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Ten ​things you need to know about predatory publishing
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Posted by IPG
Simon Linacre of Cabells explains why fake journals, dodgy publishers and a billion dollar market should concern all legitimate academic publishers
Anyone who has published an academic article is by now familiar with the email that asks them to write a paper for a journal they have never heard of, peer reviewed at a speed they have never seen before, and for a fee way below they have ever paid. It’s too good to be true, right? Precisely, but this doesn’t stop thousands of authors every year falling for this schtick so beloved of so-called predatory publishers. And this is important for legitimate publishers, because every piece of research published illegitimately cannot be published elsewhere. It means good publishers lose out by not publishing this research, and by not receiving a fee an academic or funder would have willingly paid.
To help clear up some of the mystery around predatory publishing, here are ten points to set out the history, scale and scope of the problem and help publishers start to deal with it.

1 Definition

Predatory publishing is defined on Wikipedia as an “exploitative, and typically Open Access, academic publishing business model that involves charging publications fees to authors without checking articles for quality and legitimacy and without providing the other editorial and publishing services.”

2 History

The term ‘predatory publishing’ was first used in 2008 by US librarian Jeffrey Beall, who subsequently set up ‘Beall’s List’ of journals and publishers he identified as predatory in nature. The list was controversial, and was closed by Beall in early 2017, although cached and even updated versions still appear on the internet.

3 Legality

The biggest known example of a predatory publisher comes in the shape of OMICS Group Inc., which was found liable for damages of more than $50m in a US court in April. It was ordered to pay this amount as it represented total revenues from authors who had paid article processing charges (APCs) over a six-year period.

4 Scale

A 2015 article estimated that in the previous year there were 420,000 articles published in more than 8,000 predatory journals.

5 Scope

The authors of that article also estimated that 35% of all authors publishing in fake journals were from India, with another 25% from elsewhere in Asia. To combat this problem, India has recently launched a recommended journal list to support its academics.

6 Blacklist

As of early July, Cabellls identifies 11,632 predatory journals on our Journal Blacklist.

7 Investigations

There have been a number of ‘sting’ operations that have highlighted predatory practices. In 2013, journalist John Bohannon submitted a deeply flawed paper to a number of journals, about 60% of which accepted it with no peer review.

8 Consequences

A major German investigation in 2017 also highlighted the subsequent problems of predatory publishing, including the fact that many major industrial and pharma companies were behind articles which supported their products but were not peer reviewed.

9 Identity

Spotting fake journals is usually easy—they have many mistakes on their communications and website, their offer seems unrealistic, their colour schemes are garish—but sometimes it requires some research to see how often articles have been cited elsewhere.

10 Criteria

Cabells uses more than 70 individual criteria in assessing whether a journal is predatory or not, which can be used by anyone to make their own judgement. To help combat the blight of predatory publishing, publishers can share concerns about any journals in their subject area by contacting Cabells at
Simon Linacre is director of international marketing and development at Cabells.
Cabells is offering IPG members a month’s free access to Whitelist, its database of more than 11,000 journals. It lists editorial information about each journal, alongside data on impact factors, altmetrics, acceptance rates and times to publication, and helps to ensure that journals are part of the decision-making processes of top academics. Whitelist covers most subject areas across STEM and social sciences, is widely used in North America, and can also be used to benchmark journals against various data points. You can learn more about it here. To get a month’s free access, check Cabells’ criteria here and email Simon Linacre.

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