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Scholarly Communication: Avoiding Predatory Publishers

What is Predatory Publishing?

Predatory publishers share several characteristics:

  • They engage in questionable business practices, such as charging excessive author fees or failing to disclose publication fees to potential authors.
  • They fail to follow accepted standards of scholarly publishing, particularly in regards to peer review.
     
  • They exist to make money by taking advantage of the "author-pays model" of open access journal publishing,* and have no interest in promoting scholarship or advancing knowledge.

*Charging authors/funding bodies to publish articles open access is a model used by many reputable journal publishers and is not the single factor used to determine if a journal should be considered "predatory."

For more criteria for evaluating open access journals consult the Open Access Journal Quality Indicators, a rubric by Sarah Beaubien and Max Eckard that features both positive and negative journal characteristics.


For further information, please review Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing by Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.

Evaluating Open Access Journal Publishers

Many questionable open access and print journals send invitations to publish in future issues or serve on editorial boards. Before submitting an article or agreeing to a seat on an editorial board, investigate the reputation and legitimacy of the journal.

Fortunately, opportunistic journals are detectable.

Steps to Determine Whether a Journal or Publisher is Predatory:

  1. Visit the journal's website. Some publishers' websites appear professionally created and managed, however closer inspection may reveal poor design, typographical errors, and grammatical errors that would not appear on a reputable publisher's site. Be cautious of those that provide only web contact forms.
     
  2. Review the journal's scope as described on the website. Most questionable journals have scopes so broad that they will publish articles on nearly any topic.
     
  3.  Check if the journal is indexed in subject specific library databases by a major journal abstracter / indexer.  Is the journal indexed in your discipline's major article databases? For example, if you are looking to publish a sociology article, see if the journal is indexed in Sociological Abstracts.  See if the journal is indexed in multi-disciplinary databases such as Web of Science/Institute for Scientific Information or PubMed.   Look up the journal title in Ulrichsweb Serial Directory available from the Library Databases to gain additional information about the journal. 
     
  4. 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).
     
  5. See if the journal has a reputation for being predatory: Check if the journal is listed in Cabell's Blacklist of Predatory Publishers and/or on the archived Jeff Beall's List of Predatory Journals [See note on these lists in right box]
     
  6. Scan the journal's table of contents and editorial board list:  Do you recognize any of the published authors or members of the board?  Are any of the board members senior scholars in the field? Are they all junior members or unknowns in the field?  What are their affiliated institutions?   Do the board members list their participation with the journal on their CVs or web-bios at their institutions?  Finally, you can contact board members or authors and ask about their experience with the journal or publisher.
     
  7. Examine articles that appear in the journal and judge their caliber. Predatory publishers are not interested in producing journal articles that demonstrate excellent research or that offer compelling arguments, and often lack scholarly screening or quality control.
     
  8. Check the journal's policies. Examine the publication’s peer-review process, author fees, and policies pertaining to self-archiving, access, and conflicts of interest. All should be clearly outlined on the journal’s website.  Unscrupulous publishers may also promise a quick peer-review turnaround. Considering the peer-review process used by reputable journals can take months, a publisher that states their peer-review system takes as little as 21 days is either rushing the process or not doing any peer-review at all.
     
  9. Check for the author's publication fee schedule. If it does not appear on the website or if the publisher states it will notify authors of the fee after their papers are accepted for publication, the publisher is likely charging excessively high author fees. Legitimate journal publishers make this information easy to find on their website.
     
  10. Be wary of vague “Contact us.”   If the journal offers only a "contact us' form without any editorial staff phone or email contact information be concerned.
     
  11. Be suspicious of e-mail invitations to submit to journals or to become editorial board members. “If you get an invitation through email, be extremely suspicious,” says Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado Denver. “Most high-quality journals don’t go looking for editorial boards through email.”

Lists of Predatory Journals/Publishers

Think. Check. Submit. -- Helps researchers identify trusted journals for their research.
Through a range of tools and practical resources, this international, cross-sector initiative aims to educate researchers, promote integrity, and build trust in credible research and publications.

 

 

Cabell's Blacklist of Predatory Publishers & Whitelist  

Cabell’s uses some 65 criteria — which will be reviewed quarterly — to check whether a journal should be on its blacklist, adding points for each suspect finding. Cabell has plans, however, to begin charging for the service in the near future.

Cabell's criteria for inclusion on the lists

See reviews of Cabell's List in the journal, Scholarly Kitchen  & in the journal, Nature

 

 

Beall's List of Predatory Publishers: Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, compiled lists of "potential, possible, or probable predatory" journals and publishers that was discontinued as of January 2017. The List can still be found using the Internet Archive. The most recent working snapshot including the List is from 01/12/2017.

A journal or publisher's inclusion on the list does not mean it definitely engages in unscrupulous practices. The list was based on Beall's opinions and research and changed frequently as journals and publishers modify their business practices. Many  publishers on this archived list may have improved their practices since Jan 2017.

Authors using these lists to screen publishers and standalone journals are encouraged to reach their own conclusions and consider the age of the archived list.

Social Sciences Librarian

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Allan Scherlen
Contact:
Belk Library, Office no. 224
P.O. Box 32026
Appalachian State University
Boone, NC 28608
828-262-2285
scherlnag@appstate.edu