Having a web page with scientific articles isn’t all it takes to be a scientific journal, says Victor Morais.
Guest contributor Victor Morais
The number of open access journals available to scientists has grown enormously in recent years. They offer the possibility of fast and easy publishing to get research out in the world as soon as possible. Unfortunately, not all open access journals are as they appear.
Every day, email invitations to new open access journals drop into my inbox. Recently I decided to investigate further. On the publisher’s site I found more than 30 journals covering a variety of areas, but fewer than half of them had published articles and none of them had more than 10 articles. There were more places to publish than there were publications!
I wondered if these journals were real. They could be predatory journals – a web page where scientists publish papers in a form more like a personal page or a blog than a legitimate scientific journal. The real purpose of a scientific journal is to share and preserve knowledge and to protect the minimum quality requirements of a scientific publication. If scientists publish their work on personal web pages, there are no quality controls and it’s not possible to guarantee the visibility or protection of articles. Predatory journals do not do the job of a scientific journal in terms of quality, visibility or preservation, and most of the time lack the peer review process that makes science reliable. As a researcher, how do I guarantee that as soon as I’m charged for publication, my work won’t be lost in the ether?
In my ensuing research, I found some interesting resources like Think. Check. Submit that give guidelines to choose the right journal. Here, I want to share some of the clues that helped me to distinguish between established, emerging and predatory journals.
Check the impact factor
The adjudication of an impact factor to a journal could be considered as one of the frontiers between emerging or established journals. The presence of an impact factor, even if it’s not high-ranking, is a great way to work out if a journal has been around for a while. Impact factors are useful for distinguishing between established and new journals, but a new, legitimate journal will also not have an impact factor to begin with. The impact factor information should be found in the web page of the journal or in the Web of Science.
Check the index
The directory of open access journals (DOAJ) is a good way to ascertain if the journal fulfils the basic requirements of a scientific journal. Generally, an established journal is indexed in many scientifically recognised search engines such as Pubmed or Scopus. Emerging journals tend to be indexed in just a few smaller scientific search engines, whilst predatory journals are either not indexed or indexed in general and unrestricted databases.
Check the publisher
Recognised publishers are a good guarantee of a trusted journal. Traditional publishers such as Springer Nature, Elsevier, Wiley and others have more than a century of history in science publication. Unfortunately, many new journals belong to new publishers that haven’t had the time to build a reputation yet.
Check the support
Many – but not all – journals are supported by scientific societies or universities. Because they’re part of a respected institution, it’s very unlikely they’ll be predatory. Whilst an emerging supported journal still runs the risk of being discontinued, your research will nevertheless be protected. Predatory journals usually have no support from institutions. The support information can normally be found in the journal’s presentation page – if there’s no information to be found, the journal probably isn’t supported.
Check the editorial boards
Using search engines such as Scopus, it’s possible to obtain a brief paper profile of any editorial board member. In well-established or emerging journals it’s easy to find recognised authors in the field with many papers. In predatory journals, editorial boards tend to be less recognisable. An editorial board with wide knowledge in the field is a good guarantee of a well-consolidated journal, or an emerging journal with a decent chance of success.
The pressure put on scientists to publish make us vulnerable to predatory open access journals. They offer me the opportunity of a quick publication that could save my job, but in the long term my work would not reach the scientific community and my career could be damaged. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic formula to find predatory journals, it’s only possible to detect those that look suspicious, and so choosing a good journal takes time and patience. I hope this advice helps you protect your career in the long term, whilst allowing you to publish soon.
Victor Morais is a postdoctoral researcher of the Department of Biotechnology of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of the Republic, Montevideo, Uruguay.