By Kelly Deno and Meg Nash
With forward by Kelly Malloy
Although there is still much debate about what defines a predatory publication or meeting, there can be no doubt that the prevalence of such questionable outlets jeopardize the integrity of our profession and the potential impact the science we work tirelessly to communicate.
A recent article published in Nature classified predatory journals as a “global threat.”1 While in these unprecedented times of social distancing and economic lock down, defining any crisis other than COVID-19 as a global threat seems gratuitous and perhaps theatrical, the pervasive and pernicious nature of these journals and conferences have, can, and will cause untold harm to our industry and the patients we serve.
Often, we are asked whether we index predatory outlets in Journal Selector and Conference Authority and how we indicate them as such. The short and simple answer is: we don’t. At Anju Software, our group of publication professionals leverage a stringent set of criteria to help us identify suspicious journals and conferences during our research and vetting process. You, too, can apply the same standards and protocol BEFORE you submit your article or abstract.
Use these tips to hunt down predatory journals before you submit your article.
- First, investigate the journal’s online presence. Make sure that there are no reports of predatory work found during thorough research. Stop Predatory Journals has picked up where Beall’s List left off and is a good resource to check.
- Look at the website itself. Is it difficult to navigate? Are there broken links? Do you spot punctuation or spelling errors? Lack of attention to what is publicly presented is reminiscent of the restaurant adage, “If the restroom is dirty, imagine what the kitchen looks like.”
- Evaluate the journal’s aims and scope. Be suspicious if the A&S is too much for a single editorial board and staff to handle.
- Check out how peer review is performed. As an example, Springer’s Biomed Central does a good job of explaining its peer review process. Nothing to hide here, folks.
- Read the author instructions completely. Reputable journals spell out the details–article types published, criteria for acceptance, formatting and reference requirements, conflict of interest reporting, open access and other author charges, article submission site, etc.
- Who’s running the show? Make sure that identities of the editor(s)-in-chief and editorial board can be confirmed. Name and country are not enough.
- Does the journal have an impact factor, which is usually provided on the home page? Are article-level metrics, such as the Altmetric donut, provided alongside the article? If full open access, is the journal indexed in the Directory of Open Access Journals? These are all indicators that the journal is legitimate.
- If you still have questions or concerns, reach out to the journal’s editor-in-chief or managing editor via the website. No contact information is a red flag; most journals welcome author queries and respond in a timely fashion.
And here are tips for spotting predatory meetings:
- Check the meeting organizer’s and the meeting’s online presence. Make sure there are no negative reviews of the organizer or the meeting by doing a quick Google search. This website is a good resource.
Once familiar with the main offenders, predatory meetings are easier to spot.
- Look at the website itself. The meeting website should have a professional look. The organizer and contact information should not be hidden or unavailable. On the other hand, contact information should not constantly appear as pop-ups all over the website. When receiving communication from the meeting organizer, check for good grammar and spelling.
- The meeting and meeting sessions should not be packed together with numerous other meetings. Beware of meeting organizers who brag that they organize thousands of meetings each year on virtually every topic imaginable.
- Be wary of unfamiliar meetings that have a list prestigious organizations as sponsors or hosts. Also, organizing and scientific committee members and speakers should not seem overly impressive and their expertise should match the meeting’s agenda.
- When searching for a meeting online, pay close attention to search results. Predatory meetings will often use meeting names that are very similar to “real” meetings.
- Registration and abstract submission fees should not seem excessive and should be in line with other scientific meetings. Many legitimate meetings will explain what abstract submission fees are for (handling, publishing costs, etc.) Make sure abstracts are peer reviewed and that the peer review process takes the expected amount of time. Be suspicious of meetings that accept abstracts too quickly (same day or within a few days after submission) or that attach a large submission fee. Also check to see where abstracts are published–are they published in a predatory journal?
Spotting predatory journals and meetings is not impossible, it just takes research, a critical eye, and common sense.
Have questions or would like to discuss how our Journal Selector and Conference Authority can help YOUR team?
- Grudniewicz A, Moher D, Cobey KD, Bryson GL, et al. Predatory Journals: No Definition, No Defence. Nature. 2019; 576:210-212. doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-03759-y.