Archive for predatory journal

Nature on predatory journals

Posted in Books, University life with tags , , , , on January 24, 2020 by xi'an

A (long) comment published in Nature this week studies the impact of predatory journals, with a definition (made by the 32 authors of the comment and 9 others at a special meeting in Ottawa) of what constitutes a predatory journal.

Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.”

The article discusses each term in the definition, terms that remain vague (like what’s a “deviation from best”? A terrible website? May be due to English not being the first language of the journal editors…). In my opinion, the main criterion is the “aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation”  and a lack of actual peer review, which can be easily detected when the paper is accepted within a very short time period. (Which is not to state that journals with a very quick rejection time should be a priori considered as predatory!) High publishing fees are certainly part of the predatory landscape but difficult to detect from established journals, even those backed by national or international societies. My only experience with predatory “publishers”, beyond the constant flow of proposals to send a paper, to edit a special edition and so forth, is a paper sent to a journal with the same title as a regular (Elsevier) journal, modulo a permutation!, and a threat of legal action from another source, which I described as “predatory” for proposing to write a general public paper in their glossy magazine. For the first occurrence, the paper was accepted within a day, we never signed any copyright form, and despite requests to withdraw the paper, it almost immediately got published. Even though we never paid the requested fees.

“Efforts to counter predatory publishing need to be constant and adaptable. The threat is unlikely to disappear as long as universities use how many publications a scholar has produced as a criterion for graduation or career advancement. The publish-or-perish culture, a lack of awareness of predatory publishing and difficulty in discerning legitimate from illegitimate publications fosters an environment for predatory publications to exist. Predatory journals are also quick to adapt to policies and measures designed to foil them.”

It certainly feels impossible to completely counter predatory actions, especially when some researchers seek such publications, but detecting some could be achieved by sending decoys to them, in the form of low-content pseudo-articles that could not pass any serious assessment by a genuine referee. Because no publication is intended, the same decoy could be used over and over by the society initiating the action…