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Predatory Publisher: Checklist for identifying fake journals

Thursday, 19. July 2018

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Colleagues,

You are no doubt familiar with the phenomenon of the predatory publisher: Spam mails are regularly sent to scholars using dubious business practices to solicit for publications and conferences. The purpose of such proposals is to make profit.

Conference papers and journals not meeting current scholarly criteria is not a problem specific to electronic publishing or even open access; it is a problem which has already long existed in printed publications as well. Quality control is an essential element of the scholarly process. Reputable publishers not only seek to ensure quality assurance regarding content; they also aim to achieve a high level of findability, visibility and long-term availability for publications. This is not the case with non-reputable proposals. Publishing with non-reputable organizations can be harmful to individual academic reputations as well as that of the University itself.

We would therefore urge you to always consider very carefully where you publish and which conferences are suitable for presenting your findings. Please consult the Statute on the Safeguarding of Good Academic Practice at TU Berlin (http://www.tu-berlin.de/?187373) for guidance and make use of the advisory services available in cases of doubt.

Identifying dubious proposals

It is often not possible to establish the reputableness or otherwise of a journal or a conference purely on the basis of a single questionable aspect. Your suspicions should, however, be raised when encountering the following scenarios in combination with each other:

  • Aggressive solicitation, particularly by email (often without being addressed to you personally and making no reference to your research focus)
  • Similarity in name to established journals or conferences
  • Non-verifiable information on the journal/conference website, such as

    • claiming an impact factor for a journal without its being indexed in the Web of Science database
    • details of journal editors or program committee members who make no reference to such work on their own websites

  • Discussions within the scholarly community or press reports in the Internet concerning the dubious practices of a publisher.

How can you best protect yourself?

  • Check proposals in terms of form and content:

    • Form: Is the journal indexed in established subject databases? The following apply especially to (supposed) open access proposals: Is the journal indexed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)? Is the publisher listed in the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) or with the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)?
    • Contents: What has been published here to date? What areas were addressed in previous conferences?
    • Make use of the advisory services at TU Berlin!

  •  Check for examples of improper use of your own name on the websites of journals and conferences.

Further criteria for assessment can be found below.

Contact persons

Consult your colleagues or the management of your chair in cases of doubt.

The University Library manages TU Berlin's central publication fund, from which fees for quality-assured Open Access publications can be financed. If you are unsure as to the reputableness of a particular Open Access publisher, please contact the Open Access team at the University Library ().

The University Library additionally offers workshops on publication strategies which also deal with how to identify selection criteria when choosing journals/publishers.

Yours sincerely,
Professor Dr. Christian Thomsen

Checklist for identifying fake journals

It is often not possible to establish the reputableness or otherwise of a journal purely on the basis of a single questionable aspect; it is rather the accumulation of a number of criteria which should give rise to skepticism.
Consult this list Think Check Submit to see if the journal you have selected is reputable.

  • Is the journal known to you or your colleagues?

    • Have you previously read articles published in the journal?
    • Can you easily find the latest articles in the journal?

  • Can you easily identify and contact the publisher?

    • Is the name of the publisher clearly provided on the journal's homepage?
    • Are you able to contact the publisher by telephone, email or post?

  • Does the journal provide clear information concerning its peer review procedures?
  • Are the articles indexed in databases which you yourself use?
  • Is it clear what costs will be incurred?

    • Does the journal's website explain what payments are made for and when they are billed?

  • Do you recognize the editorial board?

    • Have you previously heard of the members of the editorial board?
    • Do the members of the board refer to their work in this capacity on their own websites?

  • Is the publisher a member of a recognized initiative?

    • Is the publisher a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)?
    • For open access journals: Is the journal listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)?
    • For open access journals: Does the publisher belong to the Open Access Scholarly Publishers’ Association (OASPA)?
    • Is the journal operated on one of the Journals Online Platforms of INASP (for journals in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Central America and Mongolia) or on African Journals Online (AJOL, for African journals)?
    • Is the publisher a member of another professional association?

If you can answer most of the questions on the list with "yes".

Go through the checklist and only then submit your article if you are able to answer most or all of the questions with "yes".

  • You are sure that the journal you have selected is held in sufficiently high regard among your colleagues to enhance your reputation and improve your chances of receiving citations.
  • Publication in the right journal for your area of research raises your professional profile and helps you to advance your career.
  • Your article should be indexed or archived and should also be easily findable.
  • You should expect a professional publication procedure in which your work is reviewed and proofread.
  • Only once you are satisfied of this, should you submit your article.

Source: Think Check Submit – Choose the right journal for your research http://thinkchecksubmit.org /translations/german/  (Translation: Marco Tullney). Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution.


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