COPE was invited to speak on predatory publishing at this WCRI plenary.
Deborah Poff kicked off with a preview of COPE’s discussion document on predatory publishing, currently in preparation. She gave a philosophical whistle-stop tour of the complexities in defining and naming the problem. There is disagreement on what is sufficient to deserve the “predatory” label and the term may be a misnomer when authors know a journal is not reputable, but often we see that a publisher quacks like a duck and Jeffrey Beall’s coining has stuck.
Essentially, predatory publishers are “flim flam men” who deceive, cheat, and squeeze money out of authors, such as by refusing all fee waivers and declining to withdraw submissions. They lack transparency and are given away by tells such as false claims of indexing, not declaring ethics and COIs, and poor language and production quality – though the latter is not a defining characteristic. They mimic real journals, even stealing titles or posing as them.
The ill effects are wide ranging - they trick academics and institutions out of payments, harm careers, refuse to retract, tarnish legitimate Open Access, pollute the literature, and reduce trust in scholarship. Those who publish in these journals are mainly but not exclusively from Asia and Africa – thousands of North American and European researchers also publish with them – driven by pressures to publish and the difficulty of publishing in English for those who this is not their first language.
From a business ethics perspective, we can take a two-pronged approach: caveat emptor (buyer beware) and the law. Education such as by Think. Check. Submit is useful, but predatory publishing can be seen as criminal and the US Federal Trade Commission successfully sued OMICS, resulting in a $50 million fine.