Predatory Journals

Scientific publishing is one of the pillars of science, propagating all the information in the world of science. The state of scientific publishing in digital age has gone through radical transition allowing multiple advantages. The same period has also seen rise of a hazardous trend called predatory publishing which is infecting the industry and diminishing the credibility of scientific journals. This corrupt and money-grubbing practice pretends to operate in the frame of open access publishing – a movement established to make scholarly publications freely available – whereas in reality authors are charged a fortune as publication fee, albeit they provide free access to the readers. Predatory journals entirely lack the ethics and credibility of scientific publishing, they publish almost anything for money, they provide little or no peer review (which is at the heart of academic evaluation) and the editorial board is often non-existent, the editors they display on their website are often bogus names or any professional without the standing of a journal editor

Predatory journals form a massive portion of all the scientific journals published worldwide, and they mostly originate from developing countries. Predatory journals prey on vulnerable researchers, they use sweeping marketing tactics, bombarding academics with emails akin to credit card campaigns, luring them into publishing in their journals and offering opportunities to attend conferences – even the conferences are reported to be bogus, in which the hired speakers have no real credits to them. They try to lure the authors by claiming that they are indexed in Google Scholar, but is Google Scholar the authority in scientific publishing, or does it vet all the journals it indexes?

Predatory journals operate under the guise of open access publishing, an industry which attributes its success to free access of genuine and peer reviewed content they provide to libraries and readers, following the guidelines provided by Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association. Predatory journals are but a dubious enterprise, often bearing names resembling to the established ones eg, Journal of Economics and Finance, published by Springer, has its dubious copy in Journal of Finance and Economics. There is the Journal of Engineering Technology, from American Society for Engineering Education, and also its shady version called the GSTF Journal of Engineering Technology. This deceit, and the fierce marketing campaign with the promise of instant and easy publishing, does it seduce academics into believing them? Or is it an ugly symbiosis – with the knowledge of the reality to both the parties – that thrives on academics’ dire needs to get published?

Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado was the first to report about the alarming establishment of predatory journals, Beall argued that “the act of instituting financial transactions between scholarly authors and scholarly publishers is corrupting scholarly communication. This was one of the great benefits of the traditional scholarly publishing system – it had no monetary component in the relationship between publishers and their authors. Adding the monetary component has created the problem of predatory publishers and the problem of financing author fees.” Beall has published a list of potentially predatory journals which can be referred to by authors who don’t want their work to end up in a spurious journal and get trapped in the underworld forever.

Despite the knowledge the trend is flourishing, and there are universities and colleges who turn a blind eye to this grim reality. Predatory publishing hurts scientific communication in multiple ways. Most of the money that goes into scientific research is public money via research grants, when papers of low quality are published, public money is wasted. It hurts many industries, like healthcare, who rely heavily on scientific research, communicated through journals, a misleading information could be hazardous. It hurts science enthusiasts by providing wrong information. As it grows it tentacles and further integrates itself with the legit science publication, when more of its papers are cited for future researches, it decays true science.


Twenty years ago, the challenges in scientific publishing were in the areas of distribution, delivery and marketing. With digital revolution, the publishing landscape has altered. While technology has driven great changes in publishing through reduced production lead time and expanded reach, there are new kind of challenges that have cropped up, like fading relevancy of established publishers with internet empowered self publishing authors; shrunk revenue due to availability of free information on the web; and confusion among readers due to legal and technological issues like DRM, multiple formats, territorial rights etc.

One of the less discussed plights that affects scholarly publishers concerns with multiple publications and variety of content formats that they publish. PDF and XMLs are the most widely used format for research publications, however due to a wide assortment of available content and varied audiences, publishers also publish ebooks, videos and courses to deliver the content in the format appropriate to their target audience. Problem arises when a platform used for delivery of journals does not support other publications and formats; publishers are then required to restrict their formats to PDFs and deliver their books and videos the way they deliver journal articles. At times, publishers end up using multiple platforms for different types of publications and formats. Restricting the content to one format is no more an option as their audiences would expect flexibility of formats and devices where the content can be rendered; this leaves a publisher with managing multiple delivery platforms – a frustrating situation which drains energy and resources out of the core job.

This need of having a core platform to support all types of publications and content formats, has driven leading technology providers to build solutions specifically targeted to scholarly publishers. Such platforms are expected to provide a single repository for all content formats and types for research publications. iPublishCentral Scholar, a product of continuous innovation on iPublishCentral Suite of digital publishing platforms from Impelsys is a comprehensive all-in-one solution to manage and deliver all scholarly content in a single platform. It supports ebooks, journals, videos, courses, MOCs and document formats and has vanguard features that make scholarly content management efficient and effortless.

SaaS architecture of iPublishCentral Scholar allows your portal to automatically scale to meet increasing usage demands and you can host and manage all your content assets in one central cloud hosted repository. The platform comes with powerful reader technology, has enhanced search and discoverability features, supports multiple devices with responsive web design (RWD) standards, and you can also choose to have branded apps for iOS and Android devices.

Tools like iPublishCentral Scholar come to the rescue of scholarly publishers who publish content in formats beyond journals, who want to inculcate videos and courses to their offerings and also manage MOCs. This eliminates the need to manage more than one tool, the unified all-in-one platform is easy to use with an intuitive user interface and gives granular reports on product performance and user behavior on the platform. It allows implementation of business models like individual and institutional subscription.

One of the problems with fast paced technological developments is that there is a plethora of technologies and various product standards which makes it difficult for publishers to keep up. With mushrooming of numerous products and services catering to niche aspects, there has been some disintegration in the entire industry. A robust unified platform that supports various formats and can scale up with time as needs arise is the need of the hour. Products like iPublishCentral Scholar solve this puzzle; publishers do not need to maintain numerous tools to manage and deliver different types of content. With implementation of right tools a lot of obstacles in scholarly publishing can be overcome, timely intervention helps and wise decision in choosing the provider also makes a difference in long term.