Beware the predatory OA journal!

For some time I have been corresponding with three WAME (World Association of Medical Editors) colleagues about our shared concern arising from the proliferation of predatory journals.  These are those journals, almost invariably Open Access, that invite you to submit your best paper and assure you prompt peer review and quick publication. What they often fail to make clear is how much they will charge for these wonderful services. And far too many are not reputable, their main goal being to attract unsuspecting authors who will make them rich. My colleagues and I were considering writing a ‘letter to the editor’ of various journals to alert readers to this ominous problem but we were beaten to the punch by a paper by  Henry Tobias.  This is the link to the paper

Tobias writes: “Academic professionals who wish to advance in their fields of expertise may feel pressure to publish the results of their research without delay. Getting an article or research paper accepted by a prestigious or high impact journal, whether in print or online, is no easy task and may take a long time, sometimes years, from submission to publication. In frustration, academics may be tempted by journals, mainly online, which promise to publish their articles for a fee, often within a month. Essentially there is nothing wrong with “pay to publish”, or “open access” (OA) journals and many credible journals offer this option. (See Public Library of Science [PLOS] and others mentioned below.) As editors we must be aware of the fact that many of these journals are predatory. We must be alert to the problems these possibly charlatan publishers pose for our clients. While it is impossible to vet every journal, we should be as well-informed as possible in order to guide those who seek our professional services.” I have excerpted a few other highlights, as follows:

” Our clients should be aware of certain red flags. Persistent solicitation to publish papers is one; continuous requests to serve as reviewers might be another. It is not enough that one may see the name of well-respected fellow academics listed as members of editorial boards because these names may have been procured by subterfuge and these academics may not even be aware of the appointment.”

He reminds readers that ” Jeffrey Beall, a research librarian at the University of Colorado in Denver, has a blog, Scholarly Open Access. Here he presents a list of “potential, possible or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers,” a list which he endeavours to keep current. In his blog of Tuesday 14th May 2013, Beall comments: “Be wary of all OA journals.” One glaring example of the shoddiness of these journals is cited by Peter Aldhous who reported in the New Scientist as long ago as September 2009 that Bentham Science Publishers accepted a nonsense computer generated article. They claimed that it had been peer-reviewed and asked a publishing fee of $800.” Declan Butler in his article “Investigating journals: the dark side of publishing” (Nature, 27 March, 2013) writes about the problem of predatory journals and includes a checklist on “How to perform due diligence before submitting to a journal or publisher.”

Tobias concludes, “In response to a request for helping authors, the editor of PLOS reminded readers that ” OASPA (Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association) has a code of conduct and OASPA membership is a good signal of probity.  The phenomenon of predatory journals is growing. Before submitting an article to any journal, the author should check the credentials of the journal with as much due diligence as possible, making enquiries from multiple sources.”  He adds a final bit of advice that I find hard to accept because editors in such cases are hardly likely to be impartial. Maybe I misunderstand but the final word is: “However, the editor, as a professional dealing with many articles and many submissions, might be more aware of the pitfalls and dangers of some journals and can be the one to direct the authors’ attention to these problems.  Editors want to help their authors so they should not be afraid to ask questions of their colleagues, librarians or publications which are known to be legitimate.” 


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