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What is Predatory Publishing?
Predatory publishers use the open access publishing model for their own profit.
“Predatory” publishers solicit articles from faculty and researchers with the intention of exploiting authors who need to publish their research findings in order to meet promotion and tenure or grant funding requirements. These publishers collect extravagant fees from authors without providing the peer review services that legitimate journals provide prior to publishing papers.
Predatory publishers share common characteristics:
- Ultimate goal is to make money - not to publish scholarly research
- Use deception to appear legitimate
- Make false claims about services offered (peer review)
- Unethical business practices
- Exploit the need for academics to publish
- No concern for quality of work published
- Do not follow accepted scholarly publishing best practices
How Predatory Publishing Works
Since the open access publishing model covers publishing costs by collecting fees from authors (rather than from readers or subscribers), predatory publishers pretend to operate legitimate open access journals and convince authors to submit manuscripts for publication with the promise of speedy peer-review. In most cases, no peer-review process actually exists. Some predatory publishers often target novice faculty members who face pressure to publish and are less familiar with traditional publishing business practices.
Predatory publishers may also promise low article processing fees. However, once an article is "published," the publisher will invoice the author a much larger price than originally quoted. Once an article is published, authors have very little recourse.
Why Predatory Publishing is Harmful
When you decide to publish your article with a legitimate publisher, they will provide services such as peer-review, archiving, discovery services that enable others to find your work easily, and copyright protection. Predatory journals do not provide such services.
The dangers of publishing in a predatory journal can include:
- Lack of Peer-Review: Predatory publishers often make promises of a rigorous, yet speedy peer-review process. Rigorous peer-review is a time-consuming process. It cannot be completed in the short time promised by most predatory journals. The peer-review process:
- establishes the validity of research
- prevents falsified work from being accepted and published
- allows authors to revise and improve papers prior to publication
Predatory publishers often publish papers that have not gone through any peer-review process.
- Your Work Could Disappear: Legitimate publishers are committed to preserving your published work. Predatory publishers are focused on making money, and do not care about preserving the articles they "publish." Papers published in predatory journals could disappear from the journals website at any time. This makes it difficult to prove that your paper was ever published in said journal when applying for promotion or tenure.
- Your Work Will be Difficult to Find: Predatory publishers often claim to be indexed in popular databases such as Scopus, PubMed, or Web of Science, when they are not actually indexed in these resources. Fortunately, it is easy to double check this claim by doing a simple search for the journal in these databases.
- Harmful to Reputation: Publishing in a predatory journal can hurt your reputation, and the reputation of your institution. Publishing in predatory journals can also be harmful to your career advancement.
Common Tactics of Predatory Publishers
- Establishing an online presence with web pages filled with bogus journals. On the surface, many of these websites appear to be legitimate. However, closer scrutiny reveals the articles to be plagiarized, completely fake or promoting unsound science that would not have been published in more mainstream journals.
- Advertising a bogus impact factor on their website and in emails to prospective authors. They can also list editors for their journals who either did not agree to be an editor, or use fake names to populate the editorial board.
- Advertising expedited peer review to get your article published quicker.
- Soliciting you to edit a special theme issue in your area of research. They use this as a way to convince you to recruit your colleagues.
- Engaging in questionable business practices such as charging exorbitant author publishing fees or failing to disclose cost of publication fees to potential authors.
Many predatory publishers include the names of fake editors among their editorial staff. In an effort to add credibility and legitimacy to their journals, these publishers will often include the names of prominent scholars in a specific field among their editors without the knowledge or consent of these scholars.
Read more about predatory journals with fake editors in the articles below:
Red Flags: Know the Signs of Predatory Publishers
There are several "red flags" to be cautious about when it comes to finding a journal in which to publish your article. Below are some common signs of predatory publisher behavior:
- E-mailed Invitations to Submit an Article:
- Was the e-mail well written?
- Were there typos or misspelled words?
- Was the language awkward or unprofessional?
- Did the e-mail use flattery to convince you to submit your article or join their editorial board?
- Example: "your contribution towards the research is absolutely prominent" or "Dear Esteemed Scholar"
- Did the e-mail come from a generic contact address (gmail, yahoo, etc.)?
- To see example e-mails from predatory publishers, take a look at the Protecting Yourself page of this guide.
