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Open Access: Predatory publishers

Open Access (OA) refers to the online access of scholarly literature that is free to read and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.

What are predatory publishers?

Along with the rise of Open Access publishing, there has also been a rise in the prevalence of opportunistic publishers whose main interest is in collecting fees (APCs) from unwary authors. 

There is no one standard definition of what constitutes a 'predatory publisher', but generally it refers to a publisher who charges a fee for the publication of material without delivering the same level of editorial and publishing services offered by legitimate journals. What makes a definitive definition difficult is that some publishers are predatory on purpose, while others may make mistakes due to neglect, mismanagement or inexperience. Ultimately authors should apply a level of scrutiny to every publication outlet they submit work to, to ensure they are aware of and comfortable with the terms and conditions on offer. 

Predatory publishers often email researchers directly to solicit work, and are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods.  They trawl conference proceedings and monitor thesis submissions in institutional repositories to identify individuals to target and create websites for their journals to appear authentic.  They particularly target HDR students and Early Career Researchers who are often especially keen to publish and may not be as discerning about the publication source.

Alternatively, there are quality open access journals that do not impose article processing charges (APCs) via the  DOAJ Website and can provide a listing of open access journals by using the 'filter search results option' so you can review which journal titles that do not charge fees or use this regularly updated list of Predatory Journals list.

Then, check where the journal ranks in its field by using tools such as:

Whilst reviewing journal ranking is necessary, other considerations must be applied, such as:

  •  Audience
  • Editorial practices
  • Dissemination
  • Longevity (to ensure higher ranking)

 

What to look for

There are a number of red flags to watch for when assessing a journal or publisher.  Regardless of whether or not you have been contacted directly by a publisher - or you have sought them out yourself, you should apply the same level of scrutiny and consideration to any publisher that you are considering submitting your work to. 

For example:

  • Does the content of this publication fit the scope and audience of my work appropriately?
  • Is it indexed and abstracted widely so that it is easily discoverable?
  • Is it peer-reviewed? Who is on the review panel? (Look at their website for names you recognise, or people you know are experts in the field)
  • Do you know other colleagues/experts in the field who have published there?
  • Are their terms and conditions clearly stated on the website? (For e.g. do they require an upfront payment of an APC, or is the payment required only after peer-review has taken place?  Is the APC amount stated on the website?)
  • If so, do these terms and conditions suit you?

If you are unsure about whether or not a journal is predatory, the Library has a handy Open Access Journal Publishing Checklist to consult and highlights further aspects you need to look out for. 

                     

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Resources

 

Make the right assessment:

  • Think. Check. Submit. the website provides further information and helps researchers identify trusted journals for their research.
  • The Library's Journal Finder tool contains only those journals on the current ERA Journal List.  See the Help Guide on Journal Finder's homepage for information on how to use it.  (Log-in required off-campus, best viewed in Chrome.)
  • COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) - global committee providing leadership and resources on publication ethics.
  • DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) - searchable directory of high quality, peer-reviewed, OA journals. 

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Library guide created by Western Sydney University Library staff is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY)