What is a predatory journal?

A few things to look out for and signs that give away a bogus journal.

Updated - December 03, 2021 04:58 pm IST

Published - November 28, 2017 05:00 pm IST

 Representational image.

Representational image.

Recently, the Hyderabad-based OMICS Group , which publishes over 700 journals, was in the news for its deceptive business practices. The US-Federal Trade Commission charged OMICS with making false claims about peer reviewing and listing editors who have not agreed to be associated with the journals.

The number of predatory journals is increasing day-by-day and also getting more difficult to identify. Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado in Denver, first coined the term “predatory journals” and maintained a listing of predatory journals which was later taken down. Cabell’s International launched a revised version of the list called Cabell’s Blacklist, which can be accessed for a fee at the company’s website.

With over 4,000 predatory journals (according to Cabell’s Blacklist), here are a few things to look out for and signs that give away a bogus journal.

What is a predatory journal?

A predatory journal is a publication that actively asks researchers for manuscripts. They have no peer review system and no true editorial board and are often found to publish mediocre or even worthless papers. They also ask for huge publication charges.

Why do academics publish in such journals?

In research environments, there is usually more value for quantity over quality. Hiring and promotion of academics is based largely on their number of publications. Predatory journals has helped many pseudo-researchers to prosper.

What is the harm caused by predatory journals?

Predatory and low-quality journals corrupt the literature. Medical science has been particularly hit hard, with journals now devoted to unscientific medicine. “Peer review is at the heart of academic evaluation. Publishing without peer review [while pretending that peer review was done] gives poor and mediocre academics a chance for jobs and promotions which should go to better qualified researchers,” says Prof. Sunil Mukhi, J.C. Bose Fellow and Chair, Physics Programme, IISER Pune.

How does one find out if a given journal is predatory or not?

“It requires a bit of work. If one is lazy about this, it is easy to come to the wrong conclusion. For example, some people think any journal from an unknown publisher, or a journal that charges for publication, is necessarily predatory. That is not necessarily correct. The important thing is to dig deeper and find ….the quality of submitted manuscripts….and its standards,” he adds.

Here is a curated list of Beall’s criteria for identification of predatory journals and publishers

• No single individual is identified as specific journal’s editor with no formal editorial/review board or the same editorial board for more than one journal.

• The editor and/or review board members do not have academic expertise in the journal’s field.

• Provides insufficient information or hides information about author fees, offering to publish an author’s paper and later sending an unanticipated ‘surprise’ invoice.

• No proper indexing.

• The name of a journal is unrelated with the journal’s mission.

• The name of a journal does not adequately reflect its origin (e.g. a journal with the word ‘Canadian’ or ‘Swiss’ in its name when neither the publisher, editor, nor any purported institutional affiliate relates whatsoever to Canada or Switzerland).

• The publisher has poorly maintained websites, including dead links, prominent misspellings and grammatical errors on the website.

• The publisher makes unauthorised use of licensed images on their website, taken from the open web, without permission or licensing from the copyright owners.

• Re-publish papers already published in other venues/outlets without providing appropriate credits.

• Use boastful language claiming to be a ‘leading publisher’ even though the publisher may only be a start-up or a novice organisation.

• Provide minimal or no copyediting or proofreading of submissions.

• Publish papers that are not academic at all, e.g. essays by lay people, polemical editorials, or pseudo-science.

• Have a ‘contact us’ page that only includes a web form or an email address, and the publisher hides or does not reveal its location.

• The publisher publishes journals that are excessively broad (e.g. Journal of Education) or combine two or more fields not normally treated together (e.g. International Journal of Business, Humanities and Technology) in order to attract more articles and gain more revenue from author fees.

Before you submit your work to a journal, use this checklist (from Think.Check.Submit.Initiative ) to find out if it is a genuine one.

1. Do you or your colleagues know the journal?

2. Can you easily identify and contact the publisher?

3. Is the journal clear about the type of peer review it uses?

4. Are articles indexed in services that you use?

5. Is it clear what fees will be charged?

6. Do you recognise the editorial board?

7. Is the publisher a member of a recognised industry initiative (COPE,DOAJ,OASPA)?

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