The Scholarly Open Access web site says that Open Access journal house Hindawi Publishing may show some predatory characteristics. I've simply called Hindawi "dodgy". Their Chief Strategy Officer Paul Peters commented here on the blog and then swiftly replied to some questions of mine, showing that the firm realises that its on-line reputation is important to success. Here's what Mr. Peters says.
MR: Why did Hindawi's Journal of Archaeology go on-line months before it had any papers?
This is generally the case for all new journals that we launch, and I believe it is quite common among other publishers as well. Having the website publicly available at the time that we open the journal for submission enables potential authors to see the list of Editorial Board Members and read over the journal's author guidelines prior to submitting their manuscript.
[MR comments: The typical way to launch an academic journal is actually for the Editor-in-Chief to use their network to solicit papers for the first issue and go public when it's been completed. If the initiative comes from a publisher, they will ask the Editor-in-Chief to do precisely this.]
MR: Why doesn't the JoA have an Editor-in-Chief?
The Journal of Archaeology does not have an Editor-in-Chief since it uses a distributed editorial model in which each submitted manuscript is assigned to an appropriate Editorial Board Member based on their area of expertise, and then the Editorial Board Member takes full control of the review process for that manuscript. Our staff perform an initial check at the point of submission to check for potential cases of plagiarism or other academic misconduct, and then they assign the manuscript to the most appropriate editor, after checking to make sure that there is no obvious conflict of interest between the authors of the submitted manuscript and the Editor who it is assigned to. A full description of the journal's editorial workflow can be found on the journal website.
[MR comments: So it's not quite true that the JoA has no Editor-in-Chief. It has 71 independent Editors-in-Chief that don't necessarily know each other, each of whom is putting their reputation at the mercy of all the other 70. And the person at the publishing house who selects which editor is competent to judge a given manuscript and select referees does not themself know anything about the subject.]
MR: Why did Hindawi's Journal of Environmental and Public Health publish this infamously bad alternative medicine paper by Chevalier et al.? It suggests that this journal sees little or no peer review.
This manuscript underwent a full review process, as is the case with every article that we publish. We publish the name of the Editor who was responsible for handling each published article, and in this case the manuscript was recommended for publication by Dr Gerry Schwalfenberg from the University of Alberta (see a list of Dr Schwalfenberg's recent publications), who was one of the Guest Editors of the Special Issue in which this article was published.
I do agree that the concept of "Earthing" is not a very widely accepted medical practice, however unless we have reason to believe that there was any academic misconduct during the peer review process, we are not in any position to overrule the editorial decisions of our Academic Editors and peer reviewers.
[MR comments: Gerry Schwalfenberg seems to be an open-minded sort of fellow with an interest in dietary supplements. On one hand he has published a paper in Hindawi's abovementioned JEPH suggesting that vitamin D deficiency might cause autoimmune diseases. This is a fringe idea. On the other hand, he's co-author of a PLoS paper documenting the presence of toxic elements in alternative medication. I'll ask him to comment on the Chevalier et al. "earthing" paper.]
Yes, there are predatory Open Access journals (http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2012/03/06/predatory-open-access-pub…), just as there are many, many low quality pay-wall journals that get bundled in "Big Deal" packages libraries negotiate with publishers (see: http://blog.dshr.org/2011/09/whats-wrong-with-research-communication.ht…).
Scholarly communications clearly needs structural reform. I think Open Access is a huge part of that reform effort, since it can pave the way toward better and less easily "gamed" forms of peer-review (like this http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/mcpress/open-review/appendix-2-…) and impact ranking (the Alt-metrics crowd). It's also an ethical imperative, where many researchers without university affiliations need extra-legal workarounds to participate in their profession (http://www.alexandriaarchive.org/blog/?p=891). That's just wrong.
An important problem with citation metrics is that the humanities and social sciences aren't global in the same way as the natural sciences. This means that an important paper that everybody in Scandy archaeology talks about will never reach the citation score of even the most undistinguished everyday paper on polymer chemistry.