The Rise of Predatory Journals

logo‘Predatory’ Publishing Up

The study described in this article shows how open-access journals–with questionable peer-review and marketing processes–have attracted a vulnerable audience (scholars under pressure to publish as much as possible in as short a time as possible. The result has been hundreds of thousands of articles a year (a huge jump in only a few years) with many of them never having been peer reviewed in any true sense of the concept.

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Predatory Journals: What Faculty Need to Know

“Predatory open-access publishers are those that unprofessionally exploit the gold open-access model for their own profit. That is to say, they operate as scholarly vanity presses and publish articles in exchange for the author fee. They are characterized by various level of deception and lack of transparency in their operations.  For example, some publishers may misrepresent their location, stating New York instead of Nigeria, or they may claim a stringent peer-review where none really exists.”                           – Professor Jeffrey Beall (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Predatory publishers began proliferating in the past few years with the increase in open access publishing. These journals claim peer-review, scholarly integrity, and have titles that often sound impressive despite their predatory nature. There has also been a sharp rise in predatory conferences, some which choose a name nearly identical to an established, well-respected conference. Traits common to predatory publishers and conferences are high acceptance rates (for manuscripts or proposals), quick turnaround, and fees to publish or present. It is important to note that predatory publishers may also claim to be included in directories and indexes when they are not. Some claim to have prominent university faculty on their editorial boards even when those individuals have never agreed to serve in that capacity. See also Open Access, Open Education, & More: Predatory Publishing.

How to perform due diligence before submitting to a journal or publisher

Check with departmental colleagues or discipline-area peers elsewhere to see if the journal is reputable. It is critical that faculty members differentiate between open access, fee-based journals, and predatory journals (there are distinctions of varying degrees between each of these). Also, look for the publisher and the journal on the predatory publishing lists linked below.

You may also contact the University Library for a second (or first) opinion about the authenticity of a publisher or journal. The library has numerous resources, the most valuable of which is Journal Citation Reports from Thomson Reuters.

In addition:

  • Check that the publisher provides full, verifiable contact information, including  a physical address, on the journal site. Be cautious of outlets that provide only web contact forms.
  • Check that a journal’s editorial board lists recognized experts with full affiliations. If in doubt, contact some of them and ask about their experience with the journal or publisher.
  • Check that the journal prominently displays its policy for author fees. Avoid outlets that require author fees (except when explicitly accepted within the discipline).  While some disciplines may find author-fee associated journals acceptable, most do not. Check with experts in your discipline to learn about which fee-based journals–if any–are legitimate.
  • Be wary of e-mail invitations to submit to journals or to become editorial board members. Such solicitations have become ubiquitous in recent years. In short, if you receive a mass email about publishing in a journal, be skeptical!
  • Generally, avoid open access (and even print) journals that have published very few volumes and issues. While some highly reputable organizations (e.g., the American Educational Research Association) have recently started new open-access journals, predatory journals are notorious for having very few volumes.
  • Read some of the journal’s published articles and assess their quality. Contact past authors to ask about their experiences.
  • Check that a journal’s peer-review process is clearly described and try to confirm that a claimed impact factor is correct.  Avoid journals that have low impact factors or have no impact factor.  You can confirm Impact Factor via Journal Citation Reports.  Impact factors are, most simply, a ratio of citations per article per journal issue. For more on Impact Factor, click HERE.
  • Find out whether the journal is a member of an industry association that vets its members, such as the Directory of Open Access Journals (www.doaj.org) or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (www.oaspa.org). [Some questionable journals appear in directories such as DOAJ and Cabell’s; we don’t advise using this as your sole criteria.] Be especially cautious of journals that are not affiliated with a scholarly or professional organization.
  • Be cautious about open-access journals published in developing nations. This is not to suggest that these countries do not have reputable journals or that you should not seek publishing opportunities in foreign presses. Nonetheless, predatory journals based in developing nations (e.g., India, Nigeria) have flourished in recent years.
  • Be skeptical of journals with dubious titles or claims that are too grandiose (e.g., The International Journal of…, The Universal Journal of…). While some reputable journals have such titles, this is also a hallmark of predatory journals.
  • Use common sense, as you would when shopping online: if something looks fishy, proceed with caution.
  • Contact your librarian!

Resources for Scholars

Beall’s List of Predatory Publishers 2015

Scholarly Open Access on Predatory Journals

Journal Citation Reports (available at Carpenter Library & other university libraries)

Recent Articles & Research Papers on Predatory Publishers

On Predatory Publishers: a Q&A With Jeffrey Beall, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Investigating journals: The dark side of publishing, Nature

Scientific Articles Accepted (Personal Checks, Too), New York Times

Sham Journals Scam Authors, Nature

“Predatory” Open Access Publishers — The Natural Extreme of an Author-Pays Model

‘Predatory’ open access: a longitudinal study of article volumes and market characteristics

Also see our recommendations for writing a strong curriculum vita and preparing one’s dossier for promotion and tenure. Visit our Promotion and Tenure Page.

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