Invitations to contribute chapters

Yesterday I opened my email and found an invitation to contribute a chapter to a book on climate change. Huh? Yeah, reading through, it wasn't obviously random, they knew my name and my work, and they were asking my to write something related. Here's the email, with some info removed:
My name is MSc Iva Lipovic and I am contacting you regarding a new InTech book project under the working title "Climate Change", ISBN: 978-953-307-419-1.

This book will be published by InTech - an Open Access publisher covering the fields of Science, Technology and Medicine.

You are invited to participate in this book project based on your paper "XXXXX", your publishing history and the quality of your research. However, we are not asking you to republish your work, but we would like you to prepare a new paper on one of the topics this book project covers.

Publication of the book is scheduled for 26 July, 2011. It will be abstracted and indexed in major online repositories and search engines. The book will also be available online and you will receive a hard copy via express delivery service.

Why should you participate?
- "Climate Change" covers your area of research
- Free online availability increases your paper's impact
- Each InTech book chapter is downloaded approximately 1000 times per month
- More citations of your work (research findings indicate that papers published under the Open Access model are likely to enjoy increased citation rates)
- You keep the copyright to your work

NEXT STEP: For further details about this book project please visit


On this page you can find a detailed description of the book project, its scope and topics, details of the publishing process and a registration form.

For further details about InTech and Open Access please visit:
- About InTech: http://www.intechweb.org/XXXXXXXX
- About Open Access: http://www.intechweb.org/XXXXXXXX

If you need more information about this book project, InTech or Open Access, please don't hesitate to contact me.

On behalf of InTech President, Dr. Aleksandar Lazinica,

MSc Iva Lipovic
Publishing Process Manager
Open Access Publisher
e-mail: lipovic@intechweb.org
Web: http://www.intechweb.org/
Phone: +385 (51) 686 165
Fax: +385 (51) 686 166

Vienna Office
Corporate Address
Zieglergasse 14
1070 Vienna
Austria, European Union

Rijeka Office
Publishing, Marketing and Finance
Janeza Trdine 9
51000 Rijeka
Visit us in our Operations Centre in Rijeka!

I've never heard of InTech or InTechWeb before, and I don't know Iva Lipovic, and I've never seen someone use MSc as a title before, so many red flags were waving. So to the interwebs! First stop is the website they sent me to, to check out this book, which seems to exist, and the web site is nice. I start to look at the InTech website, which is also nice. What doesn't look very good are the books themselves. I looked through the books on topics that I might know something about, in particular Climate Change and Variability [LINK]. I think I know one author in the entire book. The topics seems disjointed.  The publisher does not appear to be InTech or InTechWeb, but Sciyo. Each chapter does seem to be like a real paper, but from some browsing, some of them seem to be low quality. There's a lack of editorial cohesion, in the sense that there are differences in formatting and style across the chapters. Something doesn't seem right. So now I start the Google search process.

The most useful information I've seen so far comes from an interview with Sciyo CEO
Aleksandar Lazinica by Richard Poynder [LINK]. From all appearances, this is a business model that takes advantage of the Open Access process, wherein research results are "open" to the public online, and authors pay a modest fee to the journal/publisher to cover costs. Open access is a legitimate publishing model, as evidenced by relatively high profile journals like PLoS One and ACP, but the future of this model is certainly far from settled. InTech, now called Sciyo, seems to be a mutation of the general Open Access publishing model. Instead of trying to attract high quality and high impact papers to specialized journals, they publish books for free online using "InTech" as the online publisher (there's no clear distinction between what is InTech and what is Sciyo, so I will use them interchangeably for the remainder of the post.) The catch is that they company appears to be centered on the idea of soliciting chapters from authors and charging them for publishing the chapters. The fee is not outrageous compared to standard journal fees, but this all starts to feel like a vanity press. This feeling seems confirmed by the description of the publication process on the InTech website, for example:
In comparison with scientific journals, the book format is different in scope as well as in length. Furthermore, the book publishing process has to follow strict publishing deadlines. In order to accommodate these differences, we have developed a strict review process without compromising the quality of our publications.
The Subject Editor’s screening and the Editor’s review are the conditions of acceptance for publication. Subject Editors are permanent members of our Editorial Board and, given their scientific expertise in a specific field of research, they are responsible for sorting abstracts by scope and topics. Book Editors review the abstracts ans select resourceful research papers with a bearing on developments in the field. They have overall responsibility for the content of the publication, therefore they pay particular attention to originality, research methods, key results, and language.
Only abstracts that meet all scientific requirements are accepted. However, definitive acceptance is based on the final chapter review. Following the submission of full chapters, the Book Editor is in charge of the final quality check and every effort is made to ensure that manuscripts are reviewed efficiently and to a high quality.
This is all just saying that the book editor is the only "review" of the content of the book, there is no external review of the science, and it is apparent that there is little or no copy editing. I can only conclude that Sciyo/InTech, in this current form, is a scam designed to publish as much as possible and collect publication fees along with whatever advertising revenue they can generate. Maybe this is recourse for those struggling to get a mediocre paper published without going through the hard work of making it acceptable to a mainstream journal? Isn't that what ArXiv.org is for?

