Predatory journals and publishers
An unfortunate side-effect of the growth of high-quality open access journals is the number of 'predatory' open access publishers that have also sprung up. These publishers essentially accept as many articles as possible in order to make as much money as possible. These journals provide little or no peer-review and editorial services, and as a result the quality of the articles they publish is poor. (You may like to read this Times Higher article or this article in The Economist.) When you're considering where to publish or which research to cite, avoid predatory journals!
How do I spot a predatory journal?
There is a fairly long checklist (below) that you can work through or you can contact the Research Outputs Team within the Library- firstname.lastname@example.org. However, given the number of articles you're likely to find yourself working with, this may not always be practical! So we've offered two options -
When searching for research to cite
- Only use databases that you know are trusted sources, for example, Discovery, Scopus, and don't use Google Scholar. OK - so this method doesn't help you spot predatory journals, but by only using trusted databases you will avoid these journals all together. Find out more about searching for information.
Spotting predatory journals when deciding where to publish
This can be a bit of a headache, but this a pragmatic approach ...
- First, check to see if the journal is listed in Scopus or the Web of Science (science / technology subject areas) or the ABS list (business and law subjects). If your working in one of these subject areas and the journal isn't listed on either Scopsus or the ABS list, then be suspicious. However, be aware that this isn't fool-proof. New journals produced by reputable publishers may not be listed yet.
So you may also need to ...
- Look at the quality of the research published in the journal. If the quality is dubious then beware of the journal.
- Does the journal website look right? Sometimes predatory journals are easy to spot as their websites look terrible. (Think late 90s flashing graphics, cheesy stock images etc!) But be aware that some predatory journals can also look very reputable, often even quoting journal metrics, ISSNs etc. So be careful - appearances can be deceptive!
- Predatory journals are sneaky when it comes to Impact Factors. All true, official Impact Factors all come from the Web of Science. I.e. they indicate that the journal has reached a threshold quality level to be listed in the Web of Science database. However, predatory journals may claim that they have an Impact Factor when in fact the journal isn't even listed in the Web of Science at all. So don't take any claims of having Impact Factors at face-value. What they may have is an unofficial 'Impact Factor' created by the predatory journals themselves!
- If the journal appears to have a back-catalogue of articles, make sure they are accessible on the journal's website.
- Check that the editorial board of the journal are recognised experts in their field. But be aware that predatory journals sometimes list people as editors without their knowledge. Check that the people listed as editors are actually editors! E.g. check their profiles on their university website to ensure they mention their role as an editor, or contact them directly via their university email address and check.
- If a journal offers a very fast turn-around time for publication then be suspicious.
- If the publisher sends spam emails to academics inviting them to submit to the journal, then beware.
- Check that the journal/publisher is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). This website lists reputable open access journals.
- Check that the publisher is a member of Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM).
- If there is limited information about the costs (Article Processing Charges) of publishing on their website then beware of the journal/publisher.
- Check that the contact information for the publisher is verifiable. I.e. do they have an address and working telephone number? Be aware of publishers who only provide a web form as a means of contacting them.
So where should I publish?!
Working out which journals to avoid is just the start. Reputable journals themselves vary considerably in terms of reputation, prestige and ranking, so you should also take a look at the very short guide on which journal to publish in.