There have always been unscrupulous publishers who do not follow acceptable standards of scholarly publishing (e.g., little or no peer review and/or editorial services). With the explosion of online publishing and increasing use of the article processing charge (author pays) business model, predatory publishers are becoming more common and sophisticated. While they are in the minority, they often target less established researchers.
If you are invited to submit to journals or to become an editorial board member, critically evaluate the publisher's legitimacy:
- Check if the publisher has a large fleet of journals that contain very little content.
- Check the journal archives for highly irregular publication cycles, e.g. 1 issue in one year, 6 in another. Be particularly wary if archives are not accessible due to repeated website crashes and redirect loops. Evaluate the quality of the articles previously published.
- Verify that the journal's peer-review process is clearly described. If the promised turnaround time for peer-review is very short and features prominently this is a sign of a predatory publisher.
- Look at the journal's scope to determine if it is overly broad and vague.
- Verify that the journal displays its author fee policy on its website.
- Check that the publisher provides full, verifiable contact information on the journal site. Be cautious of publishers that only provide web contact forms.
- Reputable publishers can become members of an industry association that vets its members like the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association and the Committee on Publication Ethics, verify their membership if they claim to be associated.
- Check Ulrich'sWeb Global Serials Directory for the journal. If it is not listed, be wary.
- Look for an ISSN. For reputable journals, this is as basic as a title.
- If it claims to be indexed by a reputable database (e.g. ones from EBSCO, ProQuest, Thompson Reuters, etc.), verify this by checking the database. A librarian can help you with this.
- Finally, use common sense: if something appears suspicious, proceed with caution. Consult with colleagues or contact the Scholarly Communication Librarian.