Writing and Publishing: Resources for Researchers and Scholars

This guide is brought to you by the Office of Scholarly Communications, where our goal is to help you reach yours.

Author, Beware!

            An invitation to submit an article seems flattering, especially when it comes from an editor who promises swift publication in a journal with an impressive title. Before you click "reply," though, give your skepticism a moment to temper your enthusiasm. This complimentary email may be a lure, drawing you into a predator's jaws – specifically, the jaws of a predatory journal.

            A respectable journal serves a community and strives to ensure that it publishes only quality research.  Its editors and editorial board members have significant expertise, and each article undergoes rigorous peer review before publication.  A predatory journal, in contrast, exists solely to maximize profits from author fees.  With a group of editors and board members, it mimics a respectable journal; but closer inspection may reveal that they lack the necessary qualifications or even that they aren't real people. But such a journal doesn't need a qualified editorial team because it doesn't require peer review; it publishes just about any submission, as long as the author includes payment.

            Over the past several years, exploiting the demand that researchers publish prolifically, this rapacious industry has boomed.  According to one estimate, quoted in a recent issue of Nature, the number of predatory journals now equals the number of legitimate journals. This alarming trend not only threatens to dilute the scientific record with flawed papers and undermine public respect for the research community.  It also threatens the credibility of individual researchers who naïvely publish their valuable work in such an unsanctioned journal.  

            But you can avoid falling victim, if you know how to spot a predator. A journal which fails the following tests should make you wary.

1.  Is the journal indexed by either the Journal Citation Reports or the Directory of Open Access Journals?  Both JCR and DOAJ insist that a journal adhere to best practices for scientific and scholarly publishing before listing it.

2.  Does the journal have a website? Does it look professional? Is the English correct, or are there numerous spelling and grammatical errors? Are the images crisp or fuzzy?  Does the website include information about submission, peer review, copyright policy, and the editorial board?

3. Can you find the editorial board members on the web? Is their institutional affiliation listed correctly? Are they truly qualified to evaluate research in this field?

4.  Are you able to locate recent issues of the journal? Has it published relevant, high quality research by recognized authorities at respected institutions?

For additional assistance with assessing a journal, see the website Think. Check. Submit. and the guidelines provided by the World Association of Medical Editors.

            If you determine that the journal is predatory, obviously, you should not submit your work to it.  You may want to block future invitations by setting your email program to route the sender's messages to your "junk mail" folder.  Microsoft Office 365 tracks email which individual users mark as "junk;" and after a number of users identify a particular sender, Microsoft automatically blocks its messages before they enter the U of A system. You can also report an invitation from a predatory journal to University Information Technology Services at abuse@uark.edu.  The security team may choose to block the sender's email and IP address from the system.

            Don't throw your valuable research to the lions!  Seek a quality, respected journal which will handle your work with professionalism and showcase it among with the work of your peers.

References:

Moher, D. & Srivastava, A. (2015). You are invited to submit…. BMC Medicine 13:180. doi: 10.1186/s12916-0423-3

Shamseer, L., Moher, D., Maduekwe, O., Turner, L., Barbour, V., Birch, R., … Shea, B. (2017). Potential predatory and legitimate biomedical journals: can you tell the difference? a cross-sectional comparison. BMC Medicine 15:28. doi: 10.1186/s12916-017-0785-9

Sorokowski, P., Kulczychki, E., Sorokowski, A. & Pisanski, K. (2017) Predatory journals recruit fake editor. Nature 543:7646: 481-483. Retrieved from   http://www.nature.com/news/predatory-journals-recruit-fake-editor-1.21662

Melody Herr, PhD

Head, Office of Scholarly Communications

May 2017