Outreach Leaders Article
June 13, 2019

Predatory publishers I: what are they?

If you are a published academic, it is almost inconceivable that you have not experienced the approaches of the predatory publishers. They manifest themselves in the daily onslaught of emails – often numbered in double figures- to publish in an increasing array of journals and offering cheap routes to open access and rapid peer review. They are marked by a bizarre range of specificity; sometimes the journals seem related to your field, e.g., healthcare if you are a nurse or doctor, but sometimes they are entirely unrelated. Often, they refer to something you have already published with a request for you to submit something similar. Sometimes they try to exert pressure such as only having to fill one slot before going to production.

In the same vein you will receive many ‘invitations’ to conferences. Frequently your presence is ‘expected’ and your keynote—which you have not even submitted—has already been accepted. Always these emails open with ridiculous salutations such as ‘greetings’ (some even say ‘salutations’), often a question about your state of health, and the hope that you are ‘having a good day’. Other variations on the themes above are invitations to join editorial boards—or congratulating you on your appointment to one—and invitations to edit special issues. The conference equivalent is an invitation to join the scientific committee for a conference or to organise a conference.

The final type of ‘scam’ operated by the predatory publishers, often linked to invitations to publish, is to mimic existing journals either in name or by having names very similar to established journals and then to lead you to websites that look similar – and sometimes identical – to genuine journal websites. But these are ‘hijacked’ or cloned websites and, at some point in the submission process, you will be asked for money. This can involve providing and thereby revealing your credit card details. You are very unlikely to see your manuscript published and you will never regain your money. You have also risked your financial security as your credit card details are now in the hands of criminals.

These are the predators, and their aim is simple: to deprive you of valuable manuscripts and money and to exploit – and often damage – your reputation. Reputable publishers never operate in this way and you should know that: familiarise yourself with the ways and wiles of the predatory publishers and take every step you can to avoid being taken in by them.
Some people learn very early about the predators and realise that these are not genuine. However, people continue to be fooled and my own experience is that many colleagues in my own university and across the world are not aware of the dangers. In the next article I will consider what happens if you submit to a predatory publisher or subscribe to a predatory conference.

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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