Academic Spam For Academic Vanity
Author: M. G.
Friday 15th of November 2013 12:09:16 PM

Yesterday I experienced many contrasting emotions, from a moment of happiness and joy to the following deep frustration and anger. What was it all about?

In the morning, I received an e-mail from an ‘acquisition editor' of a publishing house. This person said he saw my master's degree thesis on the online database of my former university and he asked me if I was interested in publishing it with them.

My first reaction was a scream of happiness and I was about to jump on the table and dance. My thoughts were like "Oh my god oh my god... They read my thesis and they found it so amazing that they think it's worth to publish it." Since I really believe that my thesis is a good research and I'm really proud of it, in a way, I thought that this request was the final reward for all the efforts I put while I was writing it. Publishing your thesis can really make the difference in some cases - for example in the application process for PhDs - as a consequence I was simply overwhelmed by the emotions.

At the same time, I don't trust almost anybody, especially someone coming mysteriously from the Internet, a ‘place' where there are many people constantly working in finding a new way to cheat you. So I replied to this email simply saying that I was extremely glad they were interested in my work and then asking for further details. Short but sincere.

The following step was finding more information about the publishing house, and then the disappointment started. This publisher actually doesn't print your work, they store it in their archive, they ‘advertise' it on the Internet and they print only if they receive a request. Everything is for free, the author will receive some kind of royalties but will lose the copyright on the research. What's really crazy is that this publisher has already more than 20,000 titles and their quality and reliability is not controlled - some of their books are made just by copying and pasting articles of Wikipedia. These ‘acquisition editors' just look for new titles through universities' databases and then they start spamming the former students with this kind of requests. Showing that you decided to publish your work with them is actually a downgrade for your CV, it will be seen just as an act of vanity, it's not something to be proud of.

On one side there is the publisher, claiming that this is a revolutionary way to spread knowledge. On the other side there are those that published their work with conventional publishers and their despise for those who don't care about the quality and decide to make a compromise just for the sake of being published.

In between there are people like me, finding a place for themselves and a career, working their ass off to make the difference in a world where competition can kill you. The worst thing in this story is that subtle cruelty of spam: it plays with what you dream and with your vanity, it makes you feel special just to tickle your interest but then, when you realize that it was just a bad joke and you're back to the real world, you just feel stupid and confused.


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