Gale A. Oren, MILS Librarian, John W. Henderson Library, Kellogg Eye Center, University of Michigan
Open access vs. predatory journals
Many open access journals are legitimate and reputable, and offer authors the means for maintaining copyright (right to distribute, etc.) over their own work. Those considered to be "predatory" are merely pay-to-publish websites that exploit researchers and ultimately reduce the credibility of published research.
Why are predatory journals on the rise?
Profitability for the predatory publishers
Author confusion as to which journals are reputable
Authors unaware of the harm caused by supporting this predatory industry
Demise of "Beall’s List" (2009–2016), a predatory journal blacklist that many relied upon for guidance
Obvious signs of predatory journals
Heavy solicitation of authors and editorial board members via email
Poor grammar, spelling, and punctuation on website and/or in emails
Journal titles similar to well-known reputable journals
Expedited peer review offered
Information about author fees, editorial policies, peer-review etc. not clearly stated
No verifiable contact information provided, including mailing address
Suspicious nature and quality of articles already published
Covert signs of predatory journals
Author fee charged before peer review, or author fee not mentioned at all
Unknown or unwilling editorial board members listed
Bogus impact factor
No response to emails once author fee is submitted
National Institutes of Health (NIH) position
Ensuring the credibility of NIH funded research is important to maintaining public trust in research.1,2
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) position
The FTC brought a lawsuit against OMICS, a publisher based in India who went from 10 journals to over 700 in the past 8 years, claiming that publishing fees are not revealed prior to manuscript submission. Following submission, authors allegedly are not allowed to withdraw their manuscripts, making it impossible for publication in other journals, forcing them to pay the fees. The FTC’s injunction was granted.3-5
What you can do
It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between reputable publishers and unscrupulous ones. For example, some legitimate publishers may solicit articles or editorials. Also, the practice of charging for publication is an accepted open access business model, offering benefits to both authors and readers.
Sadly, a similar predatory model for conferences has been unleashed, where the only goal is to profit from the attendees. The main selection criterion for speakers is their willingness to pay a fee. The event itself can be misrepresented and disorganized.6
For further reading
Pisanski K. Predatory journals recruit fake editor. Nature. 2017;543(7646):481-3.