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Watch Out for Predators

In a recent blog at Nature Jobs, Victor Morais, a postdoc researcher at the University of the Republic in Uruguay, says researchers should be careful when it comes to open access journals. The number of such journals has boomed in recent years, but they're not all as great as they seem, he writes.

Upon further investigation of some open access publishing sites, Morais says there are sometimes more journals to publish in than there are published articles, and he wondered if the journals were even 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," he writes. "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."

Such "predatory journals" don't vet the quality or reliability of the papers being published, as they don't have a rigorous peer review process, Morais writes.

But there are some ways to distinguish between journals that are worth publishing in and websites that are better ignores, he says. Researchers should check on the impact factor, the index, and the publisher, of any journals they're considering publishing in. They should also check whether the journals are supported by scientific societies or universities, and who makes up their editorial boards.

"The pressure put on scientists to publish make us vulnerable to predatory open access journals" Morais says. "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."