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What is Predatory Publishing?
Many researchers have received manuscript solicitations from journals they have never heard of. Further investigation may show an editorial board full of well-known names and photos of nice office buildings where the editorial offices are located. However, there is a chance that the solicitation is from one of a subset of dishonest publishers who take advantage of open access and the academic need to publish, making money without furthering scholarship.
These predatory journals exploit the author-pays model of open access publishing. Problems with these publishers include:
- Excessive or opaque fee structures
- Spurious editorial boards
- Publication without approval
- Lack of peer review
Evaluating Open Access Journals and Publishers
Be wary of solicitations to submit to unknown journals or to become an editorial board member. Here are some ways to assess the quality and authority of a journal or publisher:
- Check out the publisher's website. Is complete, verifiable contact information listed? If only a web contact form is provided, be cautious.
- Look at the editorial board for the journal in question. Does it list recognized experts and their affiliations? Contact board members about their experience with the journal or the publisher. (Note: some predatory journals list experts as members of their editorial boards without permission, so contacting these researchers is key.)
- Read some published articles from the journal to get a sense of their quality. You may also try contacting some of the authors to ask about their experience writing for the journal.
- Does the journal prominently display its policy on author fees? Predatory journals may not mention an author fee when soliciting an article, but then will send a huge invoice after acceptance.
- Similarly, does the journal describe its peer review process on their website?
- Take note of whether the journal is a member of an association like the Directory of Open Access Journals or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association. These are not a guarantee of quality, but there are criteria publishers need to meet to be accepted into these groups.
- Newly launched predatory journals may try to feign a reputation by posting a false Journal Impact Factor or claiming to be included in important databases such as PubMed or Scopus. Legitimate journals will acknowledge being new and not having these credentials.
Open Access Journal Quality Indicators
These guidelines from Grand Valley State University can help you evaluate open access journals.
Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing
The Committee on Publication Ethics, the Directory of Open Access Journals, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, and the World Association of Medical Editors put together these criteria for transparency and best practices in publishing. Members of their organizations are expected to hold themselves to these standards.