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Scholarly Communication Guide

Predatory Open Access Publishers

The open access movement has given rise to many new publishers that employ questionable practices with the goal of profiting from scientific research. These “predatory” publishers solicit articles from faculty through spam emails with the goal of exploiting their desire to publish for the article processing fee.

Common tactics of predatory publishers

  • Establishing what appears to be a legitimate online presence with webpages for bogus journals, complete with issues of previously published articles. Closer scrutiny reveals the articles to be plagiarized, completely fake or promoting unsound science that was not approved for more mainstream journals.
  • Some advertise a bogus Impact Factor (for example, the Index Copernicus Value)  on their website and in emails to prospective authors. They can also list editors for their journals who either did not agree to be an editor, or use fake names to populate the editorial board.
  • Advertising expedited peer review to get your article published quicker.
  • Soliciting you to edit a special theme issue in your area of research, through which they use you to recruit more of your colleagues.

Checking Publisher's Credentials

To ensure that a publisher is legitimate, do some research on the publisher before agreeing to send a copy of your article, and definitely before paying an article processing fee. Genuine journals should have a named editor and editorial board, with full and traceable contact details, be peer-reviewed, and publish information on charges, procedures, copyright and licences openly on their website. For other resources which can help you check whether a publisher is genuine, see the list and links below.

  • Does the journal have an ISSN?
  • Does the journal have contact details for the journal and its staff? Does it have a named editor and editorial board comprised of recognized experts?
  • Search the publisher's office address in Google Maps to find their office. Some publishers addresses map to mailbox centers, private homes or even apartment buildings!
  • Are the costs associated with publishing clearly stated?
  • Check to see if the journal is indexed in MEDLINE, PubMed, Scopus, JSTOR, ATLA , MLA  Directory of Periodicals, Ebsco or other legitimate A&I (abstract and indexing) services or databases.
  • Are they a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)? Members are expected to follow a code of conduct for journal editors and are provided with access to publications ethics training. Search by member (editor-in-chief) or by publisher to view a list of journals.
  • Are they a member of the International Association of STM (Scientific, Technical and Medical) Publishers? Members publish over 60% of all journal articles and are expected to follow high professional and ethical standards.

  • If they are an open access publisher, are they a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)? Members are bound by a code of conduct and membership criteria based on standard publishing practices and transparency.

  • If the journal is only one or two years old, they are unlikely to have an Impact Factor as supplied by ISI Web of Knowledge. Many predatory publishers are listing fake Impact Factors, with names like CiteFactor, Universal Impact Factor and others

  • Search for information on the chief editors of the journal through PubMed, MEDLINE or simply by Googling them. If they are legitimate scholars in your discipline, they will have previously published articles and some sort of legitimate online presence.
  • Visit Scholarly Open Access, a blog authored by University of Colorado-Denver Librarian Jeffrey Beall. Mr. Beall evaluates predatory publishers on his blog, and maintains an updated list (Beall's List) of individual journals and publishers who use unscrupulous methods to take advantage of STM scholars. Search the List of Publishers and the List of Standalone Journals.
  • Don’t give them money or agree to anything until you know they’re legitimate!

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