- Journal's Name Suspiciously Similar to a Prominent Journal in the Field:
- Is the title trying to make you believe it is a journal or publisher with which you are already familiar?
- Many predatory publishers create journal titles (and even publisher company names) that are intentionally similar to well respected journals or publishers.
- Misleading Geographic Information in the Title:
- A title might suggest that the journal is based in the United States or the United Kingdom, but in reality, the publisher might actually be based in India or China.
- Outdated or Unprofessional Website Appearance:
- Is the journal website easy to find?
- Does the website have an outdated appearance?
- Are there typos, spelling and/or grammatical errors?
- Are images distorted or fuzzy? Are images authorized to appear on the website?
- Does the website include "About" information? If so, is the information provided sufficient?
- Is the journal sponsored or produced by a well-known, and well-respected organization, association, or academic institution?
- Does the journal/publisher claim to be a "leading publisher" or use boastful language regarding their reputation? Some predatory publishers make boastful claims about their reputation, even if they are a startup or a new publisher.
- Broad Aim & Scope:
- Does the aim and scope seem appropriate for the journal?
- Predatory journals often have an extremely broad scope in order to attract a large number of article submissions.
- Insufficient Contact Information:
- Is full contact information including a physical address, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses provided? Be wary of journals that only provide a web contact form.
- Use Google Maps to search for the address. Look at the street view of the address. Does the building look like the type of space you would except a reputable journal to use?
- Lack of Editors or Editorial Board:
- Does the journal list the members of its editorial board on their website?
- Predatory journals include the names of leading scholars in a field among their editorial boards without their knowledge or consent.
- Contact journal editors and board members and ask about their experience with the journals. Editorial board members of legitimate journals welcome questions from potential authors.
- Editors with No or False Academic Credentials:
- Are these people recognized experts in the field with full credentials?
- Feel free to contact editors and ask about their experience with the journal.
- Unclear Author Fee Structures:
- Are author fees clearly explained? How much are author fees, article processing charges, and other associated publication costs?
- Do the author fees seem comparable to other reputable open access journals?
- Is it clear when fees are due?
- Bogus Impact Factors:
- Does the journal claim to have an impact factor?
- Invented Metrics:
- What type of metrics does the journal use?
- Do other reputable journals use the same metrics? Many predatory publishers use fake or invented metrics to fool you into believing they are a credible journal.
- Does the journal promote the questionable Index Copernicus Value?
- False Index Claims:
- Where is the journal indexed?
- Peer Review Process:
- What is the journal's peer review process? Is this process clearly explained on the journal's website? Can you verify that this process is actually followed?
- Does the journal promise a quick peer-review?
- Be wary of promises of a speedy peer-review process. Proper peer-review is a time consuming process. Promises of a speedy peer-review process in an indication that either no peer-review is taking place, or the peer-review that is happening is of low quality.
- Many predatory journals claim to have a rigorous peer review process when no peer review actually exists.
- "Instructions for Authors" Information is Unavailable:
- Are there clear instructions for authors regarding how to submit a manuscript?
- Is there information about how manuscripts are handled once submitted?
- Manuscripts Submitted via E-mail:
- Legitimate publishers typically require manuscripts submissions via a journal-specific or third party submission system.
- A majority of predatory publishers require manuscript submission via e-mail.
- Evaluate Published Articles:
- Are published articles available? Some predatory publishers don't have any "published" articles available on their website.
- Have numerous articles been published by the same author(s)?
- Do article titles and abstracts seem appropriate for the journal? Do these articles seem well researched? Are articles based on sound science?
- Do you recognize articles that you have seen in reputable journals?
- Predatory publishers sometimes re-publish (plagiarize) papers that have already been published in other journals without providing credit, claiming the publication as their own.
- Are published articles written by academics and experts?
- Predatory publishers publish papers that are not written by academics, or that are pseudo-science.
- Feel free to contact past authors and ask about their experiences with the journal.
- Publisher has a Negative Reputation:
- Have you found documented examples that the journal or publisher has a negative reputation?
- Digital Preservation Information is Lacking or Inadequate.
- Copyright Information is Lacking
- Use Common Sense:
- If things just don't seem to be right, trust your instincts and stay away.