My advisor and his PHD Students are writing regularly to journals published by a publisher, which is on Beall’s list of Predatory Journals. I emailed Beall and he told me that the journals were advertising as non-profit but usually publish if you pay them.

I am in US. So recently the PHD Student and advisor published to this predatory journal’s conference taking place half way down the world and obviously it got accepted. So my advisor approved the student’s trip to that country (almost 1500 $, so it had to be approved by chair), but the chair rejected it saying it’s not worth the expense.

Now I want to directly email my chair and point out to him about my advisor’s publishing record. I am angry that instead of publishing to genuine journals, my advisor (who I believe is incompetent but has good political clout in the university) is publishing to these scam journals and wasting university money to achieve her tenure requirements.

Since I am still working in lab, I need advice on how to approach my chair so that I can keep myself safe from possible wrath of my advisor and at same time negate the contributions of these journals for his tenure.

Edit 1: The conference listed Google Scholar as one of its sponsors, so I emailed Google and they told me they never sponsored this journal and will order removal of their name from the sponsors list. So yeah, these are all first rate scam journals and I have all these emails, if I ever need to communicate with the chair. I have done my investigation; I just need to get my results across.

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    just to clarify: you are also a Ph.D student of this advisor ?
    – Suresh
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 0:14
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    @Suresh nah , i am an MS student doing thesis.
    – james234
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 0:15
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    oh well this changes everything. I'm not sure what the protocol is here. My guess is that your relationship with your advisor maybe a bit less important than the relationship between a PhD student and his advisor. My advice below still stands for PhD students, but I'm not so sure about MS students. Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 0:39
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    writes to scam journals to get tenure — Um. If there's even a small chance of that strategy actually working, you should move to a different department. And tell the old department why on your way out.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 5:52
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    Get new advisor unless you already have way too much time/energy invested in this one. Respecting one's advisor is pretty dang important. I'd avoid getting caught up in the politics--by the sound of it your advisor will be better at that than you are (and if not, is it really worth it). Steer clear, be kind, put yourself in a better situation. Esp since you are just a masters student don't get all caught up in this BS.
    – neuronet
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 20:19

2 Answers 2


Your relationship with your advisor is extremely important for you getting a PhD. I would only contact the chair if you are absolutely certain that you would be able to find a new advisor if things went bad between you and your current advisor. When her tenure comes up for review, someone on the panel will know that these are scam journals. The fact that the chair has already denied one of her expenses means there is likely a red flag in her file (metaphorically). Now if she forces you to publish in one of these journals, you should absolutely complain, but don't complain about what she is doing with other students unless you think it is worth losing your advisor completely and creating enemies in the department. You can talk to the student who actually was going to go to the conference suggest he complains, but ultimately I think that is his responsibility. So again, refer to the first point; make sure you have an escape plan so to speak, and make sure that you are OK with potentially not earning your PhD because you stood up for yourself.

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    I did let the PHD student know that he was publishing to an scam journal (in case he didnt know).He said he doesnt care as long as he gets to put an "journal published " entry on his resume. Apparently , he and my advisor are on same wavelength. I am not. So you are asking me to graduate and then go ahead and out him?
    – james234
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 23:56
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    That is unfortunate, but trust me, when he is applying for jobs, at least in academia, everyone will know he published in scam journals, even if they aren't familiar with the Beall's list of Predatory Journals. The first test is "have I heard of this journal" if the answer is no, the publication will likely receive almost no weight. Stick with your own morals and let these two people fail on their own accord in the near future. It's too bad, he is either going into industry or that is a very short sighted move on his part. Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 0:00
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    my advisor worked in industry for significant no. of years before becoming prof, and this guy is most likely headed there because of connections .So yeah , these journals wont have any affect on his career in near future , which is kind of sad. "Pretend Research" along with connections seem to be the mantra, according to my advisor.
    – james234
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 0:03
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    Also if you think you can find a new advisor that may not be a bad idea. Don't bad mouth your current advisor when doing so, but if you get along well and have similar research interests with someone else, go for it. Your advisor having a bad name might affect your future. If you really believe strongly in this, switching advisors might be a better move than complaining to the chair. Note at some Universities it's very difficult to switch advisors, at others it's fairly easy assuming there is another professor who wants you. Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 0:04
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    Yeah, not the best way to go, although I understand your general annoyance. I'd say, if you don't want to switch advisors, collaborate with other professors on your committee. Build strong relationships with them. This way you can get the mentorship you need from people you respect without offending your current advisor. Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 0:12

It sounds like the chair may already be aware of the situation, if they are not approving travel to said conference.

Typically those in the field, especially those who've been around a few years, and especially those in positions of authority in universities, will know which journals/conferences are high quality and which are not. These are generally backed up by various metrics (e.g. impact factor), which try to quantitatively assess the quality/impact/popularity/etc.

Academics are often measured on such metrics, rather than simply number of papers published. A single article in Nature, for example, would give significantly greater benefit to one's publication score than a dozen in the International Conference for Scamming and Profit. I would hope your university uses such metrics in some way or another, and from what I've seen, more and more universities are doing this, with a variety of standard/external and customised/internal performance metrics.

If you really feel you must make a point of it, I'd suggest simply having a discussion about the List of Predatory Publishers, rather than a specific discussion about your advisor.

You may find the chair is well aware of the list, but has their hands tied by university policy. Or they may be enlightened by the list and be able to have the tenure policy changed to exclude or reduce the benefits of such publications.

Just remember it's not your job (and is someone else's job) to assess the advisor's academic performance, and you want to be careful how you come across if you try (a) tell them how to do their job, (b) make academic assessments of tenured staff as a student, (c) heavily criticise your advisor, which will likely be ignored if there's any suggestion of an existing grievance between the two of you.

For all you know, your advisor and the chair may be close friends, or at least closer colleagues to each other than "some unqualified upstart of a masters student!" (hypothetically their words, not mine :P)

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    but isn't spending univ. research funds on publishing to scam journals just to get tenure, an waste of public university research funds?Also as a student of univ ,if a faculty is trying to misuse the system to their advantage by following questionable practices , how is pointing that out inappropriate?
    – james234
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 2:17
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    I didn't say it was inappropriate, I just said it may not be effective for you to do the finger pointing, for a variety of reasons. Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 2:21
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    You definitely don't want to bring that up (nationality) Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 2:37
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    Not saying it's a good defense, just saying it's a really bad idea to bring this up. I really don't see any benefit, and there is a lot of potential for it to make you look not so great. Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 2:55
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    Do not bring it up explicitly, wetlab is right. You obviously are not subtle, so I don't trust you to do it without offending someone. :) (jk I don't really know if you are not subtle that was my attempt at a joke :)) You need to be careful of separating what you think is true, on one hand, from what is important to say to people, and who to say it to. No matter the answer to the first, the answer to the second and third are rarely 'everything' and 'everybody.' Caution beats valor, especially for the lowly masters student. :)
    – neuronet
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 20:23

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