It is a common misconception that predatory journals do not conduct peer review and instead accept any manuscript submitted for a fee. However, a study from researchers at the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Publons database of peer review reports reveals that many researchers have provided peer review services for journals included in Cabells’ list of predatory journals.
The study, published on the bioRxiv preprint server, identified 6,077 reviews for 1,160 unique predatory journals posted to the Publons site. The authors found that most scholars (90% of all reviewers) had never submitted reviews for predatory journals and a further 8% had only done so occasionally. Strikingly, there was a small subset of scholars who had posted predominantly or exclusively for predatory journals (0.26% and 0.35% of reviewers, respectively). When this subset was examined in closer detail, these reviewers were typically younger, less well published and more likely to come from lower income countries than scholars engaged in activities for non-predatory journals.
As discussed in Nature, the peer review that predatory journals undertake might not be to an acceptable standard, and journal editors may even fail to pass on important reviewer comments to the authors. Furthermore, journals captured on Cabells’ list or the recently updated Beall’s list are often defined as predatory as a result of other deceptive practices, such as misleading readers about editorial board qualifications, or having no policies to preserve the digital record of articles.
To curb the waste of time and resources spent on predatory journal activities, the study’s authors ask that funders and research institutions warn scholars against reviewing for predatory journals as well as avoiding submissions to these titles.