Knowledge Base Docs

Predatory Publishing

Current Issues in Scholarly Publishing, including Predatory Publishing

Tennant, J.P., et al explores 10 controversial or misunderstood topics in scholarly publishing; here are their findings:

  • Preprints: Contrary to a concern that preprints expose research to ‘scooping’, the authors find that preprints can protect against scooping by (1) establishing a time-stamp of publication, (2) facilitating rapid sharing and collaboration, and (3) providing a DOI, which allows more cites, faster--benefiting early career researchers.
  • Peer review: Following a discussion of strengths, weaknesses, and misperceptions of peer review, the authors propose a new model of open, author-directed peer review that would facilitate discussion and restore the culture of healthy skepticism that is a foundation of scientific research.
  • Copyright transfer: The authors suggest that current copyright transfer practices do not benefit authors and may be wrongfully acquired, given the complexities of author affiliations and funding sources. They call for a new copyright model that re-establishes copyright’s fundamental intended purpose of protecting authors and furthering research.

Tennant, J.P., et al. 2019. Ten hot topics around scholarly publishing. Publications 7, 34; doi:10.3390/publications7020034

Predatory Publishing

Predatory publishers charge fees to publish your research, without delivering the professional review and editorial services promised. They use deceptive information (fake editorial boards, false statistics) to appear legitimate, while the real and only objective is profit. This is a risk to all researchers:

  • Your career and credibility if you publish in a predatory journal
  • NOAA’s scientific integrity if it is associated with a predatory journal through a published article
  • Inability to publish your research in a legitimate journal after it has been presented in a predatory journal
  • Research funds, paying publishing fees without receiving legitimate service
  • Research funds, if your research is stigmatized by being presented in a predatory journal
  • Improper and incorrect research being presented as peer-reviewed science

This threat is real to NOAA scientists as some have already fallen victim to predatory publishing. Predatory publishing is not limited to journals--predatory conferences are now on the rise.

Articles on the Dangers of Predatory Publishing

Article #1: Severin, A. and N. Low. 2019. Readers beware! Predatory journals are infiltrating citation databases. International Journal of Public Health 64:1123:1124. doi: 10.1007/s00038-019-01284-3.

Because predatory journals were assumed not to be indexed in well-known academic search engines, it has also been assumed that their publications would rarely be cited by other scholars or applied in practice. Unfortunately, that is not the case:

  • Studies have shown that predatory journals have found their way into respected databases such as Web of Science, Scopus and PubMed
  • Researchers citing papers published in predatory journals may be relying on poor-quality, unethical or even fabricated findings
  • The presence of scientifically questionable papers increases the risk of citing and further spreading poor quality science, distorting the evidence base and influencing policy
  • Before citing a paper, authors should read the full publication and check that it comes from a reputable source.

Article #2: Moher, D., et al. 2017. Stop this waste of people, animals and money. Nature, 549:23-25. doi: 10.1038/549023a.

Common wisdom has assumed that the hazard of predatory publishing is restricted mainly to the developing world, but when Moher, et al. examined 2,000 biomedical articles from more than 200 journals thought likely to be predatory, they found that more than half of the corresponding authors were from high- and upper-middle-income countries.

  • Of the 17% of papers that named a funding source, the most frequently named funder was a US agency
  • The US produced more articles in the sample than all other countries except India
  • It is estimated that at least 18,000 funded biomedical-research studies are hidden in poorly indexed, scientifically questionable journals. Even if the research is sound, it is hard to find, and often too poorly reported to assess and build on the findings.

Article #3: Dadkhah, M., et al. 2017. Questionable papers in citation databases as an issue for literature review.J. Cell Commun. Signal. 11:181-185. doi: 10.1007/s12079-016-0370-6

In spite of growing awareness of the problem of predatory journals, questionable papers are showing up in citation databases and literature reviews.

  • Academic search engines and fee-based databases are not immune to including papers from questionable journals in their indexes. Predatory and questionable journals have been found in Web of Science and Scopus
  • Relying on papers from questionable journals can lead to unreliable science
  • WoS and Scopus use defined criteria for selecting journals to index, but Google Scholar does not; a far greater number of papers from predatory and questionable journals appear in GS than in fee-based databases.
Resources on Predatory Publishing