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Scholarly Publishing @Downstate: Predatory Journals and Predatory Publishing

What is predatory publishing?

This December 2019 article in Nature describes predatory publishing as:

 “...entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.”

Many of these predatory publishers try to mimic legitimate open access journals on their face, yet lack the standard academic safeguards and practices to ensure only high quality research is published. Their main goal is profit. They will typically deceive authors about their peer review practices, editorial services and even editorial board to try to appear legitimate. 

Predatory journals will typically publish anything for a fee. They are exploiting academics' need to publish for their own ends and profit. 

Predatory journals exploit the open access publishing model of charging Article Processing Charges (APCs) for publication. This doesn't mean that all journals that charge a fee are predatory, though.

How could it affect me?

The "publish or perish" attitude in academia has made researchers a prime target for predatory publishers. Publication is usually a main driver for those looking for tenure or promotion within their institution. Publishing in a predatory journal won't necessarily help your prospects though.

  • Reputation - or guilt by association. Publishing in a known predatory journal can affect your reputation and the reputation of your institution. In the long run, it can negatively affect your potential for advancement.
  • Lack of peer review - Because most of these journals only pay lip service to using peer review, they often claim they will have an impossibly quick turnaround from submission to publication. This can further cloud your research's validity by bypassing such an important, required step in publshing scholarship.
  • Lowered visibility - Many of these journals boast of being indexed in widely used databases like PubMed and Scopus and having high impact factors. In reality, they are relatively unknown and unread. Other researchers likely won't browse or read from these journals on their own. Your work may never appear in search results.
  • Lose your work - The goal of these predatory publishers is to collect your APC. They may not actually post your article online or even remove it later after it has been posted. Legitimate publishers are loathe to publish articles that have been published elsewhere, leaving your research lost. 


How do I identify predatory journals?

There is no one sure fire way to identify a predatory journal. However there are multiple avenues to investigate a journal to see if they are legitimate. 

stop think submit

The site Think, Check, Submit can walk you through the process of evaluating a journal through a series of checklists. 

Things to look out for:

  • Unsolicited email - Did you receive an email asking you to submit an article out of the blue? Look out for poorly worded, unprofessional emails asking for you to consider submitting. Typos or misspellings can also be common. 
  • Journal name similar to well known journal - Predatory journals will often have names that are quite close to well-known respected journals.
  • Publisher/journal website - Predatory journal sites can appear outdated and unprofessional. Typos and misspellings throughout? Is contact information and a physical address provided? If a physical address is listed, try checking on Google Maps to see if it's an actual office building via street view. Can you actually see any current and past articles published? Are they within the stated journal scope?
  • Editorial board - Does the journal list the editorial board? Are they known researchers in your field? Some predatory journals will put people on their board unawares to them. Feel free to contact editors or board members to ask about their work with the journal.
  • Publishing fees (APC) - Are they CLEARLY listed and communicated by the journal? Are the comparable to other journals? Do they indicate when you will be billed?
  • Peer review process - Is the peer review process clearly outlined? Is their timeline for peer review absurdly fast?
  • Impact factor - Many predatory journals will boast of having a high impact factor. Verify this by checking their impact factor through Journal Citation Reports.
  • Journal indexed by databases - Predatory journals often say they are indexed in databases like PubMed and Embase. Do articles from the journal actually appear in searches there? You can check the journal title in the NLM Catalog to see if it is indexed in PubMed.
  • No ISSN - A unique identifier all legitimate academic journals have. This number is unique to each journal.

Greetings from your Predatory Journal!  What they are, why they are a problem, how to spot and avoid them - This recent (3/23) article in the British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery gives some updated info on the predatory journal landscape and a good example of a predatory soliciting email. (Proxied link only available to Downstate users)

Other Resources

There are some other online resources you can check to see if the journal has a bad reputation. 

  • Directory of Open Access Journals - Attempts to vet OA journals to ensure the are following standard OA practice in publishing.
  • COPE Member Directory - The Committee on Publication Ethics maintains a membership of publishers committed to fair publication practices.
  • NLM Catalog - The National Library of Medicine catalog will tell you if the journal is currently indexed in PubMed/MedLine.
  • Beall's List - This is a user-maintained list based off the original Beall's list that is now a subscription only product. (Last update 2021)
  • OASPA Member Directory - The Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association maintains a member list of publishers dedicated to fair publication practices.
  • Scimago - Free online resource that provides data profiles on journals with data drawn from Scopus.

The criteria for a journal to make any given list varies by the list creator. User maintained lists of predatory journals will often not be updated regularly. Do your own evaluation of any journal listed. 

Please note that the inclusion of a journal or publisher in any of the "safe" lists don't guarantee that the journal is not predatory.

Not sure?

If you've looked into a journal and something still doesn't feel right, the best thing to do is probably look elsewhere to publish your hard won research findings. 

If you need help you can always contact a librarian to assist you!

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