On Predatory Publishing

Be Aware of Predatory Journals

The growing market for online scientific publications has led to a proliferation of journals with dubious practices. Journals that neglect scientific quality checks via peer review in the sole interest of cashing in on publication fees from the authors are known as predatory journals. It is important that all researchers, both young and experienced, know what is going on, and that they are capable of recognizing a predatory journal when they encounter one.

This is why the EMS, upon the initiative of its Ethics Committee and Publication and Electronic Dissemination Committee has decided to launch an awareness campaign about predatory journals in the broad domain of mathematics.

Like other issues negatively impacting the quality of research, the success of predatory publishing is strongly tied with existing incentives, notably publication lists being measured by crude or sophisticated but ill-suited bibliometric data. Numbers being an essential part of any kind of mathematics, mathematicians are also well equipped to avoid numbers when not necessary; the mathematical community has enough tradition and means to protect itself from such threats and the EMS proposes this webpage as part of this effort.

Submitting a paper or receiving an editorial board invitation

Why avoid predatory journals?

  • It may harm your credibility as a researcher.
  • Your article may not reach its intended audience, damaging the impact of your research.
  • Collaborating with predatory journals fuzzes the frontier between sound mathematical research and unchecked, unreliable articles and even nonsensical mathematical-looking texts.

What are some signs that a journal could be predatory?

  • It promises an unusually quick acceptance time.
  • You are being contacted by somebody you cannot identify.
  • You are targeted by mass emailing campaigns to contribute to the journal
  • You are solicited to contribute to the journal by someone you never heard of, or you cannot link in any manner to your field of expertise.
  • The journal claims that publishing is free or extremely cheap, but there are additional fees like page charges or other unexpected administrative fees that are documented in not-so-visible areas of the website, or that suddenly appear after acceptance.
  • It has a huge editorial board compared to its scope or output.
  • Its webpage looks makeshift and/or its publisher has a lot of journals, often in unrelated subjects.
  • It is not listed in either zbMATH Open or MathSciNet. You should not proceed unless you know that the journal is new and credible.

What are some hints that a journal is serious and fit for your work?

  • It recently published papers of authors representing your field, and whose work you respect (you may check reviews at e.g. zbMATH Open or MathSciNet).
  • Its board includes at least one editor whom you respect, as close as possible to your area of competence,
  • The journal has a clear editorial policy, scope and peer review process outlined on its website.

Your article is accepted: final checks

  • If acceptance was surprisingly quick or reports are particularly empty, check the above criteria once more;
  • Some hybrid journals offer an Open access option for a fee. Beware that payment of thousands of Euros is often claimed after publication rather than when the option is first selected. Challenging this after publication is usually difficult (but see below).

What to do if you think you have submitted your paper to a predatory journal

  • My paper has been accepted, but I realize the journal is predatory.

Avoid signing any copyright transfer agreement or authorization to publish, also see below.

  • My paper has been published as Open Access, and I am now being asked to pay publication fees.
  • My paper has been published, but I realize the journal is predatory.

In all cases, you are not the first person to be deceived by predatory journals and you can seek help from those around you. In France, for example, contact RNBM, in other countries seek a learned society that may help out.

How to check a publication list that contains articles published in potentially predatory journals

  • Read the papers!
  • If reading the papers is impossible, check for doubtful journals using the criteria listed above and sanity check the corresponding articles.
  • If sanity checking the articles is not possible either, at least do not include in any number count the articles published in journals you can identify as predatory.

A note on Open Access

Open Access is now required in many countries and by many research funders. As a result, there has been an explosion in the number of journals offering Open Access publication options via article processing charges - APCs. Open Access and APCs are not themselves a good indication of whether or not a journal is engaging in predatory publishing practices. You should use the criteria above alongside the resources below to be confident in your assessment of journals. If in doubt, ask colleagues and peers for a second opinion.

Additional resources