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I have published a paper in a fake journal. I want to withdraw the paper from that journal.

Can I can submit the same paper on a legitimate journal, after withdrawal?

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This is actually rather interesting. Can you clarify what you mean by "fake journal"? (You probably really mean something like "shady", right, not that they will not actually publish your paper?) I suppose that if they agree to withdraw the paper you are free to submit it elsewhere....but I certainly don't really know. – Pete L. Clark Feb 24 '14 at 23:14
"Withdraw" usually only refers to the withdrawal of a manuscript before acceptance. If it's already been published, the word is "retract". Retraction is a very serious business and usually only done if the paper is found to have serious deficiencies, plagiarism, academic misconduct, etc. I've never heard of an author retracting a paper because they regret their choice of journal. – Nate Eldredge Feb 24 '14 at 23:55

I see two main barriers for this to happen, and I would not attempt to cross either unless ths circumstances were truly exceptional.

  • If your paper is already published, you will most likely have transferred either the paper's copyright or a very wide license to the original journal. You can probably force the journal to retract the paper, but if you want the copyright you will have to ask for it back, and it is legally up to them whether they want to give it back or not.

  • Most journals have a policy of only accepting works which have not already been published. This would make it very hard for your paper to get into the second journal, and the editors would most likely have to make an exception to their rules. This is up to them, and I would advise you to contact them beforehand to see whether they would be willing to do something along these lines.

The worst case scenario is one where the paper is very visibly retracted, you do not get the copyright back, and you cannot republish it anywhere. I can't really imagine any degree of shadiness of the original journal that would make this outcome preferable, because a retraction will leave a very visible, very black mark on your publication record for a long time. As mentioned in the comments, retractions are vivid indications of academic misconduct, plagiarism, or just plainly incorrect findings, and rarely of anything else. Therefore, you should be really careful that this doesn't happen.

I would advise you to take this in stages. First, read all the documentation you have available. Read very carefully, in particular, anything you have signed, either in paper or electronically, to the original journal. Check all their publicly available policies, and particularly those on licenses and copyright. Check also what your new target journal states as their requirements that submissions be 'new, unpublished work'.

Armed with this information, contact your new target journal first, to see if they will re-house your paper after it's been withdrawn, and what conditions they would require for this. Do not move forward until you have good assurances of a good home for your paper, or you risk ending up with a homeless paper.

After that, you should contact the original journal. If you gave them the copyright, you will have to ask for it back but you should be prepared for them to say a plain no. I suppose that if you gave them a more restrictive license then you can ask that they take it down and find out how you can revoke it, but you should be aware that author contracts do not normally include anything like that. Be polite and explain why you are doing things but be prepared for things to turn adversarial; you are after all out to affect their revenue stream.

Mostly, though, why don't you consider your options in terms of fixing the damage this publication has done to your record? Publishing in a predatory journal without knowing it is something that can end up happening to anyone (which is why one should always exercise maximum care when opting for a new publication venue).

Keep in mind that the venue of publication does not affect the quality of your paper, but only (potentially) how it is perceived by others. This can be palliated by other means: for example, take the paper to conferences and explain and defend your findings to your peers. Work especially hard at making sure the material finds its way to the hands of people who will use it and cite it, and that will help validate it as good research in a possibly shady journal.

If the journal is not very visible or accessible, post it to an eprint repository if it is possible (though of course only if other republication options are exhausted and allowed by your original journal, or if you are prepared for your relation with them to turn adversarial). Consider building a bigger paper, formally a derivative work, which you can then publish in a journal you're happier with.

In short, there are many options available to mitigate the damage done by a paper in a journal you (and whatever review boards you might come across) don't like. Think them through before you attempt something which is as potentially damaging as this.

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Surely, one should check the original journals documentation and policies before contacting any other journal? If the original journal's documentation says, "No, not on your life, not even if you give us your first-born", contacting any other journal is a waste of your time and theirs. – David Richerby Feb 25 '14 at 11:30
This was written partly on the assumption that 'fake' journals are unlikely to have much documentation that will be helpful. But yes, it is definitely best to read before you contact anyone. – E.P. Feb 25 '14 at 11:52
Depending on how "obvious" the fakeness of the journal is there may be the option to actually have any transfer of copyrights legally voided due to something like "intent to mislead" or such (IANAL, though). The what is a fake journal question might provide some hints on what tell-tales to look for. Hopefully your institution provides you with a lawyer... – Tobias Kienzler Feb 27 '14 at 12:12
@TobiasKienzler Yes, that is probably right. I can't see how that can not get very ugly, though. – E.P. Feb 27 '14 at 12:16
I really like this answer as it gives solid steps to take. However, to the OP, be prepared to cut your losses. The temptation to just get your paper published leads to this sort of trap all the time. Most journal's aren't "fake" so much as conniving. I would honestly bet money on the fact that they have safety measures in place for just this situation. After all, if they retracted x amounts of papers, who would ever publish with them in the first place. My advice honestly? Cut your loses and work on a second, better paper and be much more careful. – Jen Aug 8 '14 at 18:23

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