What makes Predatory Journals unrestrained invaders?


Getting published is paramount for academics and researchers. In a competitive field where thousands of Ph.D holders are vying for jobs, it holds significance in their immediate and future prospects and their reputation in the community, they either “publish or perish”. But getting  published is not easy, not for the newbies or an unestablished academic, when it comes to leading journals they are almost out of reach to them. It’s a fiercely competed space, and universities and colleges demand their teachers to get published, and publish as many papers as they can. Here comes predatory publishing, a parallel world of pseudo-academia that propagates pseudo-science, contaminating scientific publishing with low quality, poorly reviewed and unedited content. It feeds on the dire needs of academics who need to get published, charging them a publications fee anywhere ranging from 100 to 1000s of dollars.

Working in the guise of open access publishing, predatory journals offer instant publishing and bombard prospects with emails. A highly commercial and shady business wherein poorly written, unedited, implausible and sometimes copied content is published in exchange of huge money, which at times also dupes and publishes established authors with credible research papers, thus contaminating and chipping away into the credibility of it.

Predatory journals masquerade so cleverly as established and reputed ones that often professors and researchers who desperately need to get published but are new to the publishing world are not able to differentiate between the genuine and the fake. On this webpage, few characteristics of predatory journals are listed, however academics should dig deeper and do a little research among seasoned colleagues to find out the validity of the journal. But what about those who know the reality, who have the idea that a certain journal is dubious, the editorial board it claims to have is nothing but obscure names and it publishes just about anything for money?  An article in New York Times says that it’s increasingly clear that many academics know exactly what they’re getting into, which explains why these journals have proliferated despite wide criticism. The relationship is less predator and prey, some experts say, than a new and ugly symbiosis.

Turning a blind eye

The trend is further fuelled by the the fact that there is no risk or damage in publishing in these journals, in fact, regardless of the legitimacy of the journal in which their paper is published, researchers get promoted. Derek Pyne, an economics professor at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, wrote in an article published in the Ottawa Citizen, that some universities turn a blind eye to the problem of predatory journals. Research destined for legitimate journals may require significant support in terms of research assistants, access to expensive data sets and other costs. Publishing in legitimate journals also requires a significant investment in time (often years) both for the original work and subsequent rounds in the refereeing process that in the end may not result in publication. This investment is lower in predatory journals that have even published computer-generated nonsense papers. The time freed up can be used on other activities valued by the university, such as service and teaching.

It’s the economic incentive (not because of less publication charges, but by the way of less intensive research required to get published) to the universities and easy publishing for the authors, predatory journals provide both, at the cost of adulteration in scientific communication. Universities which do not get enough funding for good research and even conduct cookie-cutter research, and academics who need to get published but whose research is not significant enough for legitimate journals, are they to blame? But it’s science and research that takes the toll. Maybe the industry needs some fundamental changes, may be regulate or keep the low grade publications in check, and find a way to accommodate more authors.