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Statement on predatory journals from the Office of Research Integrity, University of Cape Town

25 April 2017

UCT is a research-intensive university that describes its vision as “committed to engaging with the key issues of our natural and social worlds through outstanding teaching, research and scholarship. We seek to advance the status and distinctiveness of scholarship in Africa through building strategic partnerships across the continent, the global south and the rest of the world”. One of the central ways in which this vision can be advanced is through the publication of research results and scholarship in peer-reviewed journals. UCT recognises the value of both subscription-based or open access journals and supports publication by its staff and students in these formats, including where appropriate, non-refereed journals and popular science communication media. UCT does not support the publication of any original research or academic scholarship in so-called predatory journals, nor does UCT support the use of citations from any predatory journals and cautions less experienced academics and students to be particularly careful when choosing a journal in which to publish. 

Hackers

Predatory open access journals are bogus journals published by unethical publishing houses which violate scholarly communication practices and rigour in pursuit of profits. Predatory journals actively solicit submissions via e-mail invitations. They charge a publication fee that is often significantly lower than that of similar authentic open access journals. They also provide a very quick turnaround time to publish contributions and will often accept an article for publication within a matter of days. Furthermore, predatory journals are web-based and it is likely that the journal will be shut down because the nature of the business model is that such journals are unlikely to be long-lived.  These unscrupulous publishers shut down the site once the true character and intention of the journal becomes obvious and often re-open elsewhere with a similar name, at which point the ‘published’ articles will just disappear.  The worst form of predatory publishing is the hijacked journal, that is, bogus or predatory journals taking on the form and shape of the original journal. A characteristic of predatory journals is that the scientific processes associated with quality scholarly journals are non-existent, for example a rigorous peer review system. This may not be immediately obvious to less experienced authors who are encouraged to seek advice from a supervisor or mentor, if in any doubt. The staff in the UCT Libraries Scholarly Communications and Publishing Office are knowledgeable regarding open access publishing and will provide advice on how to identify quality open access journals.

The UCT academic community is cautioned to be on the lookout for predatory journals that can be recognised by some, or all the following characteristics:

  • The title is very similar, but not quite the same as a well-established journal in the same field e.g.  British Medicine Journal vs British Medical Journal (BMJ);
  • The website does not have sufficient information about the Editorial Board, ‘Instruction to authors’, history of the journal etc.; 
  • The turnaround time from submission to publication is very short. 

Before submitting your article to a journal, the following checklist of quality indicators should be used to identify journals that demonstrate evidence of scholarly publishing practices: 

  • Does the journal have an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
  • Is the journal listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)
  • Do you or your colleagues know the journal
    • Have you previously read any articles in the journal
    • Is it easy to discover the latest articles in the journal
  • Can you easily identify and contact the publisher
    • Is the publisher name clearly displayed on the journal website
    • Can you contact the publisher by telephone, e-mail, and post
  • Is the journal clear about the type of peer review system or scholarly publishing practices it uses
  • Are articles indexed in services that you use 
  • Is it clear what fees will be charged
    • Does the journal site explain what these fees are for and when they will be charged
  • Do you recognise the editorial board members
    • Have you heard of the editorial board members
    • Do members of the editorial board mention the journal on their own websites 
  • If the journal is open access, is it listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

If you are able to answer ‘yes’ to most or all of the questions on the checklist, the journal can be considered for submitting your article.

For more information about scholarly publishing, contact the UCT Libraries Scholarly Communications and Publishing Office at: openuct@uct.ac.za or your Faculty Liaison Librarian.

1. (Headline) This statement is modeled on the content of a similar statement by The Business Deans of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, as well as a statement released by the South African National Research Foundation.
2. The following blogs were used in the preparation of this section. Please see Chrissy Prater https://www.aje.com/en/arc/8-ways-identify-questionable-open-access-journal/; Jocelyn Clark at http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2015/01/19/jocalyn-clark-how-to-avoid-predatory-journals-a-five-point-plan/.