Predatory publishing is generally defined as for-profit open access journal publication of scholarly articles without the benefit of peer review by experts in the field or the usual editorial oversight of the journals in question. The journals have no standards and no quality control and frequently publish within a very brief period of time while claiming that articles are peer-reviewed. There is confusion between some legitimate open-access peer review journals and predatory open-access journals, and sometimes include legitimate scholars on their editorial masthead.
On occasion a journal may get not one, but a series of complaints from the same source. Complaints may be directed at an author, an editor, or the journal in general. If these complaints turn out to be well founded, investigations should proceed as warranted. However, there are also cases where a complainant makes repeated allegations against a journal, editor, or author that turn out to be baseless. Examples of multiple complaints include:
Our journal has been contacted by an author who would like to submit a review article. The author responded to a request for an invited review from a predatory journal without realizing it was a predatory journal. The author submitted the article only to receive an unexpected invoice and clear evidence of no peer review. The author investigated the journal and then realized the predatory nature of this journal.
To remove the submitted manuscript from this journal, the author communicated via email, phone and certified letter, and also contacted members of the editorial board, but has received no return communication. Periodically, the manuscript has disappeared from the journal’s website, only to reappear in a later issue. The author never signed a copyright agreement and never paid the journal to publish the article. The author would like to have the manuscript published in a legitimate journal but does not wish to be guilty of duplicate publication.
As the former editor-in-chief of the journal, the only advice I could offer was to contact the present editor-in-chief of the legitimate journal to which the author wishes to submit the manuscript, explain the situation and see what advice is given. If accepted and published, a statement could be included that this is the only valid version of the paper.
Question(s) for the COPE Forum
• What advice can be given to the author about submitting the manuscript to a legitimate journal without the author being guilty of duplicate publication?
The Forum agreed with the advice of the former editor-in-chief. As there was no copyright transfer, the paper could be published in the legitimate journal, ideally with an editorial note on the paper explaining what has happened. Otherwise, the author may have to write off this paper to experience and lessons learned.
The Forum noted that this case highlights the importance of the Think.Check.Submit. initiative, which provides tools to help researchers identify trusted journals for their research.
Another suggestion was to threaten legal action—the predatory journal may back down if legal action is threatened.
The editor conveyed the Forum’s advice to the author. She sent another letter via certified mail to the predatory journal, but it was returned unopened (as no one was present at the address to accept the letter). She did not threaten legal action because her university’s legal counsel would not endorse that approach and she was unable to obtain a response from anyone at the journal via phone, email or certified letter in order to communicate that threat effectively. However, she then sent a message to the publisher of the predatory journal: “Immediately remove my article from your website. If you do not do so immediately, I will take legal action”. The publisher responded by asking her for the article title and associated journal. The author provided this information and indicated she would proceed with legal action if the article was not removed from the journal’s website by a given date. She will now proceed with submission to a legitimate journal, and the editor of the legitimate journal is comfortable that duplicate publication is no longer a problem.