Predatory journal is a term, coined by Jeffrey Beall, to describe publishers who are more concerned with profit than ethics. These journals are scams. They prey on unsuspecting researchers, often targeting third tier economic areas, and masquerade as legitimate publishers.
Predatory journals usually promise rapid review and publication in a leading journal. However, the reality is that these journals often have little to no peer review or editorial contributions before publication, are not indexed in research databases, and cost thousands of dollars to publish with them. Many will not notify the authors of fees until after article acceptance. Some even charge fees at submission.
While it can be argued that only the number of publications matter for advancing research careers, not the quality, publishing in these journals could hurt your career. No one will find or read your articles if they are not indexed by the major databases (PubMed, ISI, Medicus, etc). Even if your articles are read, your findings may be dismissed by readers due to them noticing the poor editing and publishing standards of the predatory journal. These articles are often riddled with typos, poor stylistic choices, and appear unprofessional.
Predatory journals have infected the open access movement and it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell legitimate publishers from the nefarious. This has devastating consequences as your research is essentially lost if you publish with a predatory journal. In this article we outline how to identify and avoid predatory journals.
1. Check the Email
Thankfully, their standards can be so negligent that we can identify and avoid predatory journals simply by reading the SPAM email that they send. Look for spelling and grammatical errors, an overly informal tone (such as “Dear Friend” or the overuse of exclamation marks), multiple different font styles, no relevance to your research area, and no links to the journal website.
2. Check the Website
Not having a website is a big red flag for a journal. Often the only links you are presented with in an email are to a generic submission portal and you can simply stop there and avoid the predatory journal. However, if you are still not ready to give up on an invitation to submit, then search for the journal online.
If there is a website, check for spelling and grammatical errors, poor stylistic choices, and general unprofessionalism. Visit the websites of known legitimate journals in your field and compare.
3. Check the Publications
If you are still unsure after carefully reviewing the invitation email and the journal website, then check their recent publications. Here you can again notice the frequent spelling and grammatical errors, poor stylistic choices, and general unprofessionalism. Does the paper read like it was actually peer reviewed? Are the length, topic, and findings appropriate?
4. Check the Journal Credentials
Search databases like PubMed to determine if the journal is actually indexed. Are they apart of any recognized professional organizations? Many research organizations have particular journals, such as the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). Also, journals may be apart of publishing organizations, such as the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). If not, avoid the journal.
5. Check the Editorial Team
Are they experts in your field? If so, also look up the editors to make sure they actually acknowledge being an editor for that journal. In the past, it was easier to avoid predatory journals by looking at the editorial team, but now many predatory journals will add editors to their websites without the scholar’s knowledge. If in doubt, you could email the institutional email address of the listed editor to check the legitimacy. At the very least, they may appreciate knowing a predatory journal has misrepresented them.
6. Check Prepared Lists
Jeffrey Beall has been an avid opponent of predatory journals and, up until January 2017, kept a list of identified and suspected predatory journals. The list was removed by him in January 2017, but an archive is available from the internet archive. Some groups such as predatory journals, are continuing this work and regularly update their lists of predatory journals and publishers.
Unfortunately, the problem of predatory journals is not going away soon. The number of SPAM and scam requests increase in all of our inboxes daily. Knowledge is the best defence. By following this outline, you can identify and avoid predatory journals. Spread this knowledge to your colleagues.