Over the past couple of years, many people involved in scientific research and publishing have received increasing numbers of emails with invitations to submit papers to newly established journals, join their editorial boards, or even apply to serve as their editors-in-chief. Personally, I have been alternately amused and annoyed by these messages. A glance at the journal's name or the associated website has told me that these simply are not serious publications. But the establishment of new journals and publishers at a rapidly increasing pace should be taken seriously, since it affects the scientific record as a whole.
The Internet has profoundly and permanently changed the ways in which information can be disseminated and discussed. And since scientific publishing is precisely about getting new findings out to researchers and readers for discussion, the Internet has changed scientific publishing considerably, mostly for the better — and will continue to do so. Distribution costs can be very low if a journal chooses to publish only online, for instance, but there are still high costs involved for proper peer review and editorial quality control. The introduction, a decade ago, of an open-access model in which authors pay to have their work published offered an alternative way of financing this quality control. But it also opened up opportunities to charge authors a fee to publish their papers with little or no quality control.