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Cite Right – Predators of Science

You have cited this article in your course paper or dissertation chapter. It had everything you needed. It seemed right on your topic. It even had “evidence-based” in the title. You have double-checked the citation with Purdue OWL, even though you have generated it with Google Scholar.

Now your instructor/professor/supervisor says the citation is wrong, because the article was published in a “predatory journal.”

What the heck is a predatory journal?

You look it up and you find something like

the term “predatory publishing” refers to a questionable business practice of charging fees to authors to publish their articles without standard editorial and publishing services provided by legitimate scholarly journals.

As you read a bit more about predatory journals, such as in the Predatory Publishing research guide at Rutgers, you realize that this might be important for you to sort out in the long run. You will need to publish sooner or later.

You may discover that the term has been translated in a variety of ways to other languages, all pointing out the constant threat of predators, leeches, or parasites of science to academics who feel the pressure to publish. You may find other terms evolving to cover the same concept, such as Flaky Academic Journals and Flaky Academic Conferences, or New Wave Journals focusing on the same phenomenon and consequences. As you read more, you may also find out that early career researchers and non-native speakers of English are especially targeted by these publications of dubious reputation. You haven’t even started to look into the list of lucrative sham conferences, a moot point in the COVID era.

The questions coming to your mind are overwhelming. How come established scholars can fall for this deception? Is there a little bit more to it than just the “publish or perish” mentality? Who knew there is so much money involved in scholarly publishing anyway? You even start to agree that researchers may be part of the problem in predatory publishing.

Then you recall that image from Science 101 about the peer review process. And you get it.

peer review processThere are several points in the publication process where it can go off course, starting with editors who are either non-existent or unwilling to even be contacted, let alone secure the editorial judgment, peer-review process, and full publishing services associated with more established journals.

At the same time, publication fees charged to authors by deceptive publishers also undermine the credibility of legitimate open access journals providing free, immediate, online availability of research articles.

In 2020, the song remains the same. Not much changed nearly four years after fellow-librarian Jeffrey Beall, who coined the term “predatory publishing” and maintained his list (see archived version) was forced out of the Auraria Library at the University of Colorado Denver and shut down his list of predatory journals and publishers in January 2017.

Sadly, the song remains the same several sting operations later, which were covered extensively in national media such as Nature, the New York Times, and the New Yorker. Journalists, scientists, bloggers, and others have brought a lot more attention to the topic by reporting on these operations (funny for the first sight, but eventually rather disheartening), such as in Paging Dr. Fraud and Fake Science Paper About ‘Star Trek’ and Warp 10 Was Accepted by ‘Predatory Journals’, or pointing out the consequences, such as There Are Now 8,000 Fake Science ‘Journals’ Worldwide, Researchers Say, Turning a Critical Eye on Reference Lists , To Catch A Predatory Publisher, or Stop this waste of people, animals and money, and even attacking Jeffrey Beall in an article in the Times Higher Education, entitled Beall: ‘social justice warrior’ librarians ‘betraying’ academy.

prodatory publishing warning signsLike it or not, Beall’s criteria to evaluate journals and publishers are still notable and valid. The Predatory Publishing research guide at Rutgers offers help with its blacklists, whitelists, and checklists, as well as selected examples from real invitations to publish in a predatory journal collected from letters received by researchers at the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies from 2007 to 2017.

A timely infographic based on the research guide recently posted on social media by Rutgers University Libraries (designed by Marinelle Manansala) hopefully helps folks at Rutgers who had received the email around the holidays this year, saying

Due to occasion of thanks giving day [sic!] we are charging only $100 for any type of articles. Hope you utilize this chance.”

Please don’t. We hate the word “utilize” anyway.


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