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Open Access

Predatory Publishing?

What is a “Predatory Publisher”?

‘Predatory publishing’ is a disputed term.

So-called predatory publishers will make papers or books they publish available to the public on receipt of an open access fee, just as any other fully open access publisher would.

The concern is that a predatory publisher may not subject your work to a sufficiently rigorous degree of peer review and editing as others. Indeed, many will publish any submission unaltered providing the open access fee is paid.

Is there a problem with this? Some say so but others contend that these publishers are providing a legitimate service to meet a genuine demand. Either way it is important that authors have an awareness of the topic.

Are there dangers?

Publishing in a predatory journal is less likely to enhance an author’s reputation. It is less likely to be trusted by your peers as reputable, and less likely to be read. Even if your work is excellent it may be devalued because it will likely be surrounded by papers of indifferent or poor quality. You may also have been required to sign away your copyright during the production process, preventing you from publishing elsewhere.

Spotting predators:

The distinction between predatory and non-predatory publishers is not always easily drawn and there are grey areas. Publishers that some define as predatory may share much of the outlook and many of the rigorous working practices of their more reputable cousins.

As a consequence, journals should be appraised carefully and critically by authors on a case by case basis. Here are some standard questions that could usefully be asked when faced with an unfamiliar open access journal:

  • Are they listed as an open access publication in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) or Open Access Scholarly Publishers’ Association (OASPA)? Members of these organisations should adhere to agreed standards and definitions around open access.
  • Does previously published articles seem to be written and edited to a reasonable quality? Significant grammatical or spelling mistakes may be canaries in the mineshaft for more serious editorial issues.
  • Have authors you respect published in it? Are members of the editorial board recognised in the field? Even if you are not familiar with the named Editor-in-Chief, it should be possible to assess their place in the field relatively easily through wider searching.
  • Are they transparent in their practices? Is it easy to find their contact details online? Will your work be published with a clear license (ideally Creative Commons), making clear how the work can be reused?
  • Do their webpages look professional? It should be said that there are many perfectly rigorous small journals with a basic or unlovely web presence, so do not discount a journal on this basis alone.

Further Resources:

The following resources all offer guidance in selecting where to publish:

Think, Check, Submit
Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)
Open Access Scholarly Publishers’ Association (OASPA)


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