My colleague Aisha Harvey passed on an e-mail pointing out one of the most absurd and troubling requirements I have ever heard of from a publisher. Apparently, at least some journals from Haworth Press, which publishes lots of “niche” journals in library science and other social sciences, claim to require a transfer of copyright to the publisher before they will begin the peer-review process.
Many journals, of course, still require a transfer of copyright before they will publish an article, although more and more are realizing that all they really need is an exclusie right of first publication. But to require the transfer before sending a submission out for peer-review is unheard of and unnecessary. I would not have believe it was true had I not seen the language on a web page of instructions for a Haworth journal myself.
Requiring copyright transfer before review raises the interesting question of what happens when a submission is rejected for publication in the Haworth journal. One has to wonder if this departure from the normal practice of waiting till acceptance to request a transfer indicates that the peer-review process is really a sham and that material is seldom if ever rejected by the journal.
I have published a couple of times in one of Haworth’s library science journals, but I will certainly think twice before doing so again. I hope others in the library community will reconsider both publishing and server as an editor or reviewer for any journal that has this silly policy; as librarians we should both know better and set an example of good practices in scholarly publishing.