Over the years Jeffery Beall from The University of Colorado as undertaken the painstaking task of identifying what he calls ‘predatory journals’ and predatory publishers. Predatory journals or publishers are those which charge authors large sums of money in order to publish in open access so-called academic journals. Predatory journals offer little (if any) peer review or and articles are often published ‘as is’ complete with spelling and grammar errors. The articles themselves are often very low quality, but it shouldn’t be taken as given that all research published in these journals is bad.
Over the weekend I spotted a tweet on my timeline pointing out that all the content had gone from Beall’s website. The weblink went to an anonymous ‘pro-openaccess’ site entirely devoted to attacking Beall’s work and speculating as to the reasons why.
I am very pro open-access, but with open access comes the risk that some individuals and organisation will attempt to exploit the author pays model. Researchers who lack mentoring support and/ or have not done their due diligence can be taken in the journals which seem very enthusiastic to publish their work. (I’m actually have concerns about the‘Gold’ open access model operated by many reputable journals, but that’s a topic for another blog post.)
Many academics, myself included, have referred people to his site when they have expressed concerns that an invitation to publish seems a little dubious. I also link to Beall’s list on the open access language teaching research website yazikopen. However, Beall has not been without his critics. As well as those who stand to gain financially from predatory publications, others have questioned his emerging status as the world ‘policeman’ on academic journal standards.
While I sympathise with the perspective that one person cannot and should not be the ultimate authority on these matters, I believe that Jeffrey Beall performs a very important public service to academia in publishing these lists. In a world where anyone with an internet connection can publish anything online there are going to be people who see this as an opportunity to exploit others. Not all open access journals are predatory and new journals should not automatically be viewed with suspicion.
Since Beall’s website is currently down I’ll finish by outlining some characteristics which may suggest that a journal is predatory. None of these factors alone will demonstrate beyond all doubt that a journal is predatory.
- The journal appears to be one of suite of journals that has yet to publish any content. Predatory publishers often ‘launch’ a number of journals at the same time.
- The journal promises fast peer review turn-around times. (I have yet to see evidence of peer review in my field which takes less than 3-6 months, let alone 3-6 days).
- The journal requires that authors pay a fee on publication (though many reputable journals do this, especially in the sciences). In some cases predatory journals don’t mention the fee until the article has been accepted.
- The quality of English (or other language) on the journal website is very poor, containing typos and spelling errors (which should not be the case for organisation in the publishing business).
- The published articles are generally of low academic quality. They may have been published with clear factual errors and/ or show no evidence of having been proofread. Papers with graphs, tables and diagrams may not have been set out well and are clearly word documents converted to .pdf.
- The same individuals seen to be on the editorial board for lots of different journals from the same publisher.
- You are listed as a member of the editorial board, even though no one asked you. Some predatory publishers mine the internet for ‘reputable’ editorial board member names.
- A newish journal is called the American/ British/ Canadian Journal of X, yet evidently has no connection to its supposed country of origin.
The key way to avoid becoming a victim is to do your own due diligence and ask for advice from a trusted colleague, mentor or supervisor.