Is this Journal Legitimate?

Every now and then someone forwards an email from a publisher inviting him or her or them to review submissions, submit an article, or be on the editorial board of a journal. I start reading and three things jump out at me:

  • Reputable journals and conferences don’t email you out of the blue.
  • This email is not very well written.
  • Considering that the representative from this journal is contacting this clinician/researcher for the first time, it’s very informal.

There have been unscrupulous publishers for as long as there have been publishers. They are in the minority but their numbers are growing, and they are becoming more sophisticated. The following are some of the things we look for:

The Journal

  • Does the journal have an valid ISSN?
    • Why does this matter? When a publisher applies for an ISSN, they must provide information and supporting documentation to the ISSN International Centre including: title, frequency, publisher’s name, and medium along with copies of the title page, cover page, editorial page, PDF or JPG of the jacket (if the publication is on CD-ROM), and the URL if the journal is online. Publishers can apply for an ISSN in advance of publication. If the journal does not have an ISSN, be wary of the publisher.
  • Is the current issue available online?
    • Are any back issues available online? If so, does the content look credible? Do you recognize any of the authors?
  • Are their copyright policies, open access policies (where applicable), and peer-review policies and processes explained clearly?
    • More and more predatory journals are putting these policies online. Make sure they make sense and weigh them carefully against other factors, like lacking an ISSN.
  • If the journal boasts an Impact Factor or an Eigenfactor, can it be verified through Journal Citation Reports or Eigenfactor.org, respectively?
    • The Talbot Library subscribes to Journal Citation Reports. The Eigenfactor can be verified at Eigenfactor.org.
  • If the journal claims to be indexed in a particular database (PubMed, Web of Science, SCOPUS, EMBASE) search any or all of those databases to verify the claim.
    • Unscrupulous publishers have been known to create false indexes and claim their journal is indexed there. Something else to keep in mind is every once in a while an article from a predatory journal does make its way into a database.

The Publisher

  • Does the publisher provide full, verifiable contact information including the street address, a working email address, and a working telephone number either in the email message or on the Web site?
    • If you are unsure of the publisher’s veracity, you are well within your rights to phone or email. I prefer phoning, myself. Last time I phoned a questionable publisher, I was bounced into a random, numbered voicemail.
  • If the journal charges publication fees, are they stated up-front and explained clearly?
  • Does the publisher have a Web site? Are the pages within that site stable?
  • On the Web site, check for language use, grammatical errors, and typographical errors. Is the language stilted? Overly formal? Strangely inappropriate?
    • I once ran across a publisher who took great pains to state that they were an American publishing organization, as opposed to an American publisher. Yet they used the British spelling of gynecological.
    • This same publisher described a nursing journal as follows, “Nursing, the word itself reflects a “care” in it and can be treated as the most divine and dedicated professional science that helps patients in the severely ill circumstances from the time of birth till death.”
  • Is the publisher listed in Ulrich’s or  SHERPA/Romeo?
    • Ulrich’s and SHERPA/Romeo will tell you where a publisher is headquartered, where a journal is indexed, how often new issues are released (frequency), and more. SHERPA/Romeo is available free online but ask one of us in the library to search Ulrich’s.

What can I do?

  • Be very wary of unsolicited contact from a publisher with whom you are not familiar.
  • Don’t agree to review submissions, submit articles, or join an editorial board of a journal you do not recognize.
  • Check any claims made by the publisher, be they impact factor, member of an editorial board, or incluion in an index or database like Web of Science or PubMed.
  • Keep your online presence current and accurate.
    • Keeping your professional information up to date makes it easier for others to do the due diligence when they are researching a suspect journal.
  • Have you been fooled by a predatory publisher, tell your colleagues.
  • When in doubt about a journal, publisher, or conference, talk to a librarian.
    • Librarians are trained to find and evaluate information. If you have doubts come talk to us, we can look into the publisher for you.
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