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There are over 33, 000 journals 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 academia a more democratic space, it also means that anyone can publish academic research and claim the work legitimately.
To put it simply, academia is facing the threat of predatory publishing.
Predatory publishing is a fraudulent academic practice in which publications charge researchers to publish their scientific work in journals without proper review processes and editorial assistance in place.
Usually, academic journals have thorough peer-review processes that are set up to assess the validity and quality of the research produced. This is a common practice in academia 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, the arguments are presented well, and the overall paper is well-crafted.
The reason predatory journals are tagged as “predatory” is because publishers often actively seek out researchers 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 means these are journals that do not require readers to pay an exorbitant subscription fee for the papers they are accessing. This publication model is gaining prominence as academia, as an ecosystem, is taking to the internet. However, keep in mind that not all open-access journals are predatory journals.
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 of submitting to and getting published in peer-reviewed journals. You can’t publish the work elsewhere, and it remains on your resume as a permanent dent.
As an up-and-coming researcher, here are some simple but effective steps you can take to ensure that you don’t submit your research work to predatory journals.
Nowadays, every journal (open-access or otherwise) has an online presence. They provide clear information about the publication processes and timelines, as well as information about 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 poor 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!)
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 in 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.
One way you can check to see if you’re in good company is to vet the journal’s editors and board members. 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 establish direct contact with them for more details about the journal. If you get no response (or an unconvincing one), it’s best to avoid them.
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).
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.
Predatory journals usually ask you for a fee under the guise of some kind of review process. And it 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 they don’t use the submission fee towards improving the standards of the work, you can bet it’s just going to be a waste of your resources.
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 avoid publishing with fraudulent journals you encounter. Follow PaperTrue for regular articles about academic writing and publishing.
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