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As you know, there are journals -predatory journals- which are just publishing scams, without actual peer review, etc. but look like genuine ones, and it is a problem for the honest researcher to avoid them.

Until recently there was a free blacklist, Jerry Beall's (which had flaws), and now there is Cabell's list, which apart from being behind a paywall, may not distinguish predatory journals from new ones (see this review).

As the number of publications seems ever-increasing, I feel new, legitimate journals will play an important role in next years. I would be willing to publish in one of them sometime, but I don't know how to identify them. For the moment being, each time I receive an email promoting a starting journal (as some may in good faith do), I just dismiss it as being a predatory one.

So the question is: Are there good ways of knowing that a new journal is legitimate? Perhaps is there some kind of white list?

migrated from mathoverflow.net Feb 13 '18 at 13:10

This question came from our site for professional mathematicians.

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    This austms.org.au/Rankings/AustMS_final_ranked.html is some kind of white list,but might not be exhaustive. – Aurel Feb 13 '18 at 8:57
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    @Aurel: is this list updated at all? At which rate? If not, it is not helpful since it will not contain new journals. It does not contain Discrete Analysis for example, so it feels not adequate for the task. The criteria used also matter: if based on WoS, a journal needs at least 2 years of publishing before it gets in, far too long inf one wants to spot legitimate new journals. – Benoît Kloeckner Feb 13 '18 at 10:07
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    @Aurel I think it was compiled in 2009 (and not updated since then): austms.org.au/AustMS+-+Journal+Ranking+-+2009 – Federico Poloni Feb 13 '18 at 11:28
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    It would be nice if you could give a concrete example of a journal whose legitimacy you found very confusing, so people can recommend techniques that actually work for those in the same boat. – Mehrdad Feb 13 '18 at 20:45
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Look at the editorial board. If it contains respectable, well-known researchers in the field, then it's likely to be a serious journal.

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    Good obvious point, except predatory journal sometimes list editors that do not even know they are listed, limiting the strength of this check. – Benoît Kloeckner Feb 13 '18 at 10:08
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    @BenoîtKloeckner If in doubt, check whether the members of the editorial board list the journal in the "Editorial Activities" section of their personal web pages. – Uwe Feb 13 '18 at 13:36
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    @Uwe then make sure you know which one is their real personal web page, (if they have one). Homepages and social media accounts and other things can be faked too. – mathreadler Feb 13 '18 at 18:16
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    @mathreadler it helps if it is on legitimate university web domain or linked from university website. And if it is a "respectable, well-known researcher" it should be rather easy to find someone who knows their real web page. If you are in that field, that is. – Mołot Feb 13 '18 at 23:10
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    I agree with this, but sometimes we need to remember that "respectable" does not necessarily equate with "western sounding names". I've seen some academics be a bit skeptical towards journals with members from developing countries, for instance. It is also harder to "judge" in that case. – Andrea Lazzarotto Feb 14 '18 at 1:32
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Most new respectable journals will be backed by an institution, so you can have a look at sponsors. They put their reputation on the line, so this is probably a more secure verification than only looking at the editorial board (although not having a well-known sponsor does not mean a journal is predatory!).

The publisher may also give an indication, but not necessarily a very strong one (I would probably qualify some journals published by very well-known publishers as predatory)

For example:

  • Discrete Analysis is funded by Cambridge University,

  • Algebraic Combinatorics (see also below) is funded by the foundation Compositio Mathematica, and is published by Centre Mersenne (which you have probably never heard of, but who also publishes established journals such as Annales de L'institut Fourier),

  • Annales Henri Lebesgue are funded by a university, CNRS, public research units, etc.,

  • North-Western European Journal of Mathematics is funded by the math department at Université de Lille.

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    A comment to make this test more concrete: Many (but not all) respectable new journals will have their website hosted by a university. e.g. repository.cmu.edu/jpc and toc.cs.uchicago.edu So just looking at the URL can give you some positive information about the legitimacy of the journal. – Thomas Feb 13 '18 at 20:03
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    @Thomas But beware: Not all university affiliated organizations use the university domain. For example, Cambridge University Press is at cambridge.org (rather than a subdomain of cam.ac.uk) and it certainly publishes a number of journals. – Martin Bonner Feb 14 '18 at 14:25
  • @MartinBonner Yes, that's why I said "Many (but not all)". – Thomas Feb 14 '18 at 17:22
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Read the articles, look who's publishing there.

Usually you should have a pretty good feeling about all the important and good journals in your field just by doing your research which requires you to read other articles.

Publish in those journals and never in those which send you emails asking/begging for submissions. Except for invited contributions but if you are at that stage in your career that you get invited to publish you should definitely know about most journals.

