The modern academic publishing environment largely functions at a high standard, providing academics a means to publish articles in scholarly journals that provide a fair and rigorous peer-review process. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous publishers have interjected themselves into the world of academic publishing, particularly exploiting the decentralized nature of the open access publishing movement. Potential authors should beware that some so-called "predatory publishers" or "predatory journals" exist alongside the many legitimate academic journals. Predatory journals are essentially fake publications. They will charge an author to publish the article without providing the rigorous peer-review and editorial services that are expected from an academic journal.
Predatory journals will have legitimate sounding names and, at least after a cursory view, the semblance of a real academic journal. Because there are so many academic journals in publication, and new journals are not uncommon, many modern academics have unwittingly submitted manuscripts for publication to a predatory journal.
Before submitting an article to a journal, be sure to evaluate the journal for appropriate standards. Predatory journals claim to be peer-reviewed, but often do not offer an actual peer-review process. Most predatory journals will be labeled as open access. While many legitimate open access journals exist, the lack of involvement with a traditional publisher greatly improves the ability of predatory publishers to operate within an open access environment. A traditionally published journal (non-open access) will pass most or all of the costs of editing and publishing along to the subscriber, often a library. Any submission and publication fees should be reasonable and clearly explained. A predatory journal, by contrast, will place all of the costs on the author or the author's institution in the form of a direct payment for publication. Like a vanity publisher of books, predatory journals operate on an author-pays model. Any such publication should be intensely scrutinized by a potential author.
Predatory journals weaken the open access movement and undermine trust in the peer-review process. Note that predatory journals should not appear in academic library databases, making the publication difficult to locate by other researchers. Predatory journals will not be associated with a stable organization dedicated to maintaining its digital archives. Even if the journal appears in Google Scholar, it is unlikely to have the staying power of a professionally published source in a traditionally published journal or a stable open access journal. Even if a journal disappears from the web, academic publication rules would normally preclude the articles published in it from being resubmitted to another publisher. Because predatory publishers are not legitimate, it is even possible that an "accepted" and paid-for manuscript may never appear in print at all. It is, thus, paramount that the business of verifying the legitimacy of a publisher be established before submitting a manuscript and accepting any offer of publication from an academic journal.
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