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Predatory publishing

What is predatory publishing?

Unethical and exploitative predatory publishers and conferences prey on academics, usually by requiring authors to pay expensive fees to publish or present their research. These venues offer opportunities to communicate your research, but provide little or no peer-review, editorial oversight, quality control, or any of the other mechanisms that ensure rigorous academic standards are met.

New technologies and evolving models of engaged and networked scholarship are effective tools you can use to share and promote your research, through online journals, books, conferences, and other venues. However, you must be critical about where you share your scholarship. Predatory publishers recruit submissions through unsolicited e-mails, offer quick turnaround, and may even flatter you as part of their plan to convince you to publish or present with them. If you're an academic or published author, you've probably already received these invitations. The following tips will help you to identify and avoid predatory practices.

Recognizing predatory practices

These are some key questions to ask when you are evaluating the legitimacy of a journal, conference, or publisher. Click on a heading to see details about asking and answering each question.

The Directory of Open Access Journals is an authoritative listing of quality OA journals from all disciplines. Every journal listed in the DOAJ has been vetted to ensure it meets proper OA standards and is not predatory in nature.
A tool such as Ulrichsweb (formerly Ulrich's) is an authoritative listing of quality journals (traditional and open access) from all disciplines. Search for your journal to find key information about the editors, publisher, peer review, and more. Also check to see whether the journal is indexed in major academic databases.
Beall's List and other curated lists of predatory publishers and conferences can be useful as a single point of reference, but don't treat them as definitive or authoritative.
Check to see in your library, or if other libraries that support similar disciplines, subscribe to this publication or collect other works from the same publisher in their library subscriptions or collections.
Do researchers and other experts from your discipline publish there? If you haven't heard of the journal or publisher, and your colleagues haven't either, and no one you know publishes there, be cautious.
  • Also double check the journal name: predatory publishers will try to trick you by using journal titles that are very similar to legitimate, well-known publications. Be sure that you’re looking at the right journal.
Predatory publishers and conferences rely on aggressive mass email solicitations to attract potential authors. These may be generic ("Dear Sir/Madam/Dr./Professor"), or may specifically mention your name, title, or make reference to your recent publication. The call may be for a journal, book/chapter, or conference that has little or no relation to your subject expertise, and may be so interdisciplinary in scope that it could include any potential subject matter.
Many predatory journals and conferences collect their fees at the time of submission, not at the time when a paper is formally accepted for publication or inclusion in the conference. Legitimate open access journals that use article processing changes (APCs, also known as page fees) will only ask for payment after your manuscript has been peer-reviewed, revised, and accepted for publication.
Identify who is on the editorial board and check how qualified they are to review your work. You can search online for profiles or publication records of those who manage the journal, and those that might be responsible for peer review. You might consider contacting one of the members of the editorial board to ask questions about the peer review process. Alternatively, if you can't clearly identify an Editorial team and verify their connection to the publication, or only see generic contact information, be suspicious.
Before you share your research, Think, Check, Submit.
Your university library or research office should be able to help you. At MRU, contact Richard Hayman by email (rhayman@mtroyal.ca) or phone (403.440.8518). Your subject librarian is also an expert and can help you.

Other things you should know

Students and early career researchers: While academics at all phases of their careers are vulnerable to predatory practices, the immediate need to build your scholarship program and advance your career makes you a particular target, especially as you are still exploring the important publishers and conferences in your field. Be extra vigilant, and when in doubt contact your subject librarian for help with evaluating a publisher.

Everyone is responsible: We require academic honesty from our students, so faculty and administrators must hold themselves to even higher standards. Don't be complicit in predatory practices by ignoring the problem; you have a responsibility to combat it before it happens, and to flag it for attention when you see it. This is a great opportunity for education and awareness.

Faculty evaluation, tenure, promotion, and grant committees: You are in a position of power when you're evaluating the scholarship of others, and your decision may affect someone's whole career. If you spot predatory practices among those you're reviewing, don't immediately assume that the author is aware of the situation. Be mindful that some predatory practices are unintentional; it's very possible that the author was tricked into working with a suspect publisher without realizing. Communicating with the author may create an opportunity to understand the situation and make improvements. 

You think you contributed to a predatory publisher or conference: Don't panic! You have rights as an author and some ability to enforce those rights. Issue a retraction or withdrawal notice to the publisher as soon as possible, requiring that they remove all record of your work. They may refuse, but you've made an effort. If it's not too late, do not pay the article process charge (APC) or open access fee; if you have, issue a charge back if you paid by personal credit card. Document all the steps you taken to resolve the situation, and be honest with your colleagues if it comes up.