predatory journals

Predatory Journals – The Bane of Scientific Publishing

By Dr. Dutt, ScienceDocs Biomedical Editor

 

Scientific research is relevant only when it is published. Today, with many competing research groups, the race is on to be the first to get your data published. When word gets out in the media or in the scientific community, the value of your research increases. We are well aware that preliminary data is sometimes not discussed openly or presented at conferences for fear of losing out to a competing group. In this race, the beneficiaries are scientific journals. Like in news media, each journal would like to be the first to bring out a novel research study. To be associated with path-breaking research is extremely important in this scientific game.

This brings us to the concept of predatory journals or illegitimate journals that are not indexed in reliable databases. Quite often to build up a reputation, new journals solicit researchers. Established researchers in renowned institutions are also affected by these overtures. In the ever-increasing pool of scientific talent, there are many young, inexperienced scientists who struggle to get their work noticed. With the growing pressure of ‘publish or perish’, scientists are vulnerable to the onslaught of predatory journals in the digital age.

Predatory publishing has become a sore point for scientific validation. According to a recent article in European Science Editing, there are two distinct categories of predatory journals. The first category consists of blatant journals that make false claims of impact factors, the rigorous process of peer review, or the composition of their editorial board. They do not provide legitimate journal titles or contact email information. These journals may claim to be international in their outreach or even adopt established names and a retraction policy is absent.

The second category is reserved for journals with poor quality of publishing. Although they are legitimate in their operations, these journals are inexperienced in professionally running a journal. As a result, these publications do not have sufficient work force (editors, publishing staff), poorly created websites, low value for academic integrity, and persist in spamming researchers with invitations to publish with them.

When you weigh the consequences of dealing with the above two categories, you realize that there is not much of a choice. These journals do not provide the essentials of good quality publishing, eg. licensing, content preservation, or indexing. You are faced with choosing between blatant falsehood or low quality.

“Vigilance” is essential to avoid the error of publishing in the wrong journal. Scientists should discuss with their peers about the relevance of any particular journal and the quality of publishing. One of the key traits of predatory publishers is their extremely low article processing charges (APC). Low processing charges should ring alarm bells and the scientist should verify the legitimacy of the journal. When you are asked to submit your manuscript by email, it is a clear sign of an illegitimate enterprise. Pay attention to poor grammar on the websites of these journals!

Sometimes serendipity is welcome in identifying questionable citations in published papers of predatory journals. In articles published by predatory journals, the citations are not good quality references to be pursued as research guides.

There are a few websites that offer help to identify potential predatory journals. Think, Check, Submit (http://thinkchecksubmit.org/) is a website that educates scientists with a checklist on how to identify predatory journals. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) filters  journals to weed out predatory titles. And yet, predatory journals continue to pop up in trusted websites. It is an ever-increasing menace in the digital age of publishing.

Scientists are always consumed with a desire to make their research public. With increased awareness of the problem, questionable journals are being identified, and the reputation of published articles is getting tarnished. The consequences of publishing in the wrong journal could cost you more in your future research than waiting patiently for the right journal to accept your work at the right time. Understand your field well and take time out to study the journal before you decide to publish. Make use of websites that can guide you to choose the right journal. Remember, paying less to publish will not get your research to be read widely. This is because your research will not be indexed well in relevant databases. Hence, take the time, choose wisely, and publish well.

 

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