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Media Literacy or Fake News: Develop Your Fact-Checking Skills: Predatory Publishing

Preditory Open-Access Publishing

Growth and structure

Predatory journals have rapidly increased their publication volumes from 53,000 in 2010 to an estimated 420,000 articles in 2014, published by around 8,000 active journals. Early on, publishers with more than 100 journals dominated the market, but since 2012 publishers in the 10–99 journal size category have captured the largest market share. The regional distribution of both the publisher’s country and authorship is highly skewed, in particular Asia and Africa contributed three quarters of authors. Authors paid an average article processing charge of 178 USD per article for articles typically published within 2 to 3 months of submission.

Opportunistic publishers share several characteristics:

  • They exist to make money by taking advantage of the "author-pays model" of open access journal publishing,* and have no interest in promoting scholarship or advancing knowledge.
  • They engage in questionable business practices, such as charging excessive author fees or failing to disclose publication fees to potential authors
  • They fail to follow accepted standards of scholarly publishing, particularly in regards to peer review.

*Charging authors/funding bodies to publish articles open access is a model used by many reputable journal publishers and is not the single factor used to determine if a journal should be considered "predatory."

Evaluating Open Access Journal Publishers

Many junk open access journals send invitations to publish in future issues or serve on editorial boards. Before submitting an article or agreeing to a seat on an editorial board, investigate the reputation and legitimacy of the journal.

Fortunately, opportunistic journals are easily detectable. Steps to determine whether a journal or publisher is predatory include:

  1. Visit the journal's website. Some publishers' sites appear professionally created and managed, however closer inspection may reveal poor design, or typographical or grammatical errors that would not appear on a reputable publisher's site.
  2. While you are at the journal's website, review the journal's scope. Most questionable journals have scopes so broad that they will publish articles on nearly any topic.
  3. Check the names and credentials of members of the journal's editorial board, and verify that they are experts in the field the journal covers. If you have any questions about the journal, contact members of the editorial board for more information.
  4. Examine articles that appear in the journal and judge their caliber. Predatory publishers are not interested in producing journal articles that demonstrate excellent research or that offer compelling arguments, and rarely engage in screening or quality control.
  5. Check the peer-review policy. Unscrupulous publishers promise a quick peer-review turnaround. Considering the peer-review process used by reputable journals can take months, a publisher that states their peer-review system takes as little as 5 days is either rushing the process or not doing any peer-review at all.
  6. Check for the author's publication fee schedule. Legitimate journal publishers make this information easy to find on their website.

Sometimes, what appears to be an indicator of journal quality is actually meaningless. Consider the following:

  • The journal is indexed in Scopus, Web of Science, or other literature indexes/databases. Some questionable journals are indexed in these products even though the vendors responsible for their content claim they screen to exclude these publications.
  • The journal lists its impact factor. The impact factor provided by the journal may not be the impact factor as reported by Thomson Reuter's trusted Journal Citation Reports (JCR). Companies will provide bogus journal rankings and impact factors such as the "UIF (Universal Impact Factor)," "JIF (Journal Impact Factory)," and "GIF (Global Impact Factor)" if a journal is low quality and cannot get ranked by JCR.
  • The journal appears in Ulrich's Periodical Directory or other serials directories, has an ISSN number, or assigns DOIs to articles. None of these journal indicators deals with quality, and many disreputable journals are listed in serials directories and have ISSNs.

Attribution: Eastern Michigan University

Beall's Lists

Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, has compiled lists "potential, possible, or probable predatory" journals and publishers.

A journal or publisher's inclusion on the list does not mean it definitely engages in unscrupulous practices. The lists are based on Beall's opinions and research, and change frequently as journals and publishers modify their business practices.

Authors using these lists to screen publishers and standalone journals are encouraged to reach their own conclusions.


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