Over the past twenty years or so, academics have been scammed, spammed, misled, tricked and ripped off by rogue pseudo-publishers. This whole deceptive industry arose from open access publishing, whereby scholars pay to have their research made visible and accessible to others. Predictable result: the scholarly publishing world has been invaded by a host of scam operators whose driving motive is the cash advance and who pay lip service, if any service at all, to peer review and all the other checks and balances designed to ensure, as far as possible, that scholarly research is worthy of publication.

Unfortunately it gets worse: many academics, for reasons of time, money and the hassles that come with proper peer review, can’t resist the temptation of cheap, fast, trouble-free publication, available in the scholarly publishing underworld. Most will deny this and will come up with all kinds of stories and justifications designed not to placate critics but to feed the most universal of all human foibles, self-persuasion. At first they were thought of as victims of ‘predatory’ scams. Now there could be more pseudo-academics in league with pseudo-publishers than there are scammers. The age of academic racketeering, it’s been said, is well and truly upon us and set to get worse as the pressing need to publish drives the careers of ambitious scholars.

This site will look at the publishers, journals, editors, conference organisers and scholars whose practices merit scrutiny and need reform. It will be built up over time, and it’ll take a fair while. In fact it really can’t ever be completed, because pseudo-publishers, pseudo-conference organisers and pseudo-academics come and go constantly. Adopting a policy of maximum transparency, I’ll upload onto the site the working copies (warts and all) of my data, for two reasons. One, because it will take too many years to get each data set into polished and up-to-the-minute form. Two, because even if a data set is current and flawless it won’t last in that condition for more than a week because it’s recording the activities of thousands of people, and people’s activities change all the time. Hence the working copies are never likely to be anything else, so you may as well have them now and, if you’re interested, watch them evolve.

The ultimate aim is to get the swindlers out of the academy and prevent any further erosion of public trust in scholarship in general and science in particular. That has no chance of success at the moment because universities are the major players in the game, and universities, with very few exceptions, have no policies to deal with the problem; all they have is advice and awareness campaigns, some vigorous, some feeble or token. Turning faculty alerts into policy is a major step on the road to reform.