The changing publication landscape can make it difficult to keep up with the demands from different funders, and to fend off spam from unknown publishers. As the requirements for where and how to publish change, and new journals enter the market, staying on top of developments in academic publishing can feel like an overwhelming task. This guide was written to help anyone having to judge the quality of an unknown journal.
For a long time there were no established definition of what constitutes a predatory journal. But in an article published in Nature 2019 leading scholars and publishers from ten countries agreed on a definition of predatory publishing:
Predatory journals and 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. (Grudniewicz A et al)
This guide will use the term 'predatory', while acknowledging as Grudniewicz et al do that this particular descriptor lacks nuance, describing a relationship where the publishers predate on the authors. This is not always the case, and so alternative terms such as 'deceptive' and 'acting in bad faith' have been proposed, but as the authors of the definition conclude:
Ultimately, we concluded that the term ‘predatory’ has become recognized in the scholarly community. Implementation science suggests that introducing new nomenclature would take considerable resources, which we felt could be better put towards combating predatory publishing directly. So we recommend keeping the word ‘predatory’ while noting its limitations. (Grudniewicz A et al)
Journals can be of poor quality without being predatory. You should always take care not to send your manuscript to journals of dubious quality, as this can affect your academic reputation and career.
The problem with predatory publishers and journals is that they undermine the credibility of scientific research. These publishers offers dishonest researchers, and researchers with for example a political agenda, a platform that seems credible and respectable. There are several reasons why you should not publish in these journals:
I have sent a manuscript to a predatory journal!
Contact the journal and withdraw your manuscript! The faster you do this the better, it is easier to withdraw the manuscript before it has been accepted. You don't need to state any reason, however, if you want to, you can say that you found errors in the manuscript.
I am listed as an editor at a predatory journal!
Have you found that you are listed as an editor at a predatory journal? It happens that researchers are listed without consent/knowledge. Contact the journal and ask them to remove your name. Even if you have accepted the assignment, but then find that the journal is questionable, you can contact them and state that you are no longer interested in being an editor for them.