Predatory open access journals

Predatory is a term applied to publishers who are guilty of unethical publishing practices. While they exist in the print world they are more common in the electronic world. This problem is compounded as the number of quality open access journals grows. The ease of starting an online publication combined with an author pays model has allowed some individuals and organisations to create substandard journals to take advantage of researchers who are eager to publish.

One of the primary concerns with unethical publishers is that they accept articles with little or no peer review or any kind of quality control. An author may only be notified of any potential fees after the item has been accepted. An author should not hand over his/her copyright to an open access journal but instead grant a non- exclusive license to the work in question. This means that the author retains the copyright and can use the material elsewhere. Highly aggressive marketing for a new journal especially using phishing/spam emails to lure researchers in is another really bad sign. Sometimes these unethical journals will list editorial board members who have not agreed to be on the board or who are then not allowed to subsequently resign. Some sites will mimic the name or website style of more established journals in an attempt to fool potential authors.

Authors are starting to help themselves. Dr. Neal Haddaway has developed Journalysis to help academic authors to document their experience with publishers, highlighting the good ones and exposing the bad.

Indicators of a quality Journal

These will include:

  • the scope of the journal.
  • primary audience is researchers/practitioners.
  • the reputation of editorial board.
  • societal/institutional affiliations.
  • All charging is transparent and upfront and clearly explained on the website.
  • There is a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) or an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) which indicates the journal keeps to international standards.  
  • The publisher is a member of OASPA  : the Open Access Scholarly Association.
  • The journal is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals  (though be cautious here as some predatory journals have slipped through the net.)

The copyright statement indicates that it can be shared and disseminated, not just read.

The journal clearly indicates rights for use and re-use of content at the article level (eg. has a Creative Commons license attached)

Indicators of a poor quality journal

  • The journal or publisher website is hard to find or identify.
  • If it is easily found there is no “About” information.
  • There is no clear statement of intent, and if there is, there is no information on peer review and copyright.
  • Most reputable publishers are not aggressive in their marketing and do not use spamming techniques.  
  • There should be no hidden charges and all charges should be upfront and clearly explained. If it doubt consult a listserve in your discipline or ask your local librarian. 

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