The World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) has published guidance on how to differentiate legitimate journals from predatory ones. The rise in predatory journals is a real problem and a worry for all those involved in the publication of scientific research. Predatory publishers do not follow the publication ethics and standards promoted by organisations such as WAME, the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) , the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) and the Council of Science Editors (CSE). Predatory journals offer rapid publication at a reduced cost but do not carry out external peer review, the trademark of scholarly publication, which may allow the publication of poorly carried out studies and even fake papers. Worryingly, the number of predatory journals is increasing and in 2014 one study estimated 8,000 active journals published 420,000 articles.
So how can an author distinguish predatory and legitimate journals? Resources include Beall’s List and the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Beall’s List contained a record of potential, possible, or probable predatory journals, but is no longer available. Although it provided a good starting point, WAME’s guidance outlines some potential limitations of Beall’s criteria. The DOAJ aims to identify and certify legitimate open access journals but is not an exhaustive list, and those journals not included should not be presumed to be predatory. The “Think. Check. Submit” checklist is another helpful initiative, but again not completely foolproof. WAME has developed a new predatory journal algorithm, building on these earlier resources, and identified a series of warning signs that should prove helpful to authors. WAME advise that “The more “red flags” that are present, the more hesitant one should be to consider the journal a desirable publication venue”. WAME conclude that it is going to take a great deal of effort from the whole industry to remove predatory journals from the system, and that authors need to share their experiences and educate junior researchers to ensure that all articles are published in legitimate journals. If the publication costs and lead time seem “too good to be true” then investigate and be willing to reconsider your choice of journal.