Updated May 24th, 2022
Predatory publishing was first recognized at the beginning of the 2000s, and since then, the number of predatory journals has grown, especially due to the appearance of Open Access publishing and the constant need to publish quantity over quality. While many authors unknowingly publish with such publications, it’s best to avoid them at any costs.
Thankfully, there are ways to spot a predatory journal or publisher, which you’ll learn about in this article. You’ll also learn about the outcomes of publishing with such organizations and why authors continue to publish in such journals.
Academic authors are often under enormous pressure to publish their work, and the ease of website creation has created a market ripe for exploitation. Some publishers take advantage intentionally while others may make mistakes due to neglect or inexperience--but all predatory publishing companies have certain things in common:
- Their main goal is to make a profit
- They make false promises and claims (claim high impact factors and indexing)
- They don’t care about the quality of published work (little or no peer-review)
- Most predatory journals behave in an activity that is questionable and harmful.
What is the definition of a predatory publisher?
A predatory publisher takes advantage of authors’ academic desires to get published faster, offering very little rewards for those who use their services. They essentially make false promises but don’t provide payment or royalties for authors.
How Exactly Does The Scam Work?
Predatory publishers have been exploiting the Gold Open Access model to take advantage of unsuspecting authors. Under this method, the publication charges for publishing instead of subscriptions.
They continue their unethical tactics by claiming legitimacy as a publisher and taking money from new writers before disappearing from public view. They do this without giving an explanation or making contact info available.
Predatory publishers are a threat to the world of academia. They lure unknowing authors into a publication by offering quick peer-review. They also promise that authors’ work will be published in prestigious indexes such as Web of Science, Scopus or library university databases such as JSTOR.
Furthermore, although these predatory journals have no idea about quality control, they don't bother with any form of editorial review.
Predatory publishers are a growing problem for authors who sometimes, in good faith, provide their work to these types of organizations. Legitimate publishing companies offer various services that predatory ones cannot match since they don’t have an actual interest in your work. See a list of problems that come up for authors below.
Your work may be subject to sub-par peer-review
The peer-review system is excellent for improving the quality of writing. Papers that go through review are generally better off because they get feedback from peers on how to improve their work.
Therefore, it's important to publish in a journal where your research will be valued and given the necessary time and resources to make improvements before publishing, especially if you're working towards a promotion or tenure.
Your work could disappear
It's a relief for many researchers and academics to publish with responsible publishers because they make commitments to preserve your work. In contrast, opportunistic publishing companies who only care about making money won’t be worried if you need access tomorrow or five years from now. It is every scholar's nightmare when they apply and find out their paper won’t be available.
Your work will be hard to find
Beware of predatory publishers who claim to be in well-known databases like Web of Science or Scopus, when they aren’t. Most likely, your work will show up on Google Scholar. Even then, your work won't have the same visibility as it would through other research databases.
Why Do Academics Continue to Publish in Such Journals?
Research environments are continuously looking for quantity over quality. Meanwhile, promotions in academic circles rely mainly on the number of publications an author has. However, this isn’t a guarantee that the work contains true and accurate research findings.
Predatory journals have helped many newer researchers “prosper” by providing them with false credibility through publication without a peer-review process. What’s worse is that predatory journal articles could be reprinted elsewhere under fake author names or even sold outright.
The Embarrassment That Ensues
It's difficult for authors to find out they've been victims of a scam. Additionally, there are still many unknown repercussions for publishing with questionable publishers. Publishing in a predatory journal can hurt your reputation and that of your institution, and can keep you from advancing in your career.
Pro tip: do the necessary research prior to submitting your work to a publication to ensure it’s in good hands. The Think.Check.Submit guide helps researchers identify trusted journals and publishers for their work. You may also consider publishing in an Open Access repository, such as Orvium.
Avoid Predatory Journals at All Costs
A predatory journal is a publication that has been set up with the sole purpose of making money. These journals charge authors hefty fees to publish their work and then sell the result back to them at inflated prices.
This unethical business model, which can be considered an "academic scam", exploits both authors and society by taking advantage of people's desire for academic prestige or career advancement without any concern for quality control.
It would be wise to stay away from predatory journals and publishers. Instead, take the time to do research to make sure you’re working with a reputable publisher.