Separating Predatory Publishers from Reputable Journals

A recently published article in The Scientist tells a growingly familiar tale in scholarly publishing: predatory publishers taking advantage of, and often times profiting from, researchers across the globe.

The term “predatory publishers” was coined by University of Colorado Denver librarian, Jeffrey Beall, nearly a decade ago. These publishers disseminate plagiarized or poorly reviewed content, taking advantage of a pay-to-publish open access system by charging authors high prices to disseminate their content while all but eliminating the peer review process. In the case of the article published in The Scientist, these predatory journals even trick established researchers to agree to have their names listed on editorial boards, falsley presenting themselves as credible start-up journals. While this may bolster a journal’s credibility at first glance, it often doesn’t go beyond a name listed on a website, with little to no communication from the journal to the editors.

(RELATED: “For-science or For-profit?”)

And if predatory publishers can’t trick honest researchers, that publisher may just recruit a fake editor. A recent investigation, spearheaded by Nature, found that dozens of academic journals have been recruiting fake editors and offering them a place on their editorial board.

According to reports from the Hanken School of Economics, predatory journals increased their publication volume from 53,000 to 420,000 articles per year between 2010 and 2014. Taking article processing charges into account, the report estimates that all-in-all, the predatory publishing market was worth at $74 million in 2014.

(LISTEN: “Effects of Open Access on Scientific Publishing”)

The rise of predatory journals leads to what NYU’s Arthur Caplan deems “publications pollution,” where commerce-driven publishers put quality aside, thereby clouding the field and skewing the credibility of published research.

While predatory publishers may cloud the waters of dissemination, The Scientist offers a few steps to help researchers decided where to publish and if they should join an editorial board. Check out their advice.

Additionally, the cross-industry initiative called Think. Check. Submit helps authors choose a trusted journal and provides easy steps to follow when examining the credibility of a publication.

As ECS moves forward with its Free the Science initiative – eliminating publication fees for readers and authors by 2024 – the Society remains committed to implementing the rigorous peer review process that has been the backbone of ECS publications throughout the Society’s history.

“ECS has attracted the top people in the field for so long that you get a good connection to people, and it lends itself to a very good peer review system,” Rangachary Mukundan, technical editor of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, told ECS in a previous interview. “A lot of times, with other publishers, articles are not actually reviewed by someone in the field, and when you look at some of the work it’s totally impractical and just sensationalized. That would never happen within ECS.”

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