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A colleague of mine, who I regard scientifically, just invited me to submit an article to a special issue of a journal which I consider predatory.

I consider this journal predatory because its publisher released several journals that are considered predatory in my scientific community (bioinformatics), and also for some details like the super-fast review and acceptance process. The last article this journal published, for example, has the following review and acceptance times listed:

Submission: 12th September 2020

Revision: 23th October 2020

Acceptance: 28th October 2020

Publication online: 29th October 2020

This aspect is very suspicious to me.

What should I do now?

Should I tell him that I think the journal is predatory? In this case, he might get offended, and this situation might compromise our future relationship. Like, he might not want to collaborate with me anymore in the future.

But if I say nothing, the scam could go on...

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    The "evidence" you give that this journal is predatory isn't evidence of that at all. It is completely orthogonal to it.
    – Buffy
    Oct 29 '20 at 18:49
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    Related, but not a duplicate: Should I contact accomplished researchers listed as editors of shady journal?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Oct 30 '20 at 8:13
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    The rest of this discussion about whether alternating pronouns is an acceptable way to remain gender-neutral has been moved to chat; please use the chat for any other pronoun-related discussion.
    – cag51
    Oct 30 '20 at 16:34
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    If it is genuinely a predator journal you should tell him, but you should have concrete evidence of that first.
    – Tom
    Oct 30 '20 at 16:56
  • Heh... Is there a list of journals which are not predatory? ( In that case... Published by which journal?) Oct 31 '20 at 12:42
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First, you need to have very solid reasons for considering the journal to be "predatory". I bring this up because the only concrete reason you gave in your question is a rather poor one: rapid peer review cycle is not necessarily evidence of being a predatory journal, even if it might be unusual in your field (as it is in mine). My point is not to dispute your assessment (I have no idea of what journal you are even talking about); my point is that if you would consider discussing it with your colleague, then you should certainly focus on explicitly disreputable behaviour. In particular, the publisher's journals should clearly be listed on at least one website that tracks disreputable journals. That way, it is not just your assessment; you would have others who would support your concerns.

That said, a publisher with some disreputable journals might have some very genuine journals in its portfolio. This is a very important point: you cannot automatically denigrate one journal just because of other journals from the same publisher. And I repeat, a rapid review cycle is rather weak evidence. Stronger evidence would be actual access to review reports that you can examine and judge to be of unusually poor quality.

So, this brings me to your direct question of whether you should share your concern with your colleague. If you are afraid that she might get offended, then it seems that your relationship with her is not sufficiently close that she would trust that your concerns are personal concern for her. In that case, it would be especially important that you have strong evidence of disreputable behaviour before accusing the journal she is involved with of being predatory. If you do not have such strong evidence, then it is best not to mention anything but to politely decline the invitation with a truthful but evasive answer (e.g. "I am unable to commit the time to such a submission"--this would be truthful since you are unable to waste your effort and time on predatory journals). But then, even if you do have sufficiently strong evidence to accuse the journal of being predatory, you would need to determine how comfortable you are with this colleague. Only you know that, so ultimately it would be up to you to decide whether she might be offended by your presentation of evidence.

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Two problems with doing so:

First, the rapid publication you mention isn't especially unusual. Note it took 6 weeks between submission and revision. That's completely conceivable if you look at the typical editorial workflow. In fact if everyone involved does their bit quickly, it could easily be even faster. The time between revision and acceptance is also fast but not extremely so; if the requested revisions were minor (e.g. just some typo fixes) then it could easily be immediate.

The most "suspicious" thing about that timeline is the one (!) day between acceptance and publication online - but many journals these days are putting accepted articles online as quickly as possible and leaving the bulk of the production process (copyediting, typesetting, etc) to later, see e.g. this.

Second, your colleague probably has a clearer idea than you of whether the editor is predatory. For example, they will know if they've never been invited to handle a paper, or if reject recommendations are ignored.

If you do choose to raise this with your colleague, be sure to word it as "I'm concerned the journal is predatory" instead of "this journal is predatory, why are you the editor?".

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    +1 for the last two paragraphs in particular. As to the speed, it is certainly conceivable even if everything is fine, and one data point can't really tell you much. But if a journal were routinely turning papers around this quickly, I would find that suspicious. Oct 30 '20 at 11:31
  • @EspeciallyLime it depends a bit on field - a journal I once handled averaged ~50 days from submission to first decision.
    – Allure
    Oct 31 '20 at 1:57
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    I'd go even a step further, and instead of asking "Are you sure the journal isn't predatory?" say "I'm concerned the journal is predatory." and leave it to the colleague to explain why they are not. Oct 31 '20 at 12:08
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    @cbeleitesunhappywithSX indeed - I'm editing answer.
    – Allure
    Oct 31 '20 at 21:54
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If you knew with certainty that the journal was predatory, the case for saying something would be a lot stronger. But you don’t, and as others said in the comments, the evidence that you cite for this claim is fairly weak. Given that there isn’t even a generally accepted definition of what constitutes as “predatory”, your colleague may reasonably take offense at the implication if you bring it up.

I suggest letting your actions do the talking. If you don’t want to be associated with the journal or think enterprises of this type should not be encouraged by your community, don’t submit there. Politely tell your colleague that you are declining their invitation and leave it at that, or, if their email was addressed to several people and not targeted specifically at you, just don’t reply.

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If you care of your colleague you can certainly discuss this in a sort of question style. I mean, if you care of him/her reputation, there should also be a friendship relation between you. If not, I don't see the point as for keeping the same feeling you should be equally concerned with all editors of supposedly predatory journals, at least in your field.

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