June 12, 2017, by Lucy Bray
It is generally understood that academic content published within a peer-reviewed journal must be of high quality. This is true for both the consumer of the content and the creator. However, there is a new breed of so-called ‘predatory journals’ that call what we know into question…
Predatory Journals- what’s it all about?
In a nutshell, these are a type of journal that will publish an academics’ output, open access, for a small fee. The catch is that, unbeknownst to the author, peer review and publishing services are not carried out.
The draw for authors is that the fee (often restrictive to researchers when looking to publish) is much cheaper than that of mainstream journals.
Where did they come from?
HEFCE policy mandates that making outputs open access is compulsory for work to be accepted for the next Ref. Outputs can be made OA through either the Green or Gold route.
Through the Gold open access route, publishers make outputs freely available at the point of publication for a fee (usually around £2000). Some say that the emergence of this Article Processing Charge (APC) has spurred the emergence of ‘predatory journals’. These journals charge much less per article yet claim to offer the same services (peer review, pagination, typesetting etc) as mainstream journals.
What are the issues?
The peer review process that mainstream publishers put in place is effectively a ‘screening’ process. It is reassurance for a reader that outputs sourced through publisher journals are of high quality.
The emergence of ‘predatory journals’, who essentially mask as being scholarly, is that ‘fake news’ style research can be taken as fact.
Often ‘predatory journals’ will not allow researchers to remove their work from the journal, thereby preventing submission in another journal. This may tarnish the reputation of the author, who has unwittingly published in a sub-par journal before exploring other publication options.
What can we do about it?
Jeffrey Beale, Librarian and Researcher, coined the term ‘predatory publishing’ and in 2010 first published his list of predatory publishers, known as ‘Beall’s List of Potential, Possible, or Probable Predatory Scholarly Open-Access Publishers’.
In 2012 he posted his criteria for evaluating publishers and in 2013 added a process for a publisher to appeal its inclusion in the list. In January 2017, Beall’s list and accompanying blog were taken offline in what his spokesperson stated was a ‘personal decision’.
Ultimately, a combination of conducting ourselves in an online world and the current Open Access model means that predatory journals aren’t going to go away. A complete overhaul of the system and better education for authors from their institutions about publication routes may help, but ultimately- where there are authors willing to pay, predatory journals will continue in business.
If you have any questions or concerns about a journal that you are thinking of publishing in, please contact the Research Support Team at email@example.com .
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