Scholars Beware Of Predatory Publishing

Nov 5, 2019

Faculty at Texas Tech and across the globe seek to have their research published. Until about 15 years ago, academics turned to traditional legitimate journals. Their submissions were peer-reviewed and edited. But Tech librarian Brian Quinn says that these days hundreds of predatory publishers seek out scholars and are making a lot of money from academics.

He urges scholars to be cautious.

“Be very wary about if you get an invitation to submit your work to a publisher you’ve never heard of, do your homework and check it out first. Either contact a librarian, contact your personal librarian, have them research it for you or do your own research and check out the publisher, the name, check out if they’re members of various professional publishing associations. There are lists now of predatory publisher that scholars can consult.”

Predatory publishing began after legitimate publications went to an open access model, meaning libraries no longer had to pay expensive subscriptions. Now, anyone on the web can read these legitimate journals at no charge. 

Quinn says legitimate publishers are more discerning. Predatory publishers regularly tell scholars it will take about 72 hours to get a paper published. In legitimate publications it takes weeks and sometimes months for articles to be published.

He says authors pay to have work published in both legitimate and predatory situations.

With a legitimate publisher you would pay an article processing charge, but you would get the traditional suite of publishing services in exchange for that fee. With predatory publishers, all they do basically is, they create a nice website, which helps to convince people to submit their work, you submit your work, they take it, and they put it up on their website. And that is considered a form of publication. And it’s unedited, they don’t do anything to it, there is no peer-review, so the quality of the information is not vetted in any way.”

A common concern among academics could lead some to take the bait of predatory publishers’ emails.

“There’s a traditional publisher pressure for faculty to get their work into print. They’re motivated to publish and so what happens is they see these opportunities, the predatory part of it is, the publisher, it’s not just that they put up a website, they’ll start sending out emails to faculty.”

Quinn says the academic predatory industry isn’t just about publishing. Academics get solicited to present papers at conferences and pay to attend those.

“The next day you get a response back saying congratulations, your paper has been accepted for presentation at our conference. And then you end up going to this conference and there are a bunch of other people there and they might be from your field or they might be from some other field, generally what they do is they make the theme of the conference so broad that it includes a whole bunch of different fields so they can get as many recruits as they can.”

Sometimes, scholars realize their mistakes in going into a predatory journal. They may ask for their work to be removed. Often, Quinn says, those efforts fail.

Scholars, Quinn says, regularly cite others’ research in their own papers, which could threaten the integrity of scientific and medical information.

“This trend threatens the integrity of science and medicine because you have people that are publishing work that hasn’t been properly reviewed and that’s appearing along with legitimate research that has been properly reviewed and it all gets mixed together. So then you run into the problem, that you can’t tell what’s good and what’s not good anymore.”

Legal action brought by legitimate publishers against predatory ones does happen. But, Quinn says, there’s a catch.

A lot of this activity occurs outside of US boundaries and legally it’s hard to pursue publishers in other parts of the world that aren’t under US jurisdiction.”