Predatory Journals: librarians please alert your researchers to this scam

These are fake or scam journals that target researchers (especially those in LMI Countries) with an offer to publish their research in an open access journal in exchange for payment.

Often the editor boasts of an impact factor (2.35 in the case reported by Mary Ann Liebert*, CEO of the publisher Mary Ann Liebert Inc.) She decided to test the journal’s scientific credentials by composing “an absurd abstract, completely fabricating a hypothesis and findings” that linked two totally unrelated diseases and suggested that human gene therapy might be used to combat their spread. Its acceptance showed that editorial judgement and peer review were completely absent. The impact factor in such cases is more than likely to be false.

These journals are increasing in number. They exist for financial gain rather than promoting the integrity of scientific publication. They have been the subject of an editorial in the BMJ and in the BMJ Blog by Jocelyn Clark. This suggests actions to check an unknown journal, though none are sufficient on their own: Beall’s Blacklist (known villains); Directory of Open Access Journals (listed journals meet specific criteria for inclusion); check if the publisher is a member of recognised professional organisations – COPE, STM, OASPA; the journal is indexed in PubMedCentral (free) or Web of Science; check the contacts for the journal, the editor, editorial board, but be aware that people’s names can be used without their knowing anything about it. Although some highly respectable journals do levy submission charges, be very suspicious.

The comments following her blog are also illuminating especially those that highlight the experience of those for whom English is a foreign language, and who rightly, or maybe wrongly, believe that their research is rejected by “Good” journals not for the science but for the language.  Inevitably they then publish what can look like a first draft in a less demanding medium.

Those of us in the information professions are in a position to advise researchers on these and other aspects of publishing. Author Aid published by INASP is a useful resource.

*Liebert Link – News and Information for Librarians -Winter 2015

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With thanks to Cheryl Twomey and Shane Godbolt for alerting us to this information.

Jean Shaw, Phi


About jgreigshaw

I work with Partnerships in Health Information which promotes partnership between libraries in Africa and the UK with an emphasis in African leadership. I have visited Kenya, Mali, Uganda and Zambia though Phi has contacts in many more African countries.
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