In the early 2000s, academic publishing began moving from print to online. This permitted the electronic backup of files and made comprehensive searches easier to perform. Nowadays, many journals publish exclusively online, and many provide an open access platform.
Authors and readers benefit from earlier and faster publication dates, while journals and publishers benefit from lower start-up and production costs than are required for the printed format. Authors can reach a broader audience, particularly readers in developing countries in institutions where libraries cannot afford expensive journal subscriptions. The most obvious benefit is to the reader, who enjoys free access to open access publications.
When the open access publishing model is exploited by predatory publishers, there are disadvantages to authors, readers, and legitimate journals. Authors waste their money and time publishing work that is often uncitable. Publishing in a predatory journal can lower your reputation, and in some cases, the work may not ever actually be published and therefore the author risks losing their work. For readers, exploitation of the open access system means that they may spend hours sifting through poor-quality work, making it difficult to find work that is of value to their research. Everyone suffers from a compromised peer-review process, including journals, which suffer from loss of integrity, loss of readership, and decreased impact in the community.
A predatory publisher is a publishing company posing as a legitimate entity when in fact they produce poor-quality journals (predatory journals). Open-access publishers typically require that the author pay a fee for the publication of their work. This fee is required to cover the costs of publication, including the peer-review process and some editing and formatting.Predatory journals also demand this fee from the author; however, their peer-review process is compromised or even absent, and little or no editing is performed on the document. Predatory journals use the internet as a gateway for advertising their business through bogus websites and email to solicit authors to submit their work and unqualified reviewers to serve on their editorial panel. In some cases, the work may never be published or the website may simply disappear, and after signing away your copyright, you may actually lose your work. The threat to publish or perish pressures scientists to disseminate their work, sometimes by any means necessary. After all of their hard work and research on their topic, the pressure to publish can be so great that authors may fail to research the quality of the publisher.
Jeffrey Beall, a librarian and researcher at the University of Colorado, Denver, coined the term "predatory publishing" and published a list of predatory publishers in 2010 after receiving an abundance of emails inviting him to submit articles on topics he was not qualified to write about. However, because internet sites can appear or disappear overnight, Beall recommends that you do your own research rather than rely on this list or on a "white list" of safe publishers.
If in doubt, do your research! The websites of predatory publishers are typically poorly maintained and riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. They often provide a "contact us" page with insufficient or incorrect contact information and list the publisher as the editor of all journals it produces. They try to confuse authors by using complicated language that is difficult for non-native English speakers to understand, and they mimic the names, abbreviations, and/or acronyms of credible journals.
How to check predatory publishers, more resources.
Respectable journals use straightforward instructions that are easy for non-native English speakers to understand. They have an easily identifiable publisher that can be easily contacted in several ways (e.g., phone number, email address and verifiable street address) and the credibility of editors is verifiable. You can expect a respectable journal to make clear the services they provide for the fees they charge and to be clear about any waivers they ask you to sign.
1. Beall, J. Ban predators from the scientific record. Nature. (534) 326. 2016
2. Beall, J. Predatory publishing is just one of the consequences of open access. Learned publishing. (26) 79-84. 2013.
3. Beall, J. Predatory publishiers are corrupting open access. Nature. (489) 179. 2012.
4. Berger, M. and Cirasella. J. Beyond Beall's list. College & Research Libraries. (76) 132-135. 2015.