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156. How to Identify and Avoid Predatory Journals

It starts innocently enough with an email.

This mail is with reference of your article published in the Journal of Cell Science, which is of good quality and making a good impact in the research field. In which you provided this email address to contact you.

We would be glad if you submit your manuscript to our journal, we do accept and publish Research/Review/Case reports/Mini review/Commentaries, round the year.

Unfortunately, if you fall for the scam and submit your next manuscript to this predatory journal, you’ll lose both your money, AND your research.

This week, we talk with Dr. Antonio Peramo, PhD of scientificwritingcourses.com, about predatory journals and how YOU can identify and avoid them.

What are Predatory Journals?

Quite simply, predatory journals are scams that target researchers. They look and act like scholarly publishers, but end up prioritizing their profits over the advancement of science.

More formally, a consortium of researchers writing for Nature defined it this way:

“Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.”

Grudniewicz et al. Nature Comments, December 2019

A predatory journal solicits manuscripts from unsuspecting scientists, often dispenses with peer review in favor of speed, and charges exorbitant fees for pushing the article out through an open access website.

The Consequence of Predatory Journals

Aside from their economic impact (estimated at over $75 million in 2014), predatory journals harm researchers in other ways.

Articles published in these journals do not have the same impact as those published in higher-quality journals. Over 60% never get cited in a five year period, meaning the research goes effectively unnoticed.

Perhaps worse, when these un-reviewed and questionable articles do get noticed, the scientists who cite them in their own work contribute to ‘citation contamination.

Know the Warning Signs

There are several useful indicators that a journal is not legitimate and should never receive your manuscript. A full list can be found at the Cabell’s Blog, but here are a few to get you started.

A journal is suspect if:

  1. They make first contact with YOU requesting that you submit a manuscript.
  2. They clearly do not know which scientific field you are working in.
  3. The email contains spelling and grammatical errors you wouldn’t expect in business communications.
  4. The editor isn’t listed on the website, or the editor listed also edits multiple other journals.
  5. There is no mailing address.
  6. The journal title looks similar to a well known journal, or it sounds real by nature of having ‘International Journal of…’ or ‘British Journal of…’ prefixes.
  7. They promise ‘fast’ turnaround and publishing times (obviously too short for peer review).
  8. The journal requests submission of your manuscript via email, rather than using a document management system.

The list goes on and on. Training yourself to identify the many ‘red flags’ will keep your research safe and your money in your grant account.

Before submitting anything, it’s helpful to check the journal of interest against “Beall’s List”, a veritable ‘naughty list’ of predatory journals. Conversely, the ‘nice list’ is maintained by Cabell’s, but you’ll need to pay a subscription to access the data.

Double checking the journal before you hit send is vitally important, because once you email your manuscript, it’s gone. The predatory publisher will immediately issue a DOI for your work, and release it on their ‘open access’ website. Once that happens, you won’t bee able to take it back or publish that work again.

Tune in to this week’s episode to learn everything you need to know to avoid falling into this trap!

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