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What are the best strategies for assessing if a journal is a "vanity" or "predatory" journal that should be avoided (both for publishing in and reviewing for)? For example, how would one go about determining if a journal/publisher belongs on Beall’s List of Predatory Open-Access Publishers?

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First, you should probably publish in the same venues that you read and cite. Presumably those are reputable.

Now to describe low-quality vanity publishers. Two essential characteristics are:

  1. The publication of very low quality material. This is usually immediately recognizable to any expert. Sometimes it's obvious to anyone; for example, read this abstract.

  2. A business model in which the author (rather than the reader) pays the publisher. Of course, this by itself isn't necessarily indicative of a low-quality publisher (think PLoS). But low-quality publishers can't make money off of subscriptions, since they provide no content of value.

Additional common characteristics of such publishers are:

  • Mass e-mails (spam) to academics, especially when the recipients include researchers in unrelated fields. These e-mails may request submission of conference presentations, papers, or book manuscripts, or may contain invitations to journal editorial boards.
  • A high number of prominent typographical errors in text attributable to the publisher. For instance, at the beginning of this article "abstract" is mistakenly spelled "abstarct".
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    I love the example in your point 1! What a headache! – atiretoo Jun 30 '12 at 21:41
  • Elsevier is known to send such unsolicited an irrelevant mass emails: phylogenomics.blogspot.com/2012/03/… Does it fit your criteria? – Nemo Aug 22 '18 at 16:45
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There is an established framework for researchers: Think. Check. Submit.

  1. Think: Are you submitting your research to a trusted journal? Is it the right journal for your work?
  2. Check: Use our check list to assess the journal.
  3. Submit Only if you can answer "yes" to the questions on our check list.

The resource is available in over 40 languages as of 2018. If you want a more personal summary of such criteria, see qsp on why you don't need a list.

Note that an analysis of the numbers shows that The "problem" of predatory publishing remains a relatively small one and should not be allowed to defame open access. Researchers are generally smart enough to not fall in obvious traps; what's left is mostly problems with peer review which exist anywhere, but mostly in journals with scarce transparency.

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    Right now this is essentially a link only answer to your checklist. Can you list some of the categories or key stumbling blocks? – StrongBad Sep 25 '18 at 22:03
  • I think it's better to refer to the checklists hosted there, so that the information does not get stale. We could quote the titles of the sub-lists from thinkchecksubmit.org/check but I personally don't see a usefulness in that. I don't oppose someone editing my answer that way. – Nemo Sep 26 '18 at 6:28

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