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    This is good general advice to find the important journals in a field, but doesn't answer the question about discerning the quality of new journals. – sondra.kinsey Feb 14 '18 at 0:07
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    @sondra.kinsey I think it kind of does. If there's a brand new journal there are usually respected persons/organizations promoting it before launch and/or the editors ask their colleages in that field to publish in the first issues. So after only some issues it should be pretty clear if it's a predatory one or not and I would still consider those new. – DSVA Feb 14 '18 at 0:52
  • I agree that your first sentence is a reasonable answer (which could use elaboration), but the majority of this answer seems to be broader advice. – sondra.kinsey Feb 14 '18 at 15:22
  • Some fields are pretty broad (i.e., Linear Algebra) and the Asian side of this world has plenty of competent but not famous researchers, so it is difficult (and even rude) to look at a new journal in Linear Algebra, coming from the East full of chinese and indian surnames, and dismiss it just because I don't know them (or because I'm not sure if L. Zhang is the same as the one I already know). – Jose Brox Feb 15 '18 at 10:10
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    @JoseBrox that's why the very first thing I've written is "read the articles". It's unlikely that high quality research is published in predatory journals. – DSVA Feb 15 '18 at 10:19
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A new respectable journal is created by a group of established scientists, who usually publish in the journal and persuade collegues to publish there, So after a year or two MAthSciNet and Zentralblatt will have the journal in the database. If I want to know about a journal I have never heard of I look it up in these databases. If it is not there, I forget about it.

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    This question is precisely about new journals, which are not yet indexed in Mathscinet/Zentralblatt. – Federico Poloni Feb 13 '18 at 18:22
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    @FedericoPoloni I think what Peter is trying to say is that given time (1-2 years), a new journal that is respectable will show up in MathSciNet. Since 2 years is a relatively small time for a new journal, that's his criteria of deciding wether a new (1-2 years) journal is legitimate. – Guilherme Salomé Feb 13 '18 at 19:08
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    @Federico: if a journal is less than two years old, the only reason I can imagine to publish there would be that one knows one of the editors. – Martin Argerami Feb 13 '18 at 22:12
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Judging a journal is like judging a person. You can't just look at one feature and make up your mind about it. You have to spend your time and study each journal. Here is what I usually look at when picking a new, not well-known journal:

  1. Indexed in the broadest, yet reputable ranking system. Even the journals that just popped up and carried only by a faculty of one university can make it into some broad ranking list, given legitimate effort.

  2. Journal's "face": website, publisher's website, public info. Read the publicly available info about the journal: scope, author guidelines, editorial board, etc. In most cases it is enough to pass a judgement. Every legitimate new journal that pops up is either open-access with no publication fees or introduced by a reputable publisher.

  3. Finally, google the journal and the publisher if you haven't already and look through at least the first 10 searches to see if nothing suspicious pops up.

To sum up, just read about the journal. If you don't read, you won't learn. There is really no single rule of thumb. If there was, the predatory journals would certainly exploit it.

Also it is worth noting that "predatory" is not black and white when it comes to journals. There is certainly a gradient to it. Even some of the most reputable journals often have their practices questioned, such as the quality of reviews, paywalls, publication fees, etc.

  • Which are then the broadest reputable ranking systems there are for mathematics? – Jose Brox Feb 15 '18 at 9:51
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Since the question is migrated from MathOverflow, I suppose it is about mathematics journals. Anyway, my answer applies only to them.

It is usually easy to tell.

a) Predatory journals usually charge publication fee which they call "open access". (This is the main reason of existence of these journals).

b) They are not refereed in Math Reviews, and finally

c) Look at the editorial board, of course. And at the publisher.

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    We published in an australien journal, before I've never heard about the editors (they could just give wrong information anyways), never heard about the publisher and they have a pretty high publishing fee. Oh and their homepage doesn't look very professional. But it's not a predatory one and right now it's a well respected journal even if it's only some years old. So it's not that easy to tell. – DSVA Feb 13 '18 at 19:33
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    Many of the most respectable journals in math offer authors to pay for "open access"; that's definitely not a sign that the journal is predatory. The sign would be that there is no option of publishing for free under a more restrictive copyright agreement. Example from the AMS; example from LMS. – Martin Argerami Feb 13 '18 at 22:08
  • I do not think APCs indicate a journal is predatory. For example Forum of Mathematics, by CUP, can hardly be considered predatory (while some subscription journals could). – Benoît Kloeckner Feb 14 '18 at 11:07
  • There are legitimate open access journals. Even worse. There are different layers of open access. When you get a choice between a "normal" paywall and open access – it's a so-called green open access. It's not true, for example German DFG won't fund such publication fees. If everything is open access (and the journal is legitimate), it's golden open access. – Oleg Lobachev Feb 14 '18 at 21:55

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