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HealthSeptember 29, 2021

How to spot a predatory publisher

One of the more important issues for authors in recent years has been the rise of predatory publishers. Driven in part by the explosion in open access publishing, predatory publishers represent a significant threat to authors looking to publish their research.

Predatory publishing: A definition

A predatory publisher is one that exploits the need to publish but offers little in return for using their services. They fail to follow accepted standards or best practices of scholarly publishing, and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from sound editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive solicitation practices. Falling prey to a predatory publisher could result in being charged exorbitant publishing fees, your work being held hostage, or damage to the credibility of your research.

A growing problem

The scope — and growth — of predatory publishing was tracked by librarian Jeffrey Beall in his list of “potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open access publishers.” The number of publishers on what is now known simply as “Beall’s list” grew from 18 in 2011 to 1,155 in 2017. His list was taken offline in 2017, but sadly, the problem of predatory publishing continues.

Warning signs of a predatory publisher

Awareness of these predators is growing, and there are things to look out for when considering a publisher. A partial list of warning signs includes the following:

  • The journal website contains misleading or false information.
  • Guarantee of acceptance and/or very rapid publication.
  • The journal name is similar to or easily confused with that of another.
  • The peer review process is not mentioned.
  • Information about journal ownership is missing.
  • Policies and notices of copyright are missing or unclear.
  • Author fees are not stated or not explained clearly on the journal website.

Where to look for guidance

There are resources and organizations for authors to turn to when seeking out a legitimate publisher. One such organization is Think. Check. Submit (TCS). This organization helps researchers identify trusted journals and publishers for their research. Offering a range of tools and practical resources, TCS seeks to educate researchers, promote integrity, and build trust in credible research and publications.

Another resource is the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Created in 2003, the mission of this well-known directory is to increase the “reputation, usage, and impact of quality, peer-reviewed, open access scholarly research journals globally.” This independent organization works with editors, publishers, and journal owners to support best-practice publishing and standards.

Take time to check the resources listed below in order to fully educate yourself. As an author, it’s in your best interest to do your homework prior to submitting your manuscript to a publisher. Doing so can help you avoid a costly mistake.

Resources to learn more

Predatory publishing is no joke
Caveat Scholar: On the Growth of Predatory Publishing
Committee On Publication Ethics (COPE)
COPE Discussion Document: Predatory Publishing
Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)
List of predatory publishers
Think. Check. Submit.

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