Is There a Reliable List of Predatory Pay To Publish Journals?
An online search for ‘list of pay to publish journals’ will quickly turn up numerous discussions and links to lists both white and black. The terminology itself may be misleading, however, because ‘pay to publish journals’ appear, for the most part, to be understood as suspicious or questionable in their reviewing and editing practices. This might imply to some readers that if a journal charges a fee for publication, it must necessarily be following unacceptable practices for scholarly publishing, and this simply is not true.
Many carefully edited and properly peer-reviewed scholarly journals charge publishing fees, especially if they are open access, and some charge submission, printing and other fees as well. These fees are intended to offset the costs associated with editing, reviewing, publishing and archiving valuable academic and scientific research. The characteristic of what many call pay to publish journals that makes them unscholarly and disreputable is that publishing, processing or other author fees are paid to buy publication, which some of these journals will guarantee before a manuscript is even seen, while others will retain significant fees even if they do not publish an author’s paper. The need to cover the costs of constructive editing, reviewing and archiving is nonexistent for such pseudo-journals because these elements of the publication process are neglected or carried out in such a cursory fashion that their cost and effect are negligible.
Predatory pay to publish journals are extremely unlikely to provide the kind of scholarly publication that effectively disseminates high-quality research, makes an excellent impression on a scientist’s or academic’s CV, and leads to employment, promotion and funding opportunities. Lists have thus been compiled to warn scholars, particularly students and early-career researchers, away from suspect pay to publish journals and towards more respectable peer-reviewed journals. Blacklists and whitelists alike are easy to find online, but both have proved controversial, with blacklists, for instance, potentially detrimental to new and unknown journals that may be sincerely working to uphold scholarly standards, whereas whitelists can too easily assure an academic or scientist that a journal and its practices are completely trustworthy when they may not be. This is to say that neither kind of list is entirely reliable or complete and each one must therefore be used with caution and the critical acumen that the best researchers apply to their work on a daily basis.
Such lists can, however, be excellent places to start when you are trying to decide whether a journal that charges publication fees is a worthy home for your research. A journal or publisher that appears on whitelists can usually be approached with trust, whereas one that turns up on blacklists should be treated with caution, but it is essential to do more than simply checking lists when choosing a journal for a scientific or academic paper. Other effective approaches include:
• Examining each journal’s website thoroughly for evidence of an appropriate editorial board, realistic peer review practices, policies on preservation and archiving, and other vital information. Pay attention to how the website is written as well as what it offers. Grammatical and typing errors should be rare; knowledge of the subject area should be obvious; and readers, not authors, should be the main audience addressed on home pages.
• Reading the papers the journal has already published and attending carefully to the quality of both the research and its presentation. Poorly described methodology, unsubstantiated claims, unclear writing and formatting, and extensive errors and inconsistencies indicate poor editorial and reviewing practices and do not bode well for publication in the journal. See what else you can discover online about the research and affiliations of the authors who have published their writing in the journal
• Asking your colleagues and mentors about the journal, the publisher and the proofreaders named on the website. If the journal is new, it may not be known, but you and your colleagues should recognise at least one of the names on the editorial board of a journal in your field of study. Website details about proofreaders as well as peer review practices and author fees are particularly likely to be vague if the journal is predatory.
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