Beware the Dark Side (of scientific publishing)

There are many reputable publishers and journals for peer-reviewed manuscripts, many of which offer open access publishing options (what is open access?). There are also many questionable journals out there (so-called “predatory journals”), which often promote their open access publication. How do you tell the difference?

Until recently, Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Denver, maintained a list of predatory open access journals. Beall removed the list from his website in January 2017. [An archived list can be found here.] Without the predatory journals list maintained by Beall, researchers can also turn to the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) for a list of journals that maintain quality control measures. The credibility of the DOAJ list came into question with an open access sting conducted in 2013 by a journalist at Science.

Update July 5, 2017: A new “blacklist” of scientific journals is being compiled by Cabell’s International. Read more about their efforts.

For another resource, see a recently compiled list of characteristics shared by potential predatory journals (full research article here). The list includes obvious tip-offs such as “website contains grammar and spelling errors” and “manuscripts are requested to be submitted via email” as well as characteristics such as “Index Copernicus Value is promoted on the website,” “there is no retraction policy,” and “article processing/publication charge is very low (e.g., < $150 USD).”

Before you submit a manuscript to a journal you have never published in, it may be worth gathering a little more background information about the practices and people behind the journal. Do you recognize members of the editorial board (hopefully no Darth Vader)? Have your colleagues previously published in this journal?

In my professional opinion, its better to get 1 or 2 high-quality publications on your CV instead of 6 papers published at predatory journals that may operate with questionable practices and intentions. Bottom line: I strongly suggest researching any open access journals, especially those that solicit a manuscript from you, before you publish with them.

May the Force be with you in selecting a journal.