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I'm currently an undergrad without much experience in publishing scientific papers. Due to the pressure of many of my teachers and peers, I felt the need to get something published so I contacted an open access journal to publish a review paper I initially made for a class.

I initially submitted my paper in good faith thinking that it was a legit journal as everything seemed to be in order at first, but after I submitted my paper I started seeing some alarming red flags all over the place. The most alarming one was that the peer-review process lasted only a week and resulted in no major changes to the article other than changing the citation style. They are now asking me to pay a huge sum of money which I cannot and do not want to pay considering that I'm possibly dealing with a predatory journal. I even tried asking for retraction of my article but they are asking me for a withdrawal fee.

So, has anybody been in a similar situation? If so, could you give me some advice into how to proceed? To be honest, I don't care that much if they go ahead and publish my article anyways (which I've heard some journals do) since they got my name kinda wrong in the final version. Also, considering that this journal is US-based and I'm in Asia, is it possible that they'll take any legal action if I don't pay?

P.S. I have not signed any sort of document to transfer the copyright of the article to them.

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    Related: Beall's list (archived here).
    – user21820
    May 3 at 8:37
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    A withdrawal fee...wow.
    – Pete B.
    May 3 at 12:51
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    If I were you, I wouldn't worry too much about this. As @sevensevens says, they won't go after you. And, since you're an undergrad, you do have time to do more research, so even if it is published, it won't be a career-ending mistake, as long as you do publish in other (decent) journals. May 3 at 16:36
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    You may find this article enlightening: Predatory Journals: A Cautionary Tale and a Lesson in Copyright Transfer
    – Ian
    May 3 at 19:17
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    @Olivia The short review time and fee to withdraw a paper are red flags. The high price to publish is a yellow flag. None of these are conclusive. There are legitimate journals that do these kinds of things (except, perhaps, the withdrawal fee---I've never heard of that before). Your question was "Why do you feel it is a predatory journal?" The answers is "Because there are a number of kind of suspicious flags." May 6 at 13:10

4 Answers 4

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Drop contact, don't pay, don't make revisions

NOTE: I'm not a lawyer

Simply stop talking to them. Be sure you've got a copy of you asking them to withdraw the paper. Hopefully if you don't pay they won't publish it. If they don't publish it and you don't sign anything then it shouldn't be an issue to submit to a better journal.

Will they "come after you" - almost certainly not. They don't want a public court case. They want money. They'll move on to the next mark.

If they publish it, it will cause problems when you submit elsewhere

One thing that hasn't been address in the other answers is what happens if they publish it. If they publish, it may be disqualified from submissions to other journals, even though it's a predatory one. Best way to avoid them publishing is to drop contact and not pay.

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    The real question is what he already agreed to. If he already signed over the copyright then it's already too late to publish elsewhere. May 3 at 6:28
  • And we're not lawyers. This is how to limit the chances of them publishing it. There's a separate Law SE if they play hardball. My guess is they won't since that would create a google-able paper trail that they are not to be trusted. May 3 at 20:39
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    @DavidMulder - OP said they had NOT signed over copyright yet. May 4 at 14:35
  • You're absolutely right, my bad for missing that. Still applies more generally (this being SE and all that). May 4 at 15:06
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Read the fine prints of the "agreement" you had with them when you first submitted your paper with them.

[This is just my opinion, I am not a lawyer nor I am representing one]

I am quite sure there is no clear sentence about "how long does it takes before the non-reaction from an author is considered a withdrawal of the article". Just stop communicating with them.

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It is not necessarily unusual for an open access journal to have a publication fee. They don't get paid by subscribers, after all. For a reputable example, see https://plos.org/publish/fees/ It lists costs from $800 to $5300.

On the other hand, asking for a fee does not necessarily make a journal reputable, either. And as you say, an extremely short peer-review process is a red flag. You could try to get some idea of the journal's reputation by seeing if they're indexed in citation databases like Scopus or Web of Science, or look up their impact factor.

My main advice would be to ask advice from your professors, or other staff at your university. They'll have a lot more experience with publishing, and will know many journals in the field. Maybe they know this particularly journal. Either way, I expect they know how to handle this situation.

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    The main advice here is very important — OP’s actual instructors/mentors are in a much better position to give specific advice than we are. And if they are giving “pressure” to publish, they should provide the support and mentoring to find a suitable journal.
    – PLL
    May 3 at 19:54
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    I don't think any reputable journal would try to charge a "withdrawal fee", though.
    – jochen
    May 4 at 12:08
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    @jochen I've heard of even some reputable journals charging withdrawal fees if you want to withdraw in a late stage of the process (after a lot of work has been done by the reviewers and editors). But I don't get the impression that's the case here. And it's also a bad sign if the journal does not make fees clear at the outset.
    – towr
    May 4 at 12:25
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I think they can not charge you when you have not signed a contract for publishing. Sometimes when you publish in non-predator journals they charge you for color figures in the printed version. Also for this, they need your signature on the contract for it.

Well, you can say you don not want to work out the revision, so the will not publish your paper. I learned that it is common today, that if the revision you get a lot of people try it at another journal and no consequences were made to them. So I think they try to get a little bit of money out of you.

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