How To Identify Predatory Journals & Suspect Publishing Practices
Although it may at times seem tempting to toss peer review and the delays and revisions it so often necessitates to the wind and take up that offer of guaranteed publication, any journal that claims to be academic, scientific, scholarly or the like but that dispenses with peer review, editorial excellence and other reputable publishing standards is not what it should be. It is, in fact, extremely likely that it is one of the many predatory or pseudo-journals now haunting the internet in wait for gullible researchers eager to publish their writing. Such a journal will not give you the kind of publication that will be most beneficial for your research, your career and your intellectual and professional community. It is therefore best to identify and avoid these suspect publishing entities, but that can be difficult, so this list of important questions to ask and information to look for may prove useful, especially for new and early-career researchers.
1. Is the journal visible and recognised? Ask your colleagues and mentors if they have heard of it. Find out if the publisher is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association or other relevant groups. Do an online search to see what turns up in connection with the journal title. You will ultimately have to make your own decisions about the journal, so a little initial research to gain a wider perspective is a good beginning.
2. Visit the journal’s website and read all of it, following every link and noting every claim or the lack thereof. The following situations are common warning signs that a journal does not observe the appropriate scholarly standards:
• Rapid review and successful publication are promised before your manuscript has been seen by the editor. If you submit your work, it becomes clear that neither time nor effort was dedicated to constructive peer reviews.
• Information about fees and charges is vague or fees are far too low or high. Once your work is submitted, accepted or even published, undisclosed fees may be requested. Legitimate open access journals do charge authors a publishing fee, but details and requirements will always be clearly stated on their websites and the fee is only charged when a paper is accepted. Unexpected submission and processing fees charged regardless of whether a manuscript is actually accepted are not appropriate.
• Vague or nonexistent information about the journal’s proofreaders and editorial board, its policies and practices for indexing and preserving scholarship, its editorial standards and guidelines, its withdrawal and retraction protocols, its copyright requirements and other vital points. Expert proofreaders are necessary for a strong scholarly journal, so look up named proofreaders and their research, and do be aware that a reputable open access journal will almost certainly not retain copyright.
• Unrealistic or inconsistent claims about everything from reviewing practices to the location of the journal’s offices. If the publication timeline sounds too short, vital steps are being neglected; if the title of the journal and the website sound too general, they are probably designed to cast a wide net for authors, not readers; if the journal’s publisher just launched fifty new journals, it is very unlikely to be upholding the highest scholarly standards.
• A low-quality and unprofessional website. A journal that advertises itself with text that is riddled with grammatical, spelling, punctuation and typing errors is unlikely to be capable of producing a high-quality research paper. A site with dead links that lacks vital pages and explanations may be designed to mislead, and one with a home page that addresses authors rather than readers is suspect as well.
3. Find and read papers published by the journal, and do so with a critical eye alert to telltale problems. Is the published content too broad or general for an academic or scientific journal with the title and scope specified on the website? Are the articles effectively presented for readers or is the formatting inconsistent and confusing? Are there language errors that prevent accurate communication of the research? Finding out more about the authors who have already published their research in the journal can be helpful as well.
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