Predatory scholarly publications
Predatory publishers are publishers who focus on generating profits without regard to the quality of what they publish. They make extravagant promises and then, once contracts are signed and money has changed hands, they fail to deliver. They are sometimes also called vanity presses, or described as fraudulent, deceptive, or fake.
A concern for researchers
Publishing research in a fraudulent journal can substantially damage one’s professional reputation and career. Notwithstanding the embarrassment, the negative impact can affect hiring, funding decisions and eligibility for promotion.
Early career researchers (phds, post-docs, pre-tenured) are especially at risk. They face new institutional pressures to publish, and at the same time may not yet be confident enough to know the difference between a true journal in their field and those of questionable quality that are in disguise.
All researchers should be wary of being approached by publishers or organizations they are not familiar with.
A concern for hiring and tenure committees
Hiring and tenure decisions are also negatively affected by the phenomenon. When reviewing a researcher’s publications, it is not always readily apparent whether or not they have been published in legitimate venues.
Hiring or promoting on the basis of fraudulent research undermines the reputation of the department, college and institution. At worst, it undermines the collegial trust that the scholarly discourse depends on.
Open access and academic publishing
The Open Access movement advocates for making scholarly research freely, openly, and publicly available. It is driven by those who are committed to the idea that research needs to be disseminated as broadly and freely as possible, in order to better serve the public good. There are many legitimate and highly reputable Open Access Journals in existence. Authors should focus on publishing in journals who publish quality research.
Unethical practices include:
- Aggressive requests for submissions or invitations to serve on editorial boards;
- Lying about impact factors, indexing databases, or for being a "leading academic publisher;"
- Using publisher names or journal titles that can easily be confused with a legitimate body or press; and
- Little use of or non-existent quality control practices resulting in articles being accepting quickly with little or no peer review or editorial revision.
Suspect the legitimacy of a journal or conference?
If you receive an offer to submit an article, attend a conference, or sit on an editorial board about which you are unsure or if you are assessing a CV with suspect citations:
- Forward it to your liaison librarian. They will investigate the legitimacy of the publisher or journal on your behalf, provide advice about publishers or journals to avoid, and help you choose the best research publication in your area of research expertise.
- Consult with your colleagues and experts in your discipline. They will have had prior experiences that could help you, and they can certainly steer you towards legitimate venues that they have worked with before.
- Use the Think Check Submit checklist to assess the credentials of a journal or publisher.
- Use the Finding legitimate OA journals page.
- Use the Identifying Deceptive Publishers (University of Toronto) or this checklist (français) (Le réseau de l'Université du Québec).