Fake Science and Predatory Publishers

Being able to make one's own scientific findings freely available worldwide offers the business model of open access. Caution is advised, however, because some publishers offer little or no value for their money.

The Internet made it possible to publish scientific findings easily and inexpensively for a large audience. This ensured that, in addition to traditional subscription-based journals, electronic journals based on the open access model also emerged. These journals are often backed by a university or a society that wants to offer its members alternative publication options. Commercial publishers have also positioned themselves here, offering either both versions or exclusively open access journals. In addition, predatory publishers have also discovered business models in this area for themselves by charging a lot of money for little service. In doing so, they are often very aggressive with advertising and address potential authors flatteringly by email. The promised short publication time of a few days or weeks (which of course can only be kept by missing peer review) also has a positive effect. Sometimes these publishers also use similar names to well-known journals in the field, so it is easy to get confused. Their websites often look reputable, contain fictitious impact factors and alleged listings in reputable subject databases, so that the journals are not recognizable as predatory journals at first glance.

This creates problems for the authors publishing there, whose publications are published on the Internet in the best case, but only under bad conditions, as there are: bad licenses (no Creative Commons licenses), no listing in renowned databases (such as Web of Science or Scopus), no archiving solutions with often high prices (which have to be paid by the author upon publication).

To distinguish trustworthy journals from predatory journals, DOAJ, the Directory of Open Access Journals, helps. Journals that are included here have to meet a whole set of quality criteria. Nevertheless, there are of course quality journals outside DOAJ. Here, scientists are asked to check for themselves whether a journal is suitable for their purposes. The site thinkchecksubmit.org provides assistance in this regard. Finally, it should not be forgotten that the boundaries between less quality journals and true predatory journals are fluid. There is a lot of momentum in this area, and publishers formerly classified as predatory have now become respected open access publishers whose journals can compete in quality with established journals.

Of course, every scientist is free to choose which journal to publish in. And so, of course, there are reasons why one might want to publish an article in a journal of lesser quality. And if you do this for a good reason and you are aware of the implications, there is nothing to be said against it.

Pirated journals also pose problems for readers of scientific publications. Although these are not listed in reputable specialist databases, they can already be found via Google, or Google Scholar. Since these articles have not undergone any or sufficient peer review, quality assurance is left to the individual reader. This is also exploited by people whose tendentious "scientific" articles are not accepted by reputable journals. Therefore, these journals are also stomping grounds of pseudo science and conspiracy theories. Nevertheless, not all articles in this field are Fake Science either.

Fake Science and predatory publishers - recognize and avoid by Silke Frank is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.