Magazine article Information Today

Exposing Predatory Publishers

Magazine article Information Today

Exposing Predatory Publishers

Article excerpt

Jeffrey Beall is a librarian on a mission. As the scholarly initiatives librarian at the Auraria Library at the University of Colorado-Denver, he has worked as a cataloger for most of his academic library career. But about 3 years ago, he started to see a trend emerging within the academic publishing circuit and began putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

Due to this clever catch, Beall is now known as the whistle-blower of an increasing number of faux journals. As a cataloger, he says it was natural "to track and categorize this new type of scholarly publication." It was in late 2008 and early 2009 when he first became aware of predatory journals, but his term of "predatory publisher" did not stick until 2010. His first published list appeared on his blog, Scholarly Open Access (, in 2010, but not many people knew about it. However, by the end of 2011, his list began receiving plenty of attention, especially due to the many academics and professionals who stake their careers in the quality and in the future of scholarly publishing.

"The reason I say predatory journals/publishers is because there were only predatory publishers at first," says Beall. These publishers used massive projects and often launched 200-plus journals at once. After the mega-journal model was established in the past couple years, more predatory journals are popping up. These big, broad-based journals are copying the mega-journal model that PLOS ONE pioneered, he says. They are independent and do not publish the journal under a publisher's banner. These are also especially dangerous in that they hold stakes in many different fields, so regardless of a researcher's academic publishing affiliation, Beall advises authors to be wary and to do research before starting any application processes.

Look Before You Leap

"Predatory publishers and predatory standalone journals publish on the Internet using the gold open-access (author-pays) model of scholarly publishing," says Beall. Predatory publishers that want to make an easy profit can exploit the author-pays publishing model. These unscrupulous publishers set up bogus publishing operations and trick authors into thinking that they are legitimate scholarly publishing outlets. Many publisher and journal names may differ from mainline ones by only a letter or a dash, but the end result can be serious for those trying to get articles published. Naturally, the unsuspecting authors front the article-processing charges that are normally paid upon acceptance of their manuscripts.

These publishers often conceal their actual publishing locations, especially if they are operating in an underdeveloped country, or they misrepresent their actual location altogether, says Beall. "Many Asian publishers have journals with titles that begin with American Journal of XXX, or British Journal of XXX," he says. "Thus, I think there are more British journals published in Asia than there are in the U.K."

Although no category is exempt, the biggest group of predatory publishers and journals focuses on the biosciences for one very notable reason: More grant money is funneled into the biosciences, and those grant funds pay the author fees for the publishers. …

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