In the recent years, the term “publish or perish” has gained considerable momentum. This has put institutions, students, junior doctors, and faculty alike under increased pressure to have more publication under their names. In this environment, predatory publishers, journals, and conferences has thrived. So, what are predatory publishers and conferences?
‘Predatory publisher’ is a term coined by Jeffery Beall, a librarian and researcher at the University of Colorado Denver. By definition, predatory publishers exploit authors for financial gains. Therefore, Predatory open-access publishing is an exploitative open-access academic publishing business model that involves charging publication fees to authors without providing the editorial and publishing services associated with legitimate journals. These publishers fail to provide adequate peer-review, which means that they publish low quality articles without regard to their academic and scientific integrity. Without a proper peer-review process in place, the content of these journals is not trustworthy. Hence, it damages the reputation of the author rather than strengthening it.
In general, these journals state fake impact factors that are not actually listed in the Journal Citation Reports database of impact factors. These journals also claim to be indexed in a particular database, when in fact they are not. Oftentimes, the article ends up being published solely on the journal’s website without any indexing in respectable databases.
Recently, a number of experiments tested predatory journals and publishers. In 2015, a group of researchers created a fictitious scientist named Anna O. Szust (oszust means “fraud” in polish). They applied on her behalf for an editor position to a number of predatory journals and control journals (journals that meet certain standards of quality). This fictitious scientist Dr. Fraud had no qualifications to be an editor of a journal. She had no publications and no previous editorial experience. However, forty predatory journals accepted her for the position of an editor within days. However, none of the control journals did. The results of this experiment were published in the journal “Nature” in 2017.
SCIgen in another interesting experiment. SCIgen is a computer program that uses context-free grammar to randomly generate nonsense in the form of computer science research papers. This program forms all elements of the papers, including graphs, diagrams, and citations. Many of SCIgen randomly generated and completely meaningless papers were accepted to predatory conferences and conferences of low standards.
Another example of predatory publishers would be the fishy email that many of us receive. These emails use exaggerated flattery and often invitations to join editorial boards, write book chapters, submit abstracts to conferences, and publish articles. They often pick up the names of authors from different websites, and start spamming them with their requests. Below is an example of such an email:
The publisher who sent this email (Juniper publishers) is listed in Beall’s list of predatory journals. This email could look superficially legitimate to some. However, many signs indicate that this email is from a predatory publisher. The biggest two signs are that the journal is impatiently asking the author to submit his work, and that they are using exaggerated flattery “Hence, I have chosen some well-known people like you to hold up us to release the upcoming issue”. After noticing these signs, I was able to identify the journal as predatory by searching the name of the publisher in Beall’s list.
Highlighting the issue of predatory journals is very important because many authors from Syria and developing countries are falling prey to these journals. Although it is very easy to publish with these journals, such publications will only harm their author. Such publications, conference abstracts, or book chapters will not strengthen an author’s CV. Instead, it will tarnish it as well as damaging the author’s chances of being accepted into a respectable educational program/residency in other countries. In fact, these publication will harm an author’s credibility and reputation because his name will be associated with fraudulent and untrustworthy publication venues.
Now, it is important to mention some resources that would help the author’s identify such journals. Beall’s list is the most famous resource for this. Although Jeffery Beall’s blog that contained the list was shut down recently due to uncertain reasons, many websites maintain the list and continuously update it. Here are two websites that you can visit to check whether a journal is predatory beallslist.weebly.com (https://beallslist.weebly.com/) and predatoryjournals.com (https://predatoryjournals.com/journals/). Before submitting any paper to a journal, it would be wise to check the reputation of the journal using this list.
Also, a lengthy 13 point criteria has been created by the Times Higher Education to identify these journals. This criteria is available on their website (https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/thirteen-ways-to-spot-a-predatory-journal-and-why-we-shouldnt-call-them-that#survey-answer). Another set of criteria is described on the PLOS blog (http://blogs.plos.org/scicomm/2017/10/04/to-catch-a-predatory-publisher/).
In addition to journals, there is a disturbing trend of predatory conferences that exploit academics and researchers. Predatory conferences or predatory meetings are meetings set up to appear like legitimate scientific conferences but which are exploitative as they do not provide proper editorial control over presentations and advertising can include claims of involvement of prominent academics who are, in fact, uninvolved. They are an expansion of the predatory open access publishing business model, which involves the creation of academic publications built around an exploitative business model that generally involves charging publication fees to authors without providing the editorial and publishing services associated with legitimate journals.
Publishing in these conferences is very similar to publishing in predatory journals. Thus, it has the same damaging effect on a researcher’s reputation. One academic, Richard Edwards, shared his terrible experience with these conferences in his blog (http://cabbagesofdoom.blogspot.ie/2013/07/omics-group-conferences-sham-or-scam.html). When it comes to identifying such conference, there are two particularly helpful resources published by George Washington University (http://libguides.gwumc.edu/PredatoryPublishing/Conferences), and the UCD Library (https://libguides.ucd.ie/publishing/predatory). Therefore, it is very important to check any conference you submit your research to, because you might end up spending money in vain and damaging your reputation.
In summary, predatory open access is exploitative business models that financially abuses researchers and academics. It may seem tempting for someone to publish their work with such publishers because of their high acceptance rate and quick publicity. However, it is better to stay away from these publishers, journals, and conferences because publishing with them will be very harmful in the long run and will raise a lot of questions about the author’s credibility and reputation.
Cartwright, V. A. (2016). Authors beware! The rise of the predatory publisher. Clin Exp Ophthalmol, 44(8), 666-668. doi:10.1111/ceo.12836
SCIgen. SCIgen. Retrieved from https://pdos.csail.mit.edu/archive/scigen/#about
Sorokowski, P., Kulczycki, E., Sorokowska, A., & Pisanski, K. (2017). Predatory journals recruit fake editor. Nature, 543(7646), 481-483. doi:10.1038/543481a
Stone, T. E., & Rossiter, R. C. (2015). Predatory publishing: Take care that you are not caught in the Open Access net. Nurs Health Sci, 17(3), 277-279. doi:10.1111/nhs.12215
Wikipedia. SCIgen. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCIgen
Content created and reviewed by Alexey Youssef, MD