers are turning to these forums more actively because of the less stringent copyright rules for sharing the work and to get a wider audience.
While this trend has a lot of advantages to the readers and authors, it has also allowed an opening for less ethical people to step in and engage in the new publishing landscape. Since academic research is a global enterprise with lots of competition, it’s not surprising that some individuals and groups want their cut of the potential money involved. One way this is being addressed is through ‘mirror journals,’ where publishers and writers take the easy way out of getting through the publication process by submitting and approving work that is slightly different from something that has already been published previously. It’s not illegal - but it is having a ripple effect on the academic publishing landscape.
Moving to Open Access Publishing
Consumers drive sales and business decisions, and billions of people have shown consistently that they want to get their information and purchases from the internet. Paper journal subscriptions have decreased as the Digital Era provides more options, cheaper, and more easily accessible instantly through open access journals and digital articles for on-demand purchase.
Open access mediums, of course, are the preferred method of choice for most readers because they’re free, but that doesn’t mean they’re always legitimate. Publishers charge the authors to store their work on their site and in their archives, but there are many benefits that go along with this fee that make writers more than happy to pay to be published on a reputable open access forum. The more their article is viewed for free, the more likely the chances are that it will be cited and used to increase the scholarly impact of the work. Since a scholarly rating is crucial to significant benefits for the individual, this tempts some people and publishing companies to engage in debated activities that don’t quite have enough of a legal framework policing them, like coercive citations and mirror journaling.
What is a Mirror Journal?
Mirror journals have only recently come into the spotlight as a type of way for writers to piggyback their work off of existing journals in a hybrid format. There are advantages and disadvantages to these journals that are making them a target of debate in the scientific community.
A mirror journal would have two parts. One part would be the article that exists already in a paper or hybrid form, and the other part with be open access only. They’d be treated like two different publications, both with distinct ISSNs, but the publishing process would be streamlined since there would only be one editorial board and one peer review.
In theory, mirror journals have great benefits to them:
● There’s no threat of double dipping because each business model is unique for the two different articles.
● Publishers can reach a wider audience with their journals without spending extra money on a new article.
● Publishing mandates for open access are met since the titles are unique and ISSN numbers are different.
● Audiences can cite the work.
● Expenses are lower for creating mirror journals than for creating two distinct publications.
But even though these journals are being pushed through as legitimate and credible, and they do have advantages, some organizations, like the European Commission envoy, have raised red flags. They cite that the idea of using one article as two different publications is fishy, questioning the ethical practice behind it.
Before you delve into the publication of a mirror journal, make sure you know the reality behind where your work is going to end up archived should this practice ultimately become banned with more legislation.