Researchers cannot trust everything that looks like a journal as a venue for their research. This is because there are journals, often called ‘predatory journals,’ which have been set up specifically to make money, often by charging authors to publish their articles, but without the proper checks and processes that we expect from academic journals. For instance, they may say that they do editing and peer review when in fact they do not.
Finding a trusted journal can be challenging because predatory journals provide misleading or false information. Even experienced researchers have been deceived, but those who are inexperienced, or those that do not speak English as a first language may be more vulnerable to predatory journals.
Predatory journals are a problem because publishing unchecked research can give it undeserved credibility. This could lead other researchers to build upon poorly conducted or even completely false research. Unsound articles may mislead patients who find that information online and reduce public trust in science. On the other hand, the research community may question good research if it is published in one of these journals, and this can harm the reputation and career of a researcher.
A first response to the problem of predatory journals was to create so-called “block lists” for “unsafe” journals and allow lists for ‘safe’ journals. These lists are attractive because they are easy to use and can give a quick answer, but they do not build up researchers’ journal assessment skills in the long term. These lists may not be 100% reliable and the criteria they use is not always transparent.
So, how is Think. Check. Submit. different?
Think. Check. Submit. is a checklist that guides researchers through the process of deciding where to publish their research. For journals, the process goes beyond individual journal decisions to help researchers build up their journal evaluation skills. The checklist for journals is now available in 40 languages.
As its name suggests, the Think. Check. Submit. checklist is in three sections:
- ‘Think’ invites researchers to consider how they can be sure a journal they have in mind is the right journal for their research.
- ‘Check’ provides a list of questions to assess if a journal is a suitable venue for their research output. Questions include:
- Do you or your colleagues know the journal?
- Can you easily identify and contact the publisher?
- Is the journal clear about the type of peer review it uses?
- Is it clear what fees will be charged?
- ‘Submit,’ advises researchers to only submit their article if they can answer ‘yes’ to most or all of the ‘Check’ questions and reminds them that they need to be confident their chosen journal will have a suitable profile among their peers to enhance their reputation and chance of gaining citations.
While researchers are the primary audience, librarians and publishers play a vital role by including links to Think. Check. Submit. on their websites and educating researchers about the resource. More collaboration is always welcome, and all stakeholders can help by signposting Think. Check. Submit. as an open educational resource.
Although we have mainly talked about journals in this post, Think. Check. Submit. has a similar process for helping researchers evaluate publishers for their books, chapters and monographs. We will focus on books in a future post.
Lorraine Estelle is Communications Administrator for Think. Check. Submit. INASP (which runs AuthorAID) is a founder partner in Think. Check. Submit. and helped to develop the checklist.
AuthorAID members: have your say
What do you think? Have you had any experiences with 'predatory' journals What advice would you give? Please feel free to share your thoughts below