Predatory Publishing

UNE Library gets a number of queries about predatory publishing- what is it? Who are they? How do I know if I’ve published with a predatory publisher?

In this post we will look into what predatory publishing is, how it works, why it should matter to you, and steps you can take to ensure you do not accidentally publish your work with a publisher who is less than reputable.

picture of shark with fish mask

What predatory publishing is

The term ‘predatory publishing’ is used to describe a publisher- of books, journals, and even conferences- who does not practice ethical publishing but rather preys on academics, their research, and open access publishing models.

These publishers take advantage of open access publication whereby authors pay an Article Processing Charge (APC) to have their work published without a paywall from the day of publication.

Within open access publishing, an APC is a legitimate fee paid by authors as publisher’s are not making a profit from charging a subscription to access the content. With legitimate open access publishing publishers provide standard peer review, editing, indexing, and promotion.

How predatory publishing works

A predatory publisher will often contact a researcher via email with over-congratulatory language about their previous research and offer them a place in an upcoming publication. All the potential author needs to do is write the publication, pay the APC, and the publisher will put the publication through an industry-standard peer reviewing and editing process, before publishing it.

Unfortunately, many predatory publishers merely ‘publish’ (ie make available on their website) an author’s work without completing any peer review, editing, indexing, or promotion. This allows publishers to make a profit as little time or monetary effort goes into preparing a publication.

Why it should matter to you

Publishing with a predatory publisher may cause you to:

  • Lose academic credibility
  • Not have your work taken seriously by your research community as it has not been peer reviewed
  • Most predatory journals are not indexed in databases and are thus not as discoverable
  • Have trouble securing future funding from grants bodies. Funders may recover funding given to you if you publish work they have supported in a predatory journal
  • Surrender copyright of your work
  • Be unable to (re)publish research with a reputable publisher as it is already online

Steps to take

The first rule

If they contact you first, they are most likely a predatory publisher.

Ignore all emails, phone calls, and direct messages (on websites, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc).  In most cases ethical publishers do not cold-contact potential authors. Publishing houses, particularly focusing on textbooks, may have a representative contact you. If you are unsure contact UNE Library.

All other rules in no particular order

Ask your colleagues, peers, and wider research community if they have heard of this publication before. What are their thoughts? Were they happy with the service?

Check Ulrichsweb. Ulrichsweb is a global serials directory where you can search for a publication or publisher. Ulrichsweb provides details of peer-reviewed status, open access status, country of publication, ISSN/ISBN, databases a journal is indexed in, and more. If a publication is not on Ulrichsweb this is cause for concern.

Do a quick online search and see what other people are saying about this specific publication or the overall publisher.

Visit Think Check Submit for a checklist of choosing a publisher that’s right for you

Check the publication’s website:

  • Is it professional?
  • Is information up to date? Do they publish regularly? Do they seem to have too many publications in a short amount of time? Does the language make sense or is it over the top or poorly written?
  • Is the publication process transparent?
  • Do they clearly explain the peer review and editing process?
  • Do you maintain copyright of your work?
  • Do they make claims of being indexed in certain databases or state their impact factor? Check to see if this is true by going to these databases and looking for the journal and checking Clarivate’s Journal Impact Factor (JIF) or Elsevier’s Scimago Journal Rank (SJR).

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) are both whitelists of open access publishers who have met a number of requirements to be indexed.

Further resources

Contact UNE Library (libraryresearch@une.edu.au) if you have any questions or would like to discuss this in more detail.

Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)

Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)

ABC Radio National Background Briefing segment on predatory publishing

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