This blog follows a previous post on a related theme by Maria Yudkevich, "Publications for Money: What Creates the Market for Paid Academic Journals."
Numerous evaluative criteria may be used in determining a journal’s scholarly worth. A common criterion is a journal’s Impact Factor (IF). However, among the many problems with IFs is that only journals indexed by ISI’s Journal Citation Report have them (over 8,000 in Science and 2,700 in the Social Sciences). SCImago Journal & Country Rank, a portal showing the visibility of the journals contained in the Scopus® database from 1996, is also useful for assessing journals. Another tool, Google Scholar Metrics, facilitates gauging the visibility and influence of recent journal articles and by extension journals themselves. Yet another instrument, the Eigenfactor score and Article Influence score, utilizes citation data to evaluate the influence of a journal in relation to others. Of course, strong pointers about a journal’s quality are usually provided by the status of the body publishing it, the reputation of its editorial board members, the rigor of its peer-reviewing, its acceptance/rejection rates, and where it is indexed.
Another factor in assessing a journal’s worth may be author publication fees. Such fees do not necessarily constitute a red flag as numerous quality open access (OA) journals employ a system of “author pays". However, there’s the swiftly growing difficulty of sham journals whose sole rationale is to make a profit with little interest in disseminating scholarship. Such journals, often with credible scholarly names, publish most articles submitted and charge authors high publication fees. It’s a significant problem that more and more academics are being hoodwinked by these clearly fake journals. A useful resource for determining some of these phony publications is Jeffrey Beall's List of Predatory, Open-Access Publishers.
Though I’m a librarian I receive numerous solicitations to submit articles, together with hefty publication fees, to supposedly scholarly journals and/or to serve on their editorial boards. I suspect that faculty scholars receive far more of these invitations. It’s an epidemic. Indeed, it’s probable that the owners of these sham periodicals when spamming scholars pay little attention to whether the recipients’ academic interests are relevant to the journal’s disciplinary focus. Some scholars are even placed on editorial boards even though they have not given their consent. Generally these ersatz journals, with scientific and technological disciplines being particularly well represented, have abnormally high acceptance rates with minimal or no peer reviewing. Of course, this is a rational modus operandi for the journals’ sleazy operators as genuine peer review that weeds out poor scholarship would thwart their primary goal of making money. The more articles they publish, the more money they make with publication fees of $500 or more per article being common. Moreover, articles are often published with little or no proofreading and checking. Indeed, authors are often not asked for their final approval before publication. Little thought is given to digital preservation. Articles, journals and, indeed, the publishers themselves can disappear without trace. The result is a proliferation of essentially vanity press publishing that benefits the purveyors of these spurious journals and does damage to the academic reputation of the naïve or careless authors who are conned by these predators.
I strongly believe that the optimal future of the dissemination of scholarship is open access. Naturally, such scholarship must first undergo rigorous peer reviewing, the traditional scholarly process, before publication in OA journals. When seeking an OA journal in which to publish, one might consult the almost 8,000 journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals-- all free, full text, quality controlled journals, covering all subjects and many languages. Though there exists a broad range of quality among these journals, it’s unlikely that any are of the bogus and predatory ilk.
Brendan A. Rapple is Collection Services Librarian at the O'Neill Library at Boston College.