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Predatory Publishing

Not all open access publications are created equal--some are of very low qaulity and should be avoided. This guide will help researchers tell the difference

There have always been publishers that take advantage of uninformed authors or readers by selling them low-quality services or products at inflated prices. However, the Gold open access (OA) model, with its high processing fees, lends itself to a particular type of abuse called predatory publishing.

What Is Predatory Publishing

There is no clear-cut definition of exactly what predatory publishing is. One definition, published in Nature, states that predatory publishers are "entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.” In practice, predatory publishers all share some common characteristics:

  • They claim to provide peer review, but peer review is in fact non-existent or cursory.
  • They guarantee or promise publication of manuscripts, sometimes sight-unseen.
  • They are almost always “gold open access” which means that the author pays the publisher to have their manuscript published.
  • They send out mass emails inviting researchers to submit to their journals, often in wildly inappropriate fields.

It is important to note that while most predatory journals are gold OA, most gold OA journals are NOT predatory and some very prestigious journals, like PLOS One are gold OA.

Why Should I Care?

Overworked researchers who are now being asked to jump through yet another bureaucratic hoop by making their work publicly accessible are easy prey for unscrupulous publishers who appear to offer an easy solution. However, they do not provide any real peer review, editorial review, or any other type of quality control. Because of this lack of quality, they have become havens for questionable or even outright fraudulent research. This corrupts the research enterprise in several ways.

  • It wastes researchers’ time by trying to reproduce irreproducible results
  • It introduces uncorrected scientific errors into the scientific literature
  • It clutters the literature with unoriginal or duplicative studies
  • Fraudulent research erodes public trust in the research enterprise and in science more generally

This does not mean that predatory publishers do not accept and publish high-quality research papers; they accept anything for publication regardless of quality. However, by publishing your high-quality research in one of these low-quality journals you are not likely to ever be cited and your research will remain largely unrecognized; essentially, you are throwing away your money and your credibility.