Have you had an email asking you to publish in a journal that you have never heard of, or in an area that is not yours?
Open access in itself is not a bad thing. It is gathering pace. Many research funders require you to publish the work they fund as an open access article (check SHERPA/JULIET to see if your funder does). Open access articles are freely available to all readers, with no need for a subscription or payment. This makes your work more widely available, and may increase its citation count.
In the traditional publishing model, the reader pays a subscription, or a fee to download an individual article. In the open access model, the reader pays nothing, but author pays an open access fee. (You can factor this fee into grant applications, if you plan ahead).
There are many reputable open access publishers. Some publishers are purely open access. Others have some purely open access journals, or offer an open access option for publishing in their subscription journals.
But open access has a bad side too. There are publishers who charge a fee, promise great things, and deliver little. Some of them solicit articles by emailing people directly. I have had emails, addressing me not by name but by something generic (“Dear Doctor”…) or by my email address. And the journals are in areas I know little about.
These publishers are “predatory” publishers. They may tell you their journal is widely indexed, when it is not. People have sometimes been named on editorial boards without their knowledge. The subject areas of some predatory journals are vague, or a strange combination. Some ask the author to suggest reviewers for their article, and do little to check the identity of that reviewer, so you can get things reviewed by your mates.
Some existing journals have been “hijacked” by predatory publishers. Some predatory journals have titles so similar to the title of an existing, reputable journal, that you can be easily fooled.
If you have had such an email, or are worried about a journal that you are thinking of submitting to, here are some actions you can take.
- Look for the publisher on Beall’s List of potential, possible or probable predatory open access publishers. Jeffrey Beall is a librarian at the University of Colorado Denver and has been instrumental in raising awareness of this issue.
- Look at Beall’s Criteria for determining predatory open-access publishers. Applying all of them would be very time consuming, but applying some would quickly alert you to a predatory publisher.
- Ask the Library to check the journal’s claims about where it is indexed.
- This (open access) article by Hansoti, Langdorf and Murphy, in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine includes criteria to help you distinguish legitimate from predatory open access journals.
Please contact us if you want more information about open access, or if you would like our thoughts on whether we think a particular journal or publisher is predatory.
If you would like suggestions for further reading about this issue, please ask – I am collecting articles!