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Open Access is, on the whole, a beneficial trend in publishing leading to more transparency and a broader dissemination of information. However, not all journals or publishers are acting with honest intent.
Predatory journals and publishers are defined as “are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.” (Grudniewicz AM et al., Predatory journals: no definition, no defence. Nature. 2019 Dec;576(7786):210-212. doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-03759-y. PMID: 31827288.)
These publishers often have fraudulent lists of reviewers or editors, naming scientists who do not serve on their editorial board. They will often forego—or only undertake a token—peer review. These journals also typically solicit contributions from scientists, rather than waiting for researchers to submit work independently.
The real danger of predatory publishers, besides the potential spread of false information that may be harmful to those who read it and take it to be serious, peer-reviewed science, is that it erodes the public trust in the scientific community.
The lay public is inundated in all forms of media already with overblown claims promoting incorrect or out-of-context conclusions from legitimate, reproducible peer-reviewed scientific research. In many cases, they have neither the background information or familiarity with a field nor the familiarity and facility with convoluted specialized vocabulary required to interpret the results of publications. Public levels of trust in science have plummeted in recent years. When the pool of legitimate published research is adulterated with illegitimate un-reviewed work published solely for profit, the ability of anyone to trust conclusions in the academic literature severely suffers.
To expose potential predatory publishers, many researchers have taken to submitting articles full or gibberish, nonsense, or obviously fictional research to suspect publishers. As predatory publishers are more concerned with the funds to be raised by publishing an article than with the quality of the research they publish, journals from such publishers tend to accept and print these articles with little to no review process. In other cases, researchers submitted fake applications from a nonexistent "editor" to join the editorial board of several publishers, and the applications were in many cases accepted sight-unseen.
Read about some of these efforts to expose this phenomenon below.