PUBLISHING ETHICS. If you publish in a questionable journal, it may prove more harmful to your reputation than beneficial. But what are the warning signs to look for before choosing a journal? The Research Ethics Committee and the Biomedical Library can provide some tools to help you avoid predatory journals.
These days, scientific publication has become a lucrative industry with high profit margins, and is funded either through subscription or publication charges. It is this latter funding model, called Article Processing Charges (APC), which makes the articles accessible to all, open access. The prospect of earning fast (and big) bucks also attracts less serious players, sometimes referred to as predatory journals.
Definition from Nature
There had been no overall definition of the characteristics of these dubious journals for quite some time, but in 2019 Nature took the initiative for a meeting where a definition was finally agreed upon after 12 hours of discussion.
Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.
The entire text is available at Nature. Finding a comprehensive definition may be challenging, and listing all possible warning signals that enable recognition of these journals can be a complex task. However, one easy way is to check whether the journal is indexed in the article databases you use. There are also several free guides and tools to use, such as LiUs Journal Check Up or ThinkCheckSubmit. (A similar service is available for conferences ThinkCheckAttend)
A publishing ethics choice
Researchers or doctoral students form the target group for these actors, and you have probably received a lot of e-mails offering publication from this type of journal. But what should really influence your choice of journal when submitting your article? Your choice should be influenced by such factors as the journal’s readership, reputation (perhaps in the form of impact factor) and whether the article will be placed behind a paywall or is provided with open access.
If you choose a questionable journal, in error or deliberately, your choice of journal and publication may risk becoming a burden rather than a distinction. At certain times we may be less discerning and good publishing ethics are overlooked for an easier way to publish. You may have an article, the result of a long period of research, that has been refused several times, and you would rather see it published in a more obscure journal than disappear completely in the bottom of a desk drawer. It could also be work that you do not value very highly or articles that focus on giving some master students the opportunity to see their thesis in print, rather than basing publication on yourself as a researcher building your h-index with further citations.
In such situations, it may be tempting with offers of rapid publication in a journal you do not really know much about.
Avoid predatory journals completely
For that reason, remember these simple rules of conduct:
- CAUTION – avoid all interaction with predatory publishers
- Do not submit
- Do not peer review
- Do not read
- Do not reference
Read more about publishing ethics at Sahlgrenska Academy’s website Research Ethics.
If you have any questions about the choice of journals, dubious publishers or APC fees, please contact the Biomedical Library, firstname.lastname@example.org or see https://www.ub.gu.se/en/publish/open-access
Seminar in January
FER will be organizing a seminar on this topic on January 25 at 1 pm, hosted by Senior Lecturer Dr. Gustaf Nelhans from the University of Boras, whose main area of research concerns research policy aspects of scientific publication. His publications include a study on the amount of dubious publications at Swedish universities that he carried out together with Theo Bodin, KI. https://doi.org/10.1162/qss_a_00033
Keep an eye out for this in Akademiliv calendar!
- There are local and national agreements that offer discounts on part of, or the entire, APC fee at several publishers, see UB’s search service.
- The h-index measures the impact of an author based on the number of publications and the number of citations from them.
- Impact factor measures the impact of a journal based on the average number of citations that an article in the journal receives.
BY: EVA HESSMAN (on assignment from the Research Ethics Committee)