Outreach Leaders Article
September 26, 2019

Predatory publishers III: how to avoid them

Avoiding the predators is, largely, a matter of common sense. Your ‘default settings’ should include an awareness that reputable publishers will never elicit manuscripts in the way that the predatory publishers do. You will not be ‘invited’ to present at genuine conferences without some financial support being offered and in the process of submitting a manuscript—this applies to both predatory publishers and hijacked websites—reputable publishers will not ask you to part with money during the process of submission.

Assuming you do wish to publish a manuscript, this should be a planned process. You should be aware of the key journals in your field and, if you are an early career academic, seek advice from more experienced colleagues. Therefore, you should target the journals that you wish to publish in and completely ignore any unsolicited invitations to publish. One of the attractions of the predatory publishers is that they offer open access online publishing. They are responding to an increasing trend towards open access publishing and the combined pressure on academics—especially early career ones—to both publish and to publish open access. In addition, they offer relatively low article processing charges. However, genuine and reputable open access journals only collect a fee once a manuscript is accepted. The editing and reviewing processes in reputable journals are kept separate from the financial aspects of open access.

In the same vein as planning your publications, you should plan your conference presentations and only attend reputable conferences. You will receive advertising emails regarding reputable conferences, but these will be purely informative and will not contain any pressure to attend and present. Try to have a regular annual cycle of conferences you attend and if you are in any doubt about which ones to attend, seek appropriate advice.

If you are not an early career researcher but have some responsibility in a senior management or professorial role for less experienced colleagues, you should be ensuring that colleagues in your organisation are aware generally about predatory publishers. A ‘carrot and stick’ approach may be required. Try to encourage and reward publication in reputable journals and presenting at reputable conferences but make the consequences of publishing in predatory journals or attending predatory conferences explicit. This could be levered with some sanctions such as discounting the use of predators in promotions and if institutional resources have been used to support predatory publishing or conference attendance, this could be recouped from the individual.

The predators must have a market, or they would not exist. I know people who have been ‘taken in’ by both predatory publishers and by hijacked websites. There are plenty of accounts on the internet about people who have ‘attended’ predatory conferences. It does happen; please make sure that it does not happen to you.

Declaration of interests

Roger Watson is Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Advanced Nursing, Editor of Nursing Open and an Editorial Board member of the WikiJournal of Medicine.

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