What are predatory journals?
So-called predatory journals abuse the Open Access system of providing scientists, interested parties and members of the public free access to research results. To publish in their journals they charge authors Article Processing Charges (APCs), without providing the editorial and publishing services associated with legitimate journals. Crucially, they lack proper peer-review processes, the hallmark of quality necessary to maintain high standards of scientific publishing. Predatory publishers often promise these services but in reality do not provide them once authors have paid the APCs. In contrast legitimate open access publishers also charge APCs but use these fees to cover their publishing services, including peer-review, and archiving costs.
Why are predatory journals harmful?
Publishing in predatory journals can be harmful to you as an author because publications in these journals may not count towards doctoral thesis requirements or tenure-track goals. Authors should also be wary of citing articles from predatory journals since they may not been (thoroughly) peer reviewed. In worst-case scenario your reputation could suffer.
How do you identify a predatory journal?
How can you distinguish between credible and predatory journals? Consider doing the following:
- Follow the steps on this website to identify trusted journals: https://thinkchecksubmit.org/
- Check if the open access journal is registered in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). This is a strongly regulated list. If it is registered on DOJA, the journal is likely to be trustworthy. An alternative ‘whitelist’ of open access journals is Quality Open Access Market (QOAM).
- Check if the journal is indexed in major bibliographic databases, like Scopus or Web of Science. If a journal is indexed there, it is trustworthy. This can be checked by looking up the journal in Ulrichsweb.
- If the publisher provides the Journal Impact Factor, try to verify it. You can look up Journal Impact Factors on the Reports website.
- Check the editorial board: Does it include experts from your field or other credible scientists? See if you can verify the contact information of the journal’s board members elsewhere, for instance, on their university webpage. Look for the journal’s editorial office location and see if you can verify the address.
- Look at the emails you have received from the publisher. It is not a good sign if they are unsolicited and poorly written, appear overly flattering (e.g., ‘you are a leading expert in your field’), or make contradictory claims. Assess the look and feel of the publisher’s website. Be wary if the journal website posts non-related or non-academic advertisements.
- See if the publisher clearly communicates about the peer review process, the publishing schedule, copyright agreements, and fees. Publishers should be transparent about these. Open access should never demand the copyright.
- Scan some of the articles that the journal has published and assess their quality. Is it the level you would expect in terms of content and language? Do the articles fit within the journal’s stated scope?
- Check with peers or colleagues if they have heard of the journal or know some-one who has published in the journal.
- Look at the time between the submission and acceptance of articles. Is this enough for peer review and revision? If it seams to good to be true, it usually is!
- If in doubt ask advice from the Medical Library: firstname.lastname@example.org
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