Questionable Publishing How to choose the right journal for your publication

Are you about to choose a journal for your next publication? Be aware of questionable or even predatory publishing.

What is predatory publishing?

Predatory journals have been an issue in the scientific world since the rise of open-access journals, but the developments around that issue have accelerated in the last months. The original view of a predatory journal that is hosted on an obscure website without the possibility to trace the owner or editors is not the biggest concern anymore. Predatory publishing has become less obvious. It is “an exploitative academic publishing business model that involves charging publication fees to authors without checking articles for quality and legitimacy, and without providing editorial and publishing services that legitimate academic journals provide, whether open access or not”. Questionable publishing is a better term nowadays.

Why check the quality of a journal before you submit?

On March 20, 2023, Clarivate – the company behind Web of Science – announced the de-listing of over 50 journals from their indexation. Their policy states that they only cover content from journals that publish research articles that have been validated by peer review.  Among these 50 journals are also many journals of well-established publishers that are now starting to show questionable behaviour. Questionable journals show an exponential increase in published articles per year (especially due to special issues), and/or a decrease in the turn-around time between submission and publication of articles.

How to check the quality of a journal before you submit?

UT authors also publish in these questionable journals and we want to inform you about these practices that are getting more serious. When researchers ask us – the information specialists if a journal is trustworthy, we try to detect red flags by assessing the journal. Some examples:

  • Sudden large increase in number of publications, see this example from Frontiers
  • Poor review report with only minimal feedback, see this example from MDPI
  • Time between submission and publication, see this example from MDPI
  • Rewards for peer review, see this example from MDPI
  • Scope of journal (has become) unspecific, see this example from MDPI
  • Number of special issues published, see this example from Hindawi and this one from MDPI
  • Is the journal listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals? This is an indicator of trustworthiness.

Be aware that this list is not exhaustive, we just want to show you some examples of factors that can be checked relatively easily before considering submission to a certain journal. Next to that, we’d like to point out that a single suspicious journal doesn’t make the entire publisher predatory. What we want to establish with this information is awareness about what is currently going on in the world of publishing, and how dubious these practices are. By creating this awareness, we hope to emphasize the fact that you need to check before you act. Therefore, we’d like to point out the Think. Check. Submit. guidelines that our university is advising you to use.

We’ll gladly help

Contact your information specialist whenever you are in doubt.