Watch out for “Predatory Open Access Journals”!

The number of predatory journals is spiraling. A "predatory journal" is a fake journal that will publish just about anything written as long as you pay a fee. They have no proper peer-review or editorial procedures. Wikipedia provides a good description: see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predatory_open_access_publishing

The problem for science is that the likelihood that such journals publish papers containing errors or falsehoods is much greater than where a rigorous peer review is done. Given that some reputable academics get fooled into putting their names behind such journals, those without a science training such as important stakeholders for N2Africa in farming or the business world have no way of knowing what to believe. For example, The African Crop Science Journal http://www.ajol.info/index.php/acsj/issue/archive is a reputable peer-reviewed journal edited by Prof J.S. Tenywa of Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. By contrast the African Journal of Crop Science http://internationalscholarsjournals.org/journal/ajcr is a predatory publisher – despite the fancy website!

We see more and more of our young scientists publishing in predatory journals that have no proper refereeing procedure and basically do not count for their Curriculum Vitae. I think we need to be careful in guiding them and avoid such journals.

So how do you know if a journal is reputable? First, see whether it is listed in the ISI index. If it is not this does not necessarily mean the journal is disreputable – for instance it could be a new journal that has not yet qualified for the ISI. Second, consult "Beall’s list" on http://scholarlyoa.com/

Jeffrey Beall is a librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, USA who has published widely this topic. On his website he demonstrates how some publishers operate under fake addresses and highlights some really unbelievable scams. See for example the rewriting of Einstein’s Equation E = mc2 to E = 1/22 mc2published in the American Journal of Physics http://scholarlyoa.com/2014/06/17/science-publishing-group-publishes-junk-science/#more-3746. While this makes highly amusing reading, it of course calls into question all the other articles in journals from the same publisher, which gives a false address on it’s website. In 2011 he listed 18 journals on his website – in 2015 this had grown to 693.

Please be vigilant and consider carefully before submitting any article. We have developed an N2Africa Guideline for Publication which could help – see http://www.n2africa.org/content/n2africa-–-guidelines-co-authorship-publications. Think carefully about the audience you want to target, and if in doubt seek advice from the N2Africa team who will be pleased to assist. I am aware of at least four articles based on N2Africa funding that are already published in predatory journals! We want to ensure you get the very best route for communicating your results.

Ken Giller

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