Predatory Journals

Predatory Journals are scholarly journals that serve only commercial purpose of a journal and therefore do not follow standard publication ethics. The term was discovered by Jeffrey Beall a librarian and researcher of University of Colorado Denver. Beall published his first list of predatory journals in his blog scholarlya in 2010. Quickly the list become very popular among researches and become source of predatory journals database. Currently  Jeffrey Beall regular updates his list of predatory journals and predatory publishers on his blog.

How to identify predatory Journals?

Beal’s has a list of criteria to identify the predatory journals. There are also many indexing databases and metrics provider who set their criteria to control predatory journal inclusion. The key points of these criteria are as follows:-

1. Accepts article without or little quality control.

2. Automatically accepts paper including hoax and blank papers.

3. No plagiarism check is made.

4. Aggressively campaigning for article submission using commercial advertisement platform.

5. Editorial board members are fake person or included without any concern of the member.

6. No editorial board is present.

7. Mimicking the name or logo of established journals.

8. False location, fake impact factor.

9. Misleading information about indexing.

10. Disclosing article processing charge only after the manuscript is being accepted.

Other characteristics of predatory journals are follows. These points may not absolutely true for every journal but are signs of suspected predatory journals.

1. Improper or no use of ISSN

2. Privacy and access policy is not announced.

3. No use of creative common license though claiming to be an open access journal.

4. Affiliation of editorial board members is not revealed.

5. Publishing extremely high number of article in each issue

6. High number of special issue or volume is published in every year

7. Editorial board in not heterogeneous (such as academics from a single institution).

Predatory Publishers

Predatory publishers are those publishers who publish and run predatory journals. Beall’s database also contains a list of predatory publishers. All publishers are identified as predatory by criteria published in Scholarlyoa. Beall’s is maintaining the list of predatory publishers and predatory standalone journals separately.

How predatory journals are corrupting open access publishing

Predatory publishers (or journals) made them looks like reputed journals by using fake impact factors. They try to attract researchers by claiming false indexing and offering instant publishing (within one or two days!) [ref]. The question is who publish papers in these journals and why do they publish there?

Due to lack of information many researcher has published their manuscript in predatory journals especially when researchers are not that much technically experienced person(one of my paper was published in Biomirror when I was student and now I found it as a predatory journal). People often fall into their false impact factor, fake indexing list and of course names closer to the established journals. But this is not the only reason researcher is sending manuscripts to predatory journals. Many academicians need quick publication during promotion (due to the required number of publications set by universities or government institutions). They use this opportunity (that the journal will publish very quickly) to increase their number of publications when needed. So the predatory journals are not only earning money using low quality articles but also encouraging corruption opportunities and bad practice in research area. Earning money is not the bigger picture here, encouraging low quality articles is even not the problem; rather it is increasing the false evaluation of academic persons and researchers government institutions. Academicians and researchers from government organizations are often evaluated by their number of publications and given promotions or assigned for vital research project by Government. The more alarming picture here is researchers of vital positions from these institutions are often funded by international organizations and communities. In short, these predatory journals are encouraging some researchers to get higher positions and funding.

Other Side of the Moon

No journal can be established over night. People behind the open access journals may have lack of technical information at starting. Open access license, privacy policy, content copyright management, abstracting are services required technical experts for implementation. Also a new journal would die quickly without any advertisement in this era of extreme competition. Furthermore, getting quality articles, appointing editorial board members from various countries is really difficult at the beginning for any journal. Therefore, it is not wise to say that any journal is predatory which fits even only a portion of the predatory journal’s criteria.

Limitations of Beall’s List

Although Beall’s have been praised for his great initiative [ref] but it is arguable to many people that whether a single person should maintain such sensitive database. Beall’s has not considered age of journals in his criteria which also indicate to the point that whether a single person (even with discussed it with colleges or taken suggestions from researchers) can set such criteria’s. Some of the criteria are not even valid worldwide and seemed to make only first world assumptions. For example, Beall’s blog is loud on third world’s journals about article processing charge but remain silent about first world’s huge article processing charge. One such case has been discussed here where reputed journals from non profit global organizations are charging unnecessarily huge processing charge.   It seems that beall’s list is interested only for the newly formed OA journals and not considering the first world’s journals at all. The shocking news is Beall’s list contains journals that have not started to publish any article yet (this article mentioned number of such journals is 2836!!); this clearly indicates the lack of investigation thus a poor review by Beall. List of Beall has also ruined reputation of some big publishers such as Hindawi. Although beall’s blog has an appeal form for publishers but such sensitive database can ruin any publisher with poor judgments and mistakenly include it in the list [ref].  In summary, a single person should not (must not) run such big and sensitive operation; whether he/she has a lot of researcher connection or maintain a lot of reviewers for this purpose it is still a one man operation. Therefore, raise of an organization for this type of activity and database is necessary. Another alternative could be the Open Access Journal Association; OAJA can take initiative to build such database with proper criteria and review system. Of course Beall’s list could be their starting point for this type of project.

In conclusion, predatory journals have been outnumbered very quickly in many countries recently; therefore researcher should be aware of such journals. Here is an excellent article on how to avoid predatory journals). Jeferry Beall’s has done a great work by compiling the list of predatory journals and publishers thus saving researchers from more damage [ref].  Though there are many limitations of Beall’s work but still it is a great initiative taken for the first time. Now, it should be taken and managed by international organizations to ensure proper investigation and sophisticated management. Also the criteria should be set by considering new and old journals. “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”, as said by the jurist William Blackstone there should not be inclusion of any bonafied journals in the predatory journal list at any cost. Because reputation of a journal goes down very quickly upon inclusion in the list but it can not be regained quickly after removal (and Jeffery is not going to take the liability). So there should be an international organization who will take the responsibility and liability to run such sensitive database.


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