This post was also posted in LinkedIn.
We have just had an article accepted in Science and Engineering Ethics which questions the need for publication consultants. Or, at least, if their services are used their contribution should be recognised either by being an author on the paper or by stating what their contribution was in the acknowledgments section.
The type of services these companies/individuals offer range from proof reading, conducting literature reviews, responding to reviewers comments, finding suitable journals and carrying out statistical analysis.
Our argument as to why these services are not needed, or should be acknowledged, is essentially three-fold.
- If you are an experienced researcher (e.g. have been awarded a PhD) then you should be trained in carrying out all aspects of research and should not need to call on an outside agency.
- Early career researchers should have the support of their institution. They are paying fees and/or are a registered student. In either case, they should be able to expect support from their supevisor, colleagues, Graduate School, mentors etc., rather than having to call on the services of a consultant, for which they have to pay.
- If researchers have used a publication consultant, unless this has been acknowledged, then others reading the paper will not know that other people have contributed to the paper. This may be important for promotion committess, considering somebody for a job, when you are looking for collaborators etc.
We believe that if a publication consultant has been used this should be acknowledged on the paper, detailing what assistance they gave. Moreover, if the support provided would normally warrant authorship on the paper then the consultant should appear as an author.
Finally, we also suggest that publication consultants should be required to submit an annual return (perhaps just to the journal editor) stating which papers they have provided assistance for.
Once our paper is in press, we’ll provide the details.