Predatory journals

Image credit: Don Hankins. Used under licence: CC BY 2.0

We all love the thrill of publishing a paper. It allows us to share our research with the world and build a reputation in our field. According to the Global Scientific & Technical Publishing 2017-2021 report, the scientific and technical publishing industry is worth $9.9 billion each year. Unfortunately, these vast sums of money draw the attention of unethical people looking to profit from researchers desperate to “publish or perish”.

Cue the rise of the predatory journal.

Predatory open-access journals charge authors publication fees but do not provide peer-review and editorial services in return. Without these important checks, many of the articles published are of poor quality. This doesn’t matter to the predatory publishers however, as their business model is based on open-access fees rather than reader subscriptions. Many even accepted a fictitious scientist with a list of fake publications onto their editorial boards!

Are predatory journals a growing problem?

Ask almost any academic and they’ll tell you about the emails that they’ve received from obviously predatory journals, many claiming to publish research in a completely different field to that of the recipient. A 2015 study revealed that the number of articles being published by predatory journals was rapidly increasing. The authors of these articles are typically inexperienced researchers from developing countries, paying an average of $178 (USD) per article.

Why should I avoid them?

Predatory journals erode trust in science. Their lack of peer review means they have a reputation for publishing shoddy work (or even completely meaningless papers written to demonstrate this lack of rigour). Even if your paper is excellent, publishing it in a predatory journal means you associate your name and reputation with a company who publishes poor-quality research.

Another thing to consider is the inherent instability of these journals. A recent post on the Neuroskeptic blog reported that predatory publisher Open Access Publishing London has disappeared, taking with it 1,500 published papers. The authors of these articles may have lost their money with no publication to show for it.

How to avoid falling prey to a predatory journal

With all these issues, we strongly recommend that you avoid these predatory publishers. Probably the easiest way of checking is to perform a simple web search of the journal name and the word “predatory” to see whether it appears on a list of possibly predatory journals. You can also check out these lists directly at Beall’s List of Predatory Journals and Publishers or Stop Predatory Journals. Instead, choose to publish in journals you know and read to protect your reputation and your research from predatory journals.