I've been trying to follow up my initial searches, but with limited success. There's a little entry on an Economist blog [LINK], and some of those comments are interesting. I think there's a fair comparison between the Sciyo publishing model and both Who's Who and those poetry "contests" that have been around forever. As far as the scientific enterprise goes, the Sciyo models is problematic. Since it does not provide reasonable peer review, the reader is left to determine the quality of the research (with no baseline, as opposed to traditionally reviewed papers where there is at least some credibility to start with). Another blog has a similar story to tell [LINK], and again several interesting comments from people invited to contribute chapters and even people who have done it. Still, the only thing left to conclude is that this is a pay-to-publish model with no peer-review and no evidence of any actual benefit from having these non-reviewed publications on one's CV.

On the plus side though, this could be an interesting model for people who want to publish a book, but want to dispense with some of the overhead. An industrious editor or two could conceivably use the Sciyo system as a platform to get a collection of papers into book-form for a modest price. The downside of being non-reviewed would remain, but could be overcome by having some big names in a given field attached (and by the editor weeding out the sub-par contributions from the "invited" contributions). The result could be a useful resource for some small field, since the books really are free to download. I imagine a group of specialists getting together to basically write a free online textbook for grad students, for example, giving an overview of recent results. This is just daydreaming though, until Sciyo or some other OA publisher decides to get serious about such projects; the current model would probably demand many more papers in any given volume in order to collect more publication fees.


Anonymous said...

I, too, received one of these "invitations", and while at first glance the offer was tempting, something didn't seem quite right. My lab is small, at a primarily undergraduate institution, and while I set high standards for my research, let's face it: no prestigious publisher is going to be making the effort to seek me out.

There is a paucity of information about InTech online, most of what I found was their own publicity material. Your blog comments were thoughtful and gave a good perspective on the situation - thanks!

Anonymous said...

Same thing happened to me, based on a single paper published in ApJ. Another thanks for checking this out for all of us.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the detailed analysis! I just got an invitation for a chapter on renal cancer, and having just got my PhD on this subject I was ready to accept...

Anonymous said...

I am another one who got an "invitation" for a chapter on alcoholic liver disease, also based on a single paper published in Polish (!?)journal ...I appreciate your reliable analysis.

Anonymous said...

I got the same invitation, but on the subject herpesviruses. I think I've got one invitation every second week the last six months for writing book chapters, becoming a member of editorial boards, etc. All from publishers I have never heard from before. I would never waste my time on things like that since I get the impression that these publishing groups are one-man-shows in order to earn quick money.....

Anonymous said...

I also got an invitation with the same format. It was apparently based on my recent published review on tumor angiogenesis. I was tempted to invite some collaborators to contribute with the InTech book. However, after reading all your comments I will reject the invitation. Thank you for your helpful information.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info! I'm a postdoc and so, was surprised to be invited to write a book chapter. Now it makes sense...it's a dud!

Thanks for saving me a headache.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I just got one too, and I've recieved a few before. This time I thought I'd check it out. The editorial board for biological sciences are anything but. I looked at the abstract they offered on the proposed Landscape Ecology book. I took the first few lines and did a google search. Low and behold, an alost word-for-word match in Wikipedia!

Anonymous said...

Same here.

No thanks. Pay to write and publish for a "free" book.

Smells pretty bad.

As mentioned, there is arXiv or PLOSone.

Anonymous said...

I've also received an invitation for a chapter on cardiovascular risk factors based on a single paper. Tempting, yes. Paying a fee for a "free ebook" with no peer review...I think not.

Thanks for your excellent blog btw.

Pol said...

Some days ago I received one such invitations to publish a book chapter of a subject that was not even mine (quantum dots). Still I was curious about the invitation so I replied to them. In their response they said that it was not so important the specific topic as the scope of the book was not yet defined, and the editor woud decide in the future what the book would be about. This rang my alarms that something was smelling bad, so I started to do some google search.

So thank you very much .brian for this article! I think all (especially) young researchers are involved, and it is important to let everyone know what damage places like 'Intechweb' can do.

Anonymous said...

i too got an invitation to write a chapter based on single paper i published -that too on an unrelated subject. thanks for posting comments -it helped to confim my doubts.
so please do not fall into this trap!

Anonymous said...

I got an invitation, too. I am a PhD student with only three publications out. So i was surprised and excited. But, my supervisor and this blog helped open my eyes. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I received an invitation. I accepted, submitted what I know is an excellent piece of work, paid the Article Processing Fee and waited for the book to be published online. My purpose was honorable: to let as many people as possible employ an innovative technique to help others. Unfortunately, the book never saw the light of day. Ms Silvia Vlase, the contact person at InTech assigned to me, kept giving excuse after excuse for the delay.

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much. Put us out of our misery!

Anonymous said...

I also got an invitation, based on a single paper I published. It did sound weird to me. Thanks for clearing things out

Anonymous said...

Same thing here, I google and find your blog. The book topic does not even match my research topic.

Anonymous said...

I got the same email just yesterday, it fits very well to my research topic, but thanks to your investigation i will save my time and money via not contributing to this book

Anonymous said...

Publishing in InTech will not make you a scholar but a fool who can be
easily conned.

Anonymous said...

What if your colleagues publish their work at In-Tech or similar pay-for-posting outlets? Should
you inform them or keep quiet to yourself? What will you do if a colleague asks you for opinion
or co-authorship or submitting
your manuscript there you have co-authored with her. What will
you do if you were in that tight
and sticky situations?

Anonymous said...

I have also got the same proposal. they accepted my full chapter and also gave me discount on my request. but after reading your views i am going to refuse them. Yes there is no use of writing a chapter for a book that can be downloaded at free of cost.