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Saving oneself from the clutches of a predatory journal: A case study

Kakoli Majumder | Feb 22, 2016 | 6,361 views
Safeguarding yourself against predatory journals: A case study

Case: An author received an email from a journal inviting him to submit an article, with a promise that it would be published within a month of submission. The author was tempted by the short publication time. Additionally, on checking the journal website, he found that the journal had a high impact factor. He decided to submit his article to this journal. Within two weeks of submission, the author received a letter of acceptance from the journal. However, the letter was not accompanied by reviewer comments. On inquiring about the reviewer comments, the journal gave an evasive reply, saying that the author would receive them later. The page proofs arrived soon after, along with an invoice from the journal charging him a high publication fee. The author was surprised as there was no fee mentioned on the journal website, nor in the email exchanges the author had with the journal. The author was upset and confused and approached Editage Insights for advice.

Action: We found the journal’s actions rather shady and checked their website. Although the homepage looked quite attractive, no detailed information about the editorial board or the decision making process was provided. Additionally, the articles that were available online seemed to be of poor quality. Incidentally, we also found this journal’s name in Jeffrey Beall’s list of predatory journals. We advised the author to immediately withdraw the paper from the journal as it seemed to be dubious.

However, when the author sent a withdrawal request, the journal refused, saying that they do not allow withdrawal after peer review. As per our advice, the author then replied that he had not received reviewer comments. When the author demanded to see the reviewer comments, the journal finally gave in and consented to the withdrawal. Finally, the author was free to submit the paper to another journal. We advised the author to be more careful in the future and check the credibility and reputation of any journal before submission.

Summary: Often, bogus or predatory journals obtain email addresses of researchers from web sources and send them email invitations to submit their articles. However, unless an author is able to verify the authenticity of these invitations, it is best to ignore them. Predatory journals lure people who are under a lot of pressure to publish with promises of quick publication. However, these journals do not have a proper quality control or peer review process and engage in a lot of deceptive practices. Publishing in such dubious journals can be damaging for a researcher’s career as it gives out an impression that the author either does not know the reputable journals in the field, or, worse, that the author is using the quick and easy route to get publications rather than putting in the effort required to get published in a high quality journal.

Jeffrey Beall, librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, has created lists of ‘Potential, possible or predatory’ open access journals and publishers in his blog “Scholarly Open Access.”  Beall has also put together some Criteria for Determining Predatory Open-Access Publishers. Although this may not be a comprehensive authoritative source, it can be a good starting point to check journals that seem suspicious.

The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) also has a document entitled "Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing" that can help authors assess the credibility of a journal before they submit their articles.

Here are some criteria that authors should check to evaluate a journal prior to submission:

  • The publisher’s full contact information, including address, should be provided on the journal website.
  • The journal's editorial board should consist of recognized experts with full affiliations.
  • The journal’s policy for author fees should be prominently displayed.
  • The journal’s peer-review process should be clearly described on the site.
  • The quality of articles published in the journal should be good. 
  • The journal should be indexed in a prominent association such as the Directory of Open Access Journals (www.doaj.org).

Have you ever fallen prey to a predatory journal? If you have, please share your experience so that other researchers can be cautious and avoid falling into a similar trap.

You might also be interested in reading about a few simple steps that you can take to avoid falling prey to predatory journals.

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