So You Want to Publish a Research Paper: Reflections on Predatory Publishers

I recently read with interest a blog post by Christopher Morley, PhD, published in STFM (Society of Teachers of Family Medicine) that really struck a chord with me.  In his post, he lists ten steps to help spot a publisher that an author should definitely not engage with.

Predatory or deceptive publishers continue to plague the scholarly communication landscape, with some publishers truly behaving like wolves in sheep’s clothing. This is not the first time I blog about this topic, as awareness into this dubious practice is vital for all of us who provide access to scholarly research journals. The most important thing we can do for researchers, whether they are just starting their publishing careers or are seasoned authors, is to highlight this issue and make them aware of unscrupulous publishers. Below is a summary of Dr. Morley’s ten steps which researchers can use as a checklist, whether they receive an email solicitation or if they are searching for a possible place to publish.  You can read his full post here.

  1. Have you heard of the journal?
  2. Is the journal affiliated with either a well-known, long-standing publisher or a professional society with which you are familiar?
  3. Who sent you the invitation to publish?
  4. Does the invitation you received look legitimate in other ways, such as… Are you an “esteemed scholar?” Is there a very dramatic appeal to your ego? Does the letter describe something to the effect that, “We read your publication XXXX with great interest and think you can make an excellent contribution to our journal”—or words to that effect?
  5. Does the editorial board look legitimate?
  6. Is the journal indexed?
  7. Are “Open-Access” charges disclosed up front?
  8. Check Beall’s List (I agree with this blogger, this really should be step one! In addition, Beall’s has his own criteria for determining predatory open access publishers).
  9. Use Common Sense and Professional Judgment.
  10. If all else fails, ask those you trust.

This list is a great start but there are two additional steps that I would add. While in step ten, Dr. Morley tells you to reach out to colleagues, mentors, respected members of your discipline, don’t forget to include your MSK Librarians. They keep on top of these types of journals, have a large network of information professionals to help spread the word about undesirable publishers, and can research on your behalf the legitimacy of the publisher.

The second step I would add (and this one is really a believe it or not), is to pay attention to how the invitation has been written. Often, non-solicited invitations from predatory journals have typos and grammatical errors. This is a clear sign that you don’t want to submit your manuscript to them.

The next time you receive an email from a “publisher” that you are not sure about or are looking for a journal to submit your research paper, remember to review these steps, or better yet, reach out and ASK US.

Donna Gibson
Director of Library Services