November 15, 2022, #21
Predatory journals represent a potential risk especially for early-career scholars without any permanent position. The reason is that predatory publications may not count as legitimate, and could even count negatively as a sign of poor judgment. The topic of predatory journals itself goes at least as far back as the list that Jeffrey Beal maintained but was forced to shut down in 2017. An archived version is available. Simon Linacre’s open-access book, "The Predator Effect: Understanding the Past, Present and Future of Deceptive Academic Journals", addresses the problem directly.¹ Linacre cites a 2017 study by Frandsen, which discusses the reasons “why authors want to publish in the first place at this point, and typically it is for one or more of four reasons: to register an idea or experiment or finding; to certify and validate research; to disseminate that research; and to archive the research for future reference.”¹ Further reasons are “the perceived ease with which publications can lead to promotion or a cynical dissatisfaction with the scholarly communications industry as a whole (Frandsen, 2017).”¹ Linacre tells the story of an author who initially published in a predatory journal and paid the required fee. When he learned that the publication was problematic, “a sympathetic senior academic advised he should publish the article again in a different, more reputable journal.”¹ That made things worse, because publishing the same paper twice is considered an ethical violation. The core problem in this story was everyone’s poor understanding about the consequences of these choices. Predatory journals are one of the consequences of the increasing pressure to publish. In “Global South” the pressure to publish in English is particularly strong. Many authors have no simple source for learning which publishers are predatory, and the threat of lawsuits discourages organizations from publishing such lists. This means that it is all that much more important for universities to provide training about how to recognize predatory publishers, which is one of the topics of the Information Integrity Academy. Unfortunately the definition of a predatory publisher is vague. Among the characteristics are a very quick and very minimal peer review process with little real feedback, and predatory publishers mostly charge for publication. These characteristics only serve as warning signals, not as proof, but authors should take such signals seriously.
1: Linacre, Simon. 2022. ‘Deceptive Academic Journals: An Excerpt from The Predator Effect’. Retraction Watch (blog). 8 November 2022. https://retractionwatch.com/2022/11/08/deceptive-academic-journals-an-excerpt-from-the-predator-effect/.
2: Frandsen, T.F. (2019). Why do researchers decide to publish in questionable journals? A review of the literature. Learned Publishing 32: 57–62. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/leap.1214.