Evaluating Information Sources: Predatory Publishing

Tips on evaluating popular and scholarly articles, bias and propaganda in publishing, impact metrics and predatory publishing.

A Growing Problem

With the advent of Open Access, more research is becoming available to a wider variety of researchers. Further, many organizations require publishing for tenure or advancement and funding agencies require publication. Unscrupulous publishers are entering the field with the goal of making money off unsuspecting authors. These are called "predatory publishers". 

These journals generally claim high impact factors or peer review while the reality proves otherwise. As quality journals begin to require authors to pay fees, it becomes easier for fake journals to trick legitimate researchers into submitting their articles to be published for a nominal fee, generally providing instant (non-reviewed) publications. Additionally, most predators these will accept any article by anyone on any topic and call it "scientific."

Reasons People Publish in Predatory Journals

There are a variety of reasons authors may publish in a predatory journal:

  • A mistake - they thought it was a legitimate journal
  • Need to publish something immediately (often for publish/perish reasons) - either because they already have other legitimate publications or because of a deadline
  • Couldn't get published in a legitimate journal - often because the data is incomplete or false (e.g., fake science, science focused on a specific point of view) or because the article didn't meet the requirements of other journals (e.g., a new science)

NIH Steps to Assist Authors

Consider before Publishing

Characteristics of Fake Journals

Complaints that are associated with predatory open-access publishing include (summarizing Wikipedia and references below)

  • Guaranteed publishing (legitimate journals reject 50-90% of their submissions)
  • Accepting articles quickly with little or no peer review (even if claimed); turn-around times from 5 days to a month (peer-review processes generally take several months, minimum)
  • No quality control; publishing hoax and nonsensical papers, republishing (plagiarizing) old articles (or offering to)
  • Notifying academics of article fees only after papers are accepted
  • Aggressively campaigning for academics to submit articles or serve on editorial boards (seeking need legitimate names)
  • Listing academics as members of editorial boards without their permission; not allowing academics to resign from editorial boards
  • Appointing fake academics to editorial boards
  • Mimicking the name or web site style of more established journals
  • Offering fake conference opportunities which can pad resumes, often mimicking the name of a legitimate conference
  • Misleading claims about the publishing operation, such as a false location
  • Improper use of ISSNs  (journals can get an ISSN and get their articles a doi, even if they are not a legitimate authority)
  • Fake or non-existent impact factors (made up numbers to trick potential authors; see below for "creative" impact factor sites)

Significant resources or publications (mouse over for full citation):