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Getting Published

tips and resources for navigating the process of academic publishing

Evaluating Journals

The scholarly publishing landscape is rapidly changing. This can lead to exciting new models of journal publication (such as PeerJ), but it is also easier than ever for disreputable rogue publishers to take advantage of unsuspecting authors.

To avoid sending your article to a scammy journal, here are some tips for evaluating an unknown publisher to assess whether they are legitimate and reputable.

Journals that do not meet these principles should be viewed with suspicion.

1. Peer review process: Journal content must be clearly marked as whether peer reviewed or not. Peer review is defined as obtaining advice on individual manuscripts from reviewers expert in the field who are not part of the journal’s editorial staff. This process, as well as any policies related to the journal’s peer review procedures, shall be clearly described on the journal’s Web site.

2. Governing Body: Journals shall have editorial boards or other governing bodies whose members are recognized experts in the subject areas included within the journal’s scope. The full names and affiliations of the journal’s editors shall be provided on the journal’s Web site.

3. Editorial team/contact information: Journals shall provide the full names and affiliations of the journal’s editors on the journal’s Web site as well as contact information for the editorial office.

4. Author fees: Any fees or charges that are required for manuscript processing and/or publishing materials in the journal shall be clearly stated in a place that is easy for potential authors to find prior to submitting their manuscripts for review or explained to authors before they begin preparing their manuscript for submission.

5. Copyright: Copyright and licensing information shall be clearly described on the journal’s Web site, and licensing terms shall be indicated on all published articles, both HTML and PDFs.

6. Process for identification of and dealing with allegations of research misconduct: Publishers and editors shall take reasonable steps to identify and prevent the publication of papers where research misconduct has occurred, including plagiarism, citation manipulation, and data falsification/fabrication, among others. In no case shall a journal or its editors encourage such misconduct, or knowingly allow such misconduct to take place. In the event that a journal’s publisher or editors are made aware of any allegation of research misconduct relating to a published article in their journal – the publisher or editor shall follow COPE’s guidelines (or equivalent) in dealing with allegations.

7. Ownership and management: Information about the ownership and/or management of a journal shall be clearly indicated on the journal’s Web site. Publishers shall not use organizational or journal names that would mislead potential authors and editors about the nature of the journal’s owner.

8. Web site: A journal’s Web site, including the text that it contains, shall demonstrate that care has been taken to ensure high ethical and professional standards. It must not contain misleading information, including any attempt to mimic another journal/publisher’s site.

9. Name of journal: The Journal name shall be unique and not be one that is easily confused with another journal or that might mislead potential authors and readers about the Journal’s origin or association with other journals.

10. Conflicts of interest: A journal shall have clear policies on handling potential conflicts of interest of editors, authors, and reviewers and the policies should be clearly stated.

11. Access: The way(s) in which the journal and individual articles are available to readers and whether there are associated subscription or pay per view fees shall be stated.

12. Revenue sources: Business models or revenue sources (eg, author fees, subscriptions, advertising, reprints, institutional support, and organizational support) shall be clearly stated or otherwise evident on the journal’s Web site.

13. Advertising: Journals shall state their advertising policy if relevant, including what types of ads will be considered, who makes decisions regarding accepting ads and whether they are linked to content or reader behavior (online only) or are displayed at random.

14. Publishing schedule: The periodicity at which a journal publishes shall be clearly indicated.

15. Archiving: A journal’s plan for electronic backup and preservation of access to the journal content (for example, access to main articles via CLOCKSS or PubMedCentral) in the event a journal is no longer published shall be clearly indicated.

16. Direct marketing: Any direct marketing activities, including solicitation of manuscripts that are conducted on behalf of the journal, shall be appropriate, well targeted, and unobtrusive.

-From the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing, jointly developed by the Committee on Publication Ethics, the Directory of Open Access Journals, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, and the World Association of Medical Editors. 

Evaluating Book Publishers

If you haven't heard of a particular book publisher, here are some suggested steps to take before sending in a manuscript:

  1. Search the internet for reviews of other authors' publishing experience with this publisher.
  2. Ask a colleague, mentor, advisor, or your subject librarian - what do they know about this publisher?

Graduate students are often a target for questionable publishers, such as LAP Lambert Academic Publishing (see, for example, "I sold my undergraduate thesis to a print content farm"). If you are contacted by a publisher offering to publish your thesis or dissertation, especially without significant revision, you should view that publisher with suspicion. Some other signs that a publisher might be questionable include:

  • Fees of various kinds. Agents who charge reading fees, evaluation fees, retainers, “marketing” or “submission” fees. Publishers that require writers to buy critiques, pre-purchase books, or pay for some aspect of the publication process.

  • Conflicts of interest. Agents or publishers that recommend their own paid editing services. Agents who consistently steer clients toward publishing or editing operations they themselves own. Independent editors who pay kickbacks for referrals.

  • Abusive or nonstandard contract terms. For instance, an agent who claims an inappropriate financial interest in a client’s future work, or a publisher that demands temporary surrender of copyright. 

  • Unprofessional practices. Agents who shotgun-submit or use their clients’ own query letters. Publishers that turn their authors into customers by encouraging or forcing them to buy their own books. Independent editors who claim that manuscripts must be “professionally” edited in order to be competitive.

  • Nonperformance. Agents who’ve been in business for more than a year and still have no sales. Publishers that don’t fulfill their contractual obligations. Independent editors that take clients’ money and don’t deliver.

Evaluation Checklists and Tools

comic about being fooled by a fake scholarly journal

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