Choosing the right journal in which to publish your research is a daunting task. This is especially true for many researchers in developing countries, where it is not always possible to access training on selecting legitimate journals. In this blog (part 1 of 2), Aamir Raoof Memon shares his personal experiences of predatory journals – and explains how he educated himself to avoid them.
I learnt about predatory journals the hard way. My first paper was published in 2014, in a journal from a publisher that I since learnt is widely regarded as predatory. Although my paper had previously been rejected by several other reputable journals, it was accepted without any revisions within two weeks, after a pseudo-peer review. Soon after the paper was accepted, I received an invoice of $1219 for publishing the article.
At the time, I knew nothing about predatory journals. When my senior colleague told me that this journal appeared to be predatory, I was heartbroken and completely shaken, as this was my first piece of work and I had put a lot of energy into getting it published. Unfortunately, my teachers who had co-authored the paper with me did not know anything about journal selection and focused international and impact-factor journals only, irrespective of their legitimacy.
So what are predatory journals?
Predatory journals are journals that either do not have a peer review process or have a pseudo-peer review process. For instance, a fake review is likely to include vague comments such as ‘I enjoyed reading your article’ or ‘Reviewers like your paper and consider it acceptable for publication’. Peer review serves as a quality check for articles submitted to a journal, and research that does not pass through this process is likely to be poor quality.
Some predatory journals prey on their victims by claiming fake indexing and impact factors. Plus, such journals charge for publication – and these charges can amount to significant sums of money.
Learn first, publish later
My second publication was a case report that was published in a journal from a different publisher that is also widely regarded as predatory. Once again, my senior colleague had to break the news to me. He strongly advised me to check Beall’s list of predatory journals before selecting a journal.
After this second bad experience, I almost gave up on research writing. But instead, I decided to take my senior colleague’s advice. I decided to learn as much as I could about about scientific writing and the publication process. I started by reading online articles on journal selection and I joined several online courses, such as AuthorAID’s MOOC on Research Writing. My objective was to learn first, and publish later.
I finally had a paper published in a reputable journal (Journal of Religion and Health) in 2015, which instilled me with confidence. I kept working hard, day and night, to be as knowledgeable as I could be. I had learnt a lot about journal selection, but I still had a long way to go. Around the same time, I submitted two more papers to a journal that turned out to be predatory – but I was fortunate to get them withdrawn just in time. After this, I became even more vigilant about journal selection.
Aamir Raoof Memon is a lecturer at the Institute of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, Peoples University of Medical & Health Sciences for Women, in Nawabshah, Sindh, Pakistan.
In part 2, Aamir will describe how he went from victim to educator, and some of the resources he has used and written on the subject.