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I accidentally submitted to a predatory journal from the Pulsus Group, which is on Beall's List. I did not sign anything yet; no copyright transferred. I then tried to withdraw when I found out about their predatory nature. They want to charge me 525 € as a last offer to either publish or withdraw by Monday so as not to retract the paper publicly. They only have a PDF version of it. How bad would the damage of public retraction from a predatory journal be, and can I resubmit it elsewhere afterwards?

If I pay, they could still continue to extort me… they are bombarding me with emails to pay.

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    Since copyright has not been transferred, you can submit it elsewhere. Does this answer your question? academia.stackexchange.com/questions/17374/…
    – Allure
    Feb 29 at 8:18
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    Do you have some legal protection insurance to discuss this with a lawyer? After all you signed no contract - it would be more about character defamation in this case.
    – Dr.M
    Feb 29 at 9:27
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    I don't understand the scenario. The predatory publisher hasn't published your paper, and does not even have the rights to do so. How can a paper that was never published in the first place be retracted? Feb 29 at 14:36
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    The worry "maybe they would defame me out of anger if I don’t pay" would be enough for me to run the other way. Thugs. "Publishing" with them is a public announcement that your material does not otherwise meet high standards. Why advertise that? Feb 29 at 23:18

3 Answers 3

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The truth is, no one can really predict what the journal will do. However, there are several things to keep in mind:

  1. predatory journals are in the business of making money with the least effort for themselves
  2. retractions potentially harm the journal in addition to the author
  3. it makes no sense for a journal to retract a paper unless they have already published it.
  4. threats and bluster cost the journal nothing

You don't say whether they have in fact already published your paper but it would seem truly strange that they would go to the expense of publishing your paper if they have not already done so, only with the intention of retracting it ... and still not getting any money from you.

With that in mind, in your shoes I would simply stop responding to any correspondence from them, submit your paper elsewhere.

One last thing ... I don't think that places like Retraction Watch deign to cover junk journals!

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    Thanks. That seems like the right thing to do. For now they have not even “peer-reviewed” it nor published, but threat me to do this on Monday, if I won’t pay. I guess there would have not really peer-review it in any case, but it is officially in review stage. They wanted me to sign the copyright agreement to proceed with the peer review, which I refused to do. Feb 29 at 10:01
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    To me, that seems like the best call. Put differently, if I were in your shoes, I would do exactly as I suggested. The future is unpredictable, but surrendering to blackmail never does one any good. And I strongly suspect that the journal will move on to an easier victim if they can't quickly get money from you! And as I implied, I'd just ignore their future emails, not start arguing with them or abusing them. Feb 29 at 10:10
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    Right now they are bombarding me with emails to pay, so I guess that’s all that they will do. Hoping for the best. But you cannot really argue with scammers that’s true. Feb 29 at 10:24
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    +1. This journal almost certainly sends out threatening emails like that to anyone who sends them a manuscript, since threats do not cost them anything. At some point, if they tailor their threats to Germans, they will start telling you that they will send an Inkassobüro after you. This is all bluster. They are spamming people and hoping that one in twenty victims will pay them. Cut off contact with them, and submit elsewhere. Feb 29 at 11:13
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    And should they indeed send someone to collect the money, I am sure there is the analog of "cease and desist" in Germany. As long as you did not sign a copyright agreement, I think you are in a pretty good state. 'Sittenwidrig' may also be a term of interest in a potential legal dispute of the nature of their business, but I do not think it will escalate to legal. These guys know that Germans are afraid of legal, and so that's the game they play. Feb 29 at 11:56
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Get a lawyer involved. I would not simply ghost them and hope they won't do anything, and you definitely shouldn't keep arguing with them. If you are a student or academic at a university or a researcher at a research institute or company, your organisation will have lawyers who are knowledgeable about contracts and copyright law. It is likely that a sternly worded letter from your lawyer will see the end of the matter.

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    Yes, if you are at a US university this is something the university legal office would probably handle for you.
    – Dawn
    Mar 1 at 2:59
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    (+1) for advice to get a lawyer involved. However, whether a lawyer letter will dispose of the matter might depend on the jurisdiction which the predatory journal operates in. If it is a "hostile" country then the courts there might not be terribly amenable to actions against the publisher, so the letter will carry little threatening weight.
    – Ben
    Mar 1 at 6:36
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    As OP says, the typical spam journal operates from countries outside the reach of western law. Getting a lawyer seems like expenses that will ultimately not be helpful. OTOH this also seriously limits what they can realistically do to you - put a mean note on their website? Who cares, nobody takes them seriously anyway (that's why it's a spam publisher).
    – xLeitix
    Mar 1 at 15:53
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    Ok I will try to. Cannot be harmful… Mar 1 at 20:22
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    @Significance another question is whether those university lawyers will be willing to help you for free. It is not at all obvious.
    – wimi
    Mar 2 at 12:12
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Just playing devil's advocate, but lets say you submitted a paper to a reputable journal and it had been accepted and published online, and the author refused to pay the agreed publication fee†. It would not be unreasonable for them to "threaten" to withdraw the paper and leave a note to explain why. What else should they do, given that they had published the work for you, as agreed?

Predatory publishers exists because they meet a need. Some academics need to get papers in print, whether competently peer reviewed or not, perhaps for career progression reasons. How is the publisher to know whether or not you agreed for them to publish your paper knowing what the journals standards are like.

At the end of the day, there is an element of "caveat emptor" (buyer beware). You seem to agree that you made a mistake in sending the paper to a predatory journal, so you should expect there to be some consequences to your mistake. I would send them a letter requesting them to withdraw your paper (or agreeing to the withdrawal). Call their bluff. If someone asked me why the paper was withdrawn, I would just say "yes, I discovered it was a predatory journal after I had submitted the paper". If they give a false reason for the withdrawal, then you should have the reviewer comments and email from the editor showing that it was not because of a problem with the content.

† It amazes me that commercial academic publishers still exist, give that reputable on-line journals, such as jmlr.org have demonstrated it is feasible to have an open access journal that is free to both reader and author, as most of the work is done pro-bono by academic anyway. It would be a much better use of taxpayers money for the funding bodies to subsidise similar academic-run on-line journals (the quality of the journal will depend on the quality of the editorial board).

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    It is not reasonable for a reputable journal to retract an article for unpaid fees. Nothing in the COPE retraction guidelines says you should, and I haven't seen it done. The publisher can go as far as to sue you for unpaid bills, but there is nothing wrong with the paper itself, and thus holding it hostage is improper.
    – user71659
    Feb 29 at 17:39
  • @user71659 is there anything in the COPE guidelines that say that they shouldn't? I think there is a terminological issue here, where "retraction" has the implication that there was something wrong with the paper. Simply deleting the paper from the online journal leaving an explanation of why it was done would not be a retraction in that sense, so I don't see a problem with it - it wouldn't be a criticism of the content of the paper. Feb 29 at 17:49
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    Reputable journals don't publish your paper before you've paid the fee, if there is one.
    – Karl
    Mar 1 at 22:18
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    Mar 3 at 16:34

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