There are over 33, 000 journals are across the world, and they publish thousands of books and papers each year. It’s interesting to wonder, if the numbers are this high, what is legitimate and what isn’t. If the information age is making it easier to publish in journals, then what happens to the status of academic writing? Is every journal you come across vetted and verified?

Turns out, no.

As the academic world is turning to digital means to sustain itself, there is also a steady rise in open access journals — these are journals that don’t require subscriptions in order for people to access research. While this makes academics a more democratic space this also means that anyone can publish academic research and claim the work legitimately.

In other words, academia is facing the threat of predatory publishing.

What is predatory publishing? 

Predatory publishing is a fraudulent academic practice is which publications charge researchers to publish their work in journals without proper review process and editorial assistance. 

Usually, academic journals have thorough peer-review processes that are set up to assess the validity and quality of the research work produced. This is done because academic publishing is one of the most crucial spaces to share and further the scope of knowledge in a particular field. Journals also have in-house editors or recommend researchers to get their work reviewed and edited by subject matter experts to ensure that the research is scientific and is presented well.

The reason predatory journals are tagged as “predatory” is because publishers often actively seek out researchers and publishers and “trick” them into publishing their work, even if the work is sub-par or even unscientific in nature.

Many of these journals are open-access, which are journals that do not require readers to pay for the papers they are accessing. This publication model is gaining prominence as academia as an ecosystem is also taking to the internet. However, keep in mind that not all open-access journals are predatory journals. 

Why is this system a problem? 

The obvious and most detrimental issue with predatory publishing is that it actively contributes to the production of unscientific and inaccurate work. There is no quality control in what kind of research is published.

Predatory publishing is a serious issue for academia in general, but it is also a bad career step for researchers to make. According to this study by ScienceMag.org, papers from predatory journals are cited far less than papers published in peer-reviewed journals. What’s worse is that it lowers your chances in getting published in peer-reviewed journals. You can’t publish the work elsewhere, and it remains on your resume as a permanent dent.

 

How to identify and avoid predatory journals: 

As an up and coming researcher, here are some simple but effective steps you can take to ensure that you do not submit your research work to predatory journals.

Check their website thoroughly:

Nowadays, every journal (open-access or otherwise) has an online presence. They provide clear information about the publication processes and timelines, as well as themselves. That’s what you’re looking for: clear cut information about every single aspect of the publication process. One of the most obvious red flags of a journal website is bad grammar and spelling. It is a clear indication of the lack of emphasis on quality.

You should also be able to find contact information and an address for a physical office. (This means they actually, legitimately, exist!)

Look for a peer-review process:

Peer review is an important process that is the hallmark of scientific writing. It is an important process that ensures the sanctity of academic research. Publishing in peer-reviewed journals automatically means that your work is credible, scientifically valid and vetted by experts of the field. It’s important to check that any journal you’re submitting to has a solid review process in place.

Predatory journals are notorious for not having such processes. Many outright skip it altogether or they advertise speedy review timelines. This is also a red flag, because it means that your work is not likely to be examined properly.

 

Look up the editors of the journals:

One way you can check to see if you’re in good company is to vet the editors and board members of the journals. Look up their academic credentials and publication history. In an attempt to look credible, many predatory journals even create fake scholars and experts. So a good idea is for you to directly establish contact with them for more details about the journal. If you get no response (or an unconvincing one), it’s nest to avoid them.

 

Cross-check the journal with existing databases:

If you’re unsure about the credibility of a journal, you can head to databases and directories that list vetted journals. Ideally, you should be able to find information about them on databases like Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM), and Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA).

 

Verify when the journal asks for a submission fee:

Another thing you should be looking for is information about submission fees. If the journal asks you for any kind of payment before a review process, run far far away.

This sort of payment often asked under the guise of some kind of review process, which most likely doesn’t even exist. There’s a large possibility that they might not even contact you after they receive your fee. And if the fee is not used towards improving the standards of the work, then you can bet it’s just going to be a waste of your resources.

 

Read their past issues:

It’s a good idea to take a look at other papers that the journal has published. This is a good practice while looking for journals in general because it gives you an insight into the quality of work that they regularly publish. Read multiple articles across multiple issues, and if you find a recurring trend of unscientific work, you know it’s not the place for you.

 

Hope this helps you avoiding publishing with fraudulent journals you encounter. Follow PaperTrue for regular articles about academic writing and publishing.