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Yesterday I receivied the following letter:

Dear Tomaz Pisanski,

I am writing to introduce the XXXX to you. XXXX is a new journal launched by the YYYY from USA. With an open access publication model of this journal, all interested readers around the world can freely access articles online at http:ZZZ without subscription. We are soliciting scholars to form the editorial board. If you are interested, please send your resume along with your areas of interest to WWWW. Manuscripts should be submitted to the journal online at: http:UUU. Once accepted for publication, your manuscripts will undergo language copyediting, typesetting, and reference validation in order to provide the highest publication quality possible.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the journal.

Editorial Office

YYYY

I removed the actual journal title and other details since they are not important for this question. I would like to have some general criteria or guidelines that would help me decide whether to accept such an offer or not.

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How busy are you, how many journals are you already on, and how serious is this journal? –  gowers Mar 7 '10 at 20:58
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Just in case it's relevant, see improbable.com/2009/12/22/strangest-academic-journals. –  Richard Stanley Mar 7 '10 at 21:37
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The phrase "launched by the YYYY from USA" sounds very peculiar to these American English ears. –  Tom LaGatta Mar 7 '10 at 22:49
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That is exactly the point: How serious is this journal? For new journals it is hard to tell. But if the letter is anonymous, as it is in this case, one has to check very carefully who is the publisher. If it happens to be the one pointed out by Richard, it is better to decline the offer. –  Tomaž Pisanski Mar 7 '10 at 22:53
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How hard can it be to tell whether a journal is serious or not? All you have to do is check who the managing editors are. And any serious journal will choose its editors and not solicit applications for them. –  Deane Yang Mar 7 '10 at 23:11
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6 Answers 6

I wouldn't touch this with a barge pole. It reads like a Nigerian scam.

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I agree with you, I had the same feeling in this particular case. Nevertheless I would like to base my decisions on some rational criteria. –  Tomaž Pisanski Mar 7 '10 at 23:15
    
I don't think it's a scam but it's definitely seems spam. I've received several such invitations, which I just ignored because all those journals seem too new and of unknown reputation. –  lhf Mar 8 '10 at 0:27
    
It sounds like a "push poll," a survey whose goal is not to gather information, but to ask leading questions which influence how voters think, possibly by providing misinformation. E.g., "Would you be more or less likely to vote for this candidate if you found out that he had evaded his taxes?" –  Douglas Zare Mar 8 '10 at 4:51
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I think the following criterion is somewhat rational: when the publishers of a new journal solicit help for the editorial board, they understand that people will be asking themselves exactly the kind of question you are asking. Therefore they make an effort to establish the reputation of the new journal in the email - providing references to editors who have already joined, explaining why a new journal in this field is called for, contrasting it with similar journals etc. On the other hand they don't say anything about the submission process since this is completely irrelevant. –  Alon Amit Mar 8 '10 at 5:29
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I can't say anything about this particular email you received, but I have received invitations to join the editorial board of two journals, which I declined. One was a very reputable journal, but one I did not publish in and to whose community of authors/readers I did not feel I belonged. (One would be right in asking why I was ever approached and I don't have an answer.) The other case is closer to the email you received. It was an Open Access journal and I declined because that is not a publishing model I support.

I believe that setting all practical considerations aside (whether one has time,...) the litmus test is whether one would be willing to publish in that journal. If the answer is negative, I think that you should decline.

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Just for curiosity: why don't you support Open Access? You are the first person I hear making this claim. –  Andrea Ferretti Mar 8 '10 at 20:07
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@Andrea: Perhaps "open access" means "author pays" as opposed to the usual "subscriber pays". In some fields this model is great. If your medical research is supported by a million-dollar grant, it may be worth paying a few thousand from the grant to get it available free on the net, and not just to subscribers. –  Gerald Edgar Mar 8 '10 at 21:42
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@Andrea: Indeed, as Gerald points out, "open access" is a euphemism for authors paying to get the paper published. I am in favour in open access as a matter of principle: I make all my papers available from my webpage and urge everyone else to do the same. I do not, however, in favour of the authors paying to publish. There is plenty to debate in this topic, but MO is perhaps not the best forum for this discussion. –  José Figueroa-O'Farrill Mar 8 '10 at 22:42
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Ok, I understand now. I thought you meant you were against open access in the sense that you wanted readers to pay. –  Andrea Ferretti Mar 9 '10 at 16:23
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I am some combination of being too junior and not eminent enough in my field so as to have never received a request to be an editor for a mathematical journal. But here are the criteria that I would use if I were ever in such a situation:

1) If the journal already exists, then it would have to be one that I respect and probably one that I have already published in.

2) If it is a proposal for a new journal, then I absolutely would have to know (at least by reputation) the person who is contacting me about the journal. Moreover it's better if it's someone that I and the rest of the mathematical community esteem very highly (e.g. better an offer from Bjorn Poonen or Kevin Buzzard than one of my close friends from grad school who is now an assistant/associate professor somewhere). I would also like to know who else they are considering for the editorial board. I wouldn't even reply if the letter were from a publishing company or someone whose identity I couldn't figure out.

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Why is this -1? –  Harry Gindi Mar 8 '10 at 2:00
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It also sounds strange to me. I would think that an offer for an editorial post would be via your peers, or those whom you might consider your academic elders. You should be familiar with the journal, its content, its editorial board, and probably have published an article therein.

The journal office may wish to have your CV on file if you were on the board, but it is doubtful that they would ask for it if they already know who you are.

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I think they are targeting the vanity of mathematicians. –  Tomaž Pisanski Mar 7 '10 at 23:41
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What strikes me most is that this letter is generic and not directed at you specifically, in the sense that there is no explained reason why they contacted you and not someone else. And "highest publication quality possible"? Please.

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Sorry for answering my own question, but the e-mail I received today may explain that one really has to think twice before making the decision.

Dear Tomaz Pisanski,

I am writing to introduce the Applied Mathematics (AM) to you. AM is a new journal launched by the Scientific Research Publishing from USA. With an open access publication model of this journal, all interested readers around the world can freely access articles online at http://www.scirp.org/journal/am without subscription.

We are soliciting scholars to form the editorial board. If you are interested, please send your resume along with your areas of interest to am@scirp.org. Manuscripts should be submitted to the journal online at: http://www.papersubmission.scirp.org/login.jsp. Once accepted for publication, your manuscripts will undergo language copyediting, typesetting, and reference validation in order to provide the highest publication quality possible. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the journal.

Editorial Office Applied Mathematics Scientific Research Publishing, USA Email: am@scirp.org

This message was sent to [tomaz.pisanski@fmf.uni-lj.si]. Unsubscribe at any time by clicking here.

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Isn't this still spam? –  Pete L. Clark Mar 8 '10 at 19:46
    
I think it is more than spam. There are maths journals of such caliber covered by MathSciNet published by renowned publishing houses. I tried to warn IMU and EMS of such schemes but they just do not want to get involved. –  Tomaž Pisanski Mar 8 '10 at 19:55
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@Tomaz: yes, I agree. More precisely, it is the spam branch of some more systematic skullduggery. I assume that this is ultimately some academic version of the vanity press scam. Perhaps the best response really is just to ignore them and advise others to do the same. –  Pete L. Clark Mar 8 '10 at 20:31
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