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Scholarly publishing: Predatory journals

Predatory journals

“There is no universally agreed definition of a predatory journal or publisher. However, organizations like the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) define global publication ethics standards — predatory journals do not meet those standards.” 

-- Karen Holland, Prof. Peter Brimblecombe, Dr. Wim Meester and Susanne Steiginga, 
The importance of high-quality content: curation and reevaluation in Scopus

What are “predatory journals”? 

  • The term “predatory journals" was first coined by librarian Jeffrey Beall in 2012 to describe what he called “counterfeit journals”[1].
  • Predatory journals or publishers are now commonly referred as those that “actively solicit manuscripts and charge publication fees without providing robust peer review and editorial services.”[2]

Why is it important to identify them?

  • Devise strategies to deal with increased calls for papers/invitations to serve on editorial boards from unfamiliar sources and journals
  • Avoid potential loss of academic reputation/opportunities by being associated with poor-quality journals
  • Uphold high standards in publishing; poor-quality publications tarnish the credibility of academic literature

Checklist to evaluate predatory journals

The checklist below can be used to evaluate if a journal is potentially predatory. The checklist is adapted from Think. Check. Submit, an initiative started by a group of scholarly communication professionals, organisations and publishers to help researchers identify trusted journals and discern deceptive and predatory publishing practices. The more questions and issues encountered when verifying a journal's characteristics with the checklist, the more you should be wary and avoid publishing in that journal.

Different authors may have different objectives, aims, tolerance or thresholds when using such checklists. As such, You should only submit your manuscript to a journal only if you can answer most or all of the questions satisfactorily based on your standards or requirements.

Also take note of predatory conferences - make use of the Think. CheckAttend. framework to evaluate conferences in future. The link to the Think. Check. Attend framework is available here.

Think. Check. Submit Checklist

Do you or your colleagues know the journal?

  • Does the name of the journal seem familiar to you?
  • Have you read any articles from the journal before?
  • Can you find the journal easily on search engines?

Email or journal website

  • Is there poor language with typos, weird choice of vocabulary, awkward formatting, inconsistent capitalisation.
  • Unprofessional and amateurish layout, scarce information provided, broken links, pages are always under construction?
  • Can you easily identify the contact information of the publisher? How about the company address?
  • Does the journal title sound similar to other publications? Does it have the words like 'Advances", "International", "Global", "Open Access" etc?

Peer review and editorial proceses

  • Are there clear instructions to the authors?
  • Are articles submitted via email directly to editors instead of using a submission application?
  • Is the peer review process extremely fast? Can publications be fast tracked? Can manuscripts be published within the matter of days?
  • Lack of policies about the editorial process, peer review process not properly explained?

Fees

  • Lack of transparency or policies about fees related to publishing 
  • Does the journal site explain what these fees are for?
  • Are there multiple fees being charged? Submission fee, publication fee, peer review fees, withdrawal fees?

Metrics and indexing

  • Does the journal have an ISSN? Do publications have DOIs?
  • Invented or fake metrics used?
  • Falsely claimed to be indexed in certain databases?

Editorial Board

  • Have you heard of any of the editorial board members?
  • Do the editorial board mention the journal on their own personal websites?
  • Are there broken links or incorrect information provided? Can you find these members and their institutions online?

Can the journal be found on lists?

Adapted from: Think. Check. Submit

Contact Us!

If you have any questions about predatory publishing, how to identify predatory conferences, or issues with research impact, do feel free to contact Richard Ho 

Beall’s list and Beall’s criteria

As of January 2017, the original Beall's list of predatory journals and publishers is no longer updated. Details on its cessation can be read at Retraction Watch.

The updated "Beall's list" can be found at https://beallslist.net/. The criteria used to derive the "Beall's list" can be found here. Do note that an anonymous individual has taken on the responsibility of preserving Beall’s list and updating it when potentially new predatory journals and publishers are identified.

Predatory journals are continuously changing names and publishers. Hence, lists are not longer considered to be comprehensive and authoritative. 

All authors are advised to conduct their own due diligence when evaluating journals.