Predatory journals send me daily messages that they would be delighted for me to submit a manuscript for publication in their excellent journal. Especially if I submit it this week, or sometime very soon anyway. The names of many of these journals sound pretty familiar as they are often slight variations on names of respected, peer-reviewed journals. There are however several differences with these peer-reviewed journals:

  • They do not provide peer-review, so the papers published in these journals can contain mistakes or total nonsense. Nobody checks.
  • They are not indexed in PubMed or any other publication database so hardly anybody will ever find, read, or reference the publications in them. These journals, therefore, have no impact and no impact factor.
  • They ask for a huge publication fee without offering any editorial services.
  • Some are not even available anywhere (online or in print), so no one would read your publication.
  • There are also advantages to publishing in predatory journals: there are no difficult questions by peer-reviewers and publication turnaround time is a lot shorter than for peer-reviewed journals.

Hoaxes in predatory journals

That predatory journals do not provide peer-review has resulted in many examples of bad research published in them. Some authors fed up by the annoying, insistent emails requesting submissions have even sent in hoax papers to prove it. Such as the brilliant piece of work that the British scientist Gary Lewis published in the journal Psychology and Psychotherapy: Research Study under the synonym Gerry Jay Louis. He found that right-wing politicians wipe their ass with their left hand (and vice versa). You can read his article here.  It has unfortunately since been retracted by the publisher (after various journalists started asking questions).

Two American computer scientists, David Mazières and Eddie Kohler, fed up by the annoying emails wrote a more rude article as a joke that was sent around to friends. An Australian colleague sent it to the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology as a reply to spam where it was accepted for publication immediately. Its publication clearly proved that not only do these journals not provide peer-review but that apparently nobody even opens the submitted article before acceptance and publication. The last article has unfortunately also been removed after journalists began to approach the journal with questions.

How to avoid predatory journals

Publishing in predatory journals is a waste of your hard work. These journals are not taken seriously by your peers (when deciding on tenure, or a job application) and will not get your research noticed by anyone.  So you should try to avoid them at all costs. A list of predatory journals is available here: https://beallslist.weebly.com/  The list was started by Jeffrey Beall and is continued by others. If you want to read more on predatory journals you may want to read the articles by Bohannon 2013 – who proved most of the publishers on Beall´s list were indeed predatory-  and Shamseer 2017 who studied the characteristics of predatory journals to help scientists identify them.

 

Predatory journals

Illustration: Eduardo Luzzatti for the New York Times