It’s estimated that as many as 8,000 predatory journals—which eschew scientific integrity in favor of profits—now exist and that they “publish” a total of more than 400,000 items annually. Conventional wisdom says that researcher-authors who become prey for these journals reside predominantly in the developing world. However, a recent commentary in Nature summarizing findings from an analysis of nearly 2,000 biomedical articles in more than 200 journals thought to be predatory, found that 57% of the corresponding authors hailed from high- and upper-middle-income countries. In fact, corresponding authors in the US—including some from Harvard University, the University of Texas, and the Mayo Clinic—produced more articles in this sample than any other country except India.
We have heard anecdotal reports of relatively experienced US authors being duped into submitting to predatory journals, only to find that, once aware of the situation, they had no recourse by which to withdraw or extract their work.
“In our view, publishing in predatory journals is unethical,” the Nature commentators say, emphasizing that everyone in the research chain—authors, publishers, institutions, and funders—has a responsibility to prevent research from appearing in such journals. The controversial online list of journals and publishers that were potentially, probably, or possibly predatory compiled by university librarian Jeffrey Beall was taken down earlier this year, but according to the commentary, authors can still spot potentially predatory journals by looking out for the following characteristics:
- Article processing fees < $150
- Spelling and grammatical errors on the journal’s website
- Overly broad scope
- Language that targets authors more than readers
- Promises of rapid publication
- Submission of manuscripts via email
For their part, say the commentators, research institutions and funders should train researchers in sound journal-selection practices and carefully audit where grantees and faculty are published by checking journal titles against the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).
Jason Miller, JBJS Executive Publisher
Lloyd Resnick, JBJS Developmental Editor