Predatory Publishers: What They Are and Why You Should Beware

Scholars, especially those on the tenure clock, are under more and more pressure these days to publish. Sometimes, the pressure is so great that scholars turn to so-called predatory publishers in an effort to build their CVs. A recent article in the New York Times looks at these publishers and the academics who publish in them.

Predatory publishers pose as reputable, peer-reviewed journals and often have names that closely resemble the names of top journals. But they exist mainly to make money off of fees that they charge authors for publication and hence have an incentive to publish anything that comes their way.

Whereas several years ago scholars were largely unaware of the practices of predatory publishers, the situation is different today. According to the New York Times article, the relationship between journal and author is "less predator and prey" than "a new and ugly symbiosis."

The article suggests that, for now, publishing in predatory journals is actually doing what the authors hope it will do: boost their credentials. But tenure committees are beginning to learn more about predatory publishers and to recognize which journals are serious and peer reviewed and which are not.

Predatory publishers, because they have an incentive to publish anything they receive, will often publish work that simply does not meet professional standards--and that can have harmful consequences. As one associate professor of fisheries at Delaware State University said, "Think about human medicine and how much is on the line. When people publish something that is not replicable, it can have health impacts."

The article was written by Gina Kolata and appears in the October 30, 2017, edition of the New